Jamie Yu has always enjoyed building things, whether with Legos, musical notes or a string of code.
Yu grew up playing music, often creating her own songs for piano and guitar. And while she didn’t follow this passion into college, the skills and creativity she developed translated to her studies in engineering and computer science.
“It gave me the idea that you could create something from anything,” she said. “Instead of writing a song, you’re creating a program that’s going to express something.”
Yu, now a junior studying biomedical and electrical engineering, got her love of building from her father, an electrical engineer who never stops tinkering.
He has always pushed her to pursue her interests, which is why Yu continued studying science and math—even when she felt somewhat out of place as a woman.
In high school, when she took an AP physics class, Yu noticed there were few other women. Instead, many of her female peers were taking AP English and other humanities courses.
She also noticed her male peers often dominated the conversation and that, she felt, overall—even in her diverse school just outside Boston—there was less of an emphasis placed on women’s academic success, especially in particular areas.
Now in college, she’s one of the few women in her electrical engineering classes, and it’s still often the men raising their hands.
Yet Yu believes the environment at CWRU is much more encouraging of women in engineering than in the industry overall.
“At CWRU, it’s not really looked down upon when women are in electrical engineering,” she said. “I think a lot of people think of the girls who are doing it as, ‘Wow, that’s really cool that she’s doing something that not many people are doing.’”
Still, Yu has faced her frustrations being in a male-dominated field. After being selected for a highly sought-after computer science internship at Google last summer, she didn’t feel as excited as she’d expected. Instead, she thought her male peers assumed she got the position just because she was a woman.
Over time, though, she’s realized that being one of few women in the field isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“A lot of times, companies don’t have as many women, so they’re lacking the perspective of a really big part of the general population, so I always try to think positively about that,” she said.
While at her internship, Yu was paired with a mentor who gave her more advice about being a woman in the industry.
Now Yu is giving back here at CWRU by mentoring a female first-year student through a program offered by Hacker Society.
Earlier this semester, Yu was featured on the “Women Who Reign IT” Medium account, where she shared more about the lessons she’s learned as a woman in engineering.
Check out her article, and get to know her a little better with this week’s five questions.
1. Who has been your most influential mentor?
My dad because he is really supportive. He’s the person I always go to—even now in college—to talk about my decisions because I know he’s gone down a similar path as me. I look up to him a lot because of his passion for engineering. I look up to his passion and drive.
2. What was your first job?
When I was 15, I worked at Stop and Shop, which is a big marketplace. I was a grocery bagger. I always think when I have kids, I’ll want them to do a similar job because, at the time, I really didn’t like it. But I remember my mom helped me get it because she said: “You need to do stuff on the weekend. You need to make money.”
I’m so happy I did it because I place more value on working, which followed through into college.
3. Who is your favorite author?
There are so many genres of books that I like. I remember one book that hit me really hard was Feed by M.T. Anderson. He writes a lot of science-fiction-type novels, which I think are really cool. He writes about potential futuristic situations, so in the book it was talking about people getting chips implanted in their brains that control them.
I enjoyed it because it had to do with science and technology. I really liked his style of writing and how he wrote about the possible dangers of our future and technology.
4. How do you like to spend your time when you’re away from school and/or work?
I love running, exercising and cooking. I really enjoy learning about health and nutrition. I hated running in high school and I didn’t like working out, but when I came to college, I found it as a way to forget about homework and stress and do something that distracted me and made me feel a lot better after.
I come from a family that really values food. My mom is a really good cook, so I enjoy that because of her.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
If I could put it in a few words, I would say the passion, drive and variety of interests that people have. So many of my friends at CWRU have so many different passions. Everyone is self-driven to take on these projects on their own.
I don’t know how all of these cool people are in one place. The people that come to CWRU have a lot of interests and they choose to follow them.