CASCADE TO THE BAY
Chloe is an Atlanta Native, a software engineer, and a true lover of music. In an male industry dominated industry, we sought to understand how Chloe is able to maintain and navigate the field as a Black woman. We explore how she uses music to illuminate her way.
Push Playlist: Can you give us a quick introduction to who you are?
Chloe: I'm Chloe. I'm from Atlanta, Georgia. I specifically grew up in Southwest Atlanta. There was definitely a strong black community and it was heavily church oriented. After living there for 18 years, I went to MIT and graduated in Spring 2018. I studied computer science and now I'm a software engineer in Bay area.
Push Playlists: What made you decide to major in computer science?
Chloe: So, in school I was always interested in math. I was also into art and music. I really wanted to combine the two and I thought engineering would be cool. I started exploring my options really early. During middle school I did a computer science program at Spelman which I think laid the foundation for my decision a couple of years later. It was then solidified in high school when I attended an engineering camp at Georgia Tech. I really felt like I found something that I could completely express my artistic expression while also satisfying my love for math. However, I didn't learn how to code in the computer science camp in middle school. So I really didn't know any kind of programming at all until the end of my freshman year of college.
Push Playlists: So what's it like to be a black women in tech. I'm sure that has it's own challenges, especially in the Bay Area.
Chloe: So my introduction to my Software Engineering career was through Code2040. I joined the program in the summer of 2017 and I think that that had a huge impact on my experience in tech. It was my first time interning as a software engineer and it made me feel like I didn't just fall into the industry. I felt like I actually belonged in tech. I mean it helped that Code2040 brought me in with a few others that looked like me. Having a cohort of other people that had similar experiences to me made the tech industry seem accessible to me. I've only been in this job for a couple of months now, but, it's been real. There's only one other black woman in my program and I think there's like 72 of us. Unlike Code2040, I don't feel the same kind of support system and it tends to be frustrating. However, I've been making it (haha). I think it's because of experiences prior and the friends that I made throughout the years that don't work with me that give me the support system I had before.
Push Playlists: I can only imagine how tough you've had it. However, it's great that you were apart of a group like Code2040 and have that type of support system. You mentioned music earlier. How do you incorporate your love of music with engineering now.
Chloe: I'm still trying to figure that out. I don't know that I've been able to fully incorporate music and art into engineering. When I was in school I focused mostly on engineering and on my downtime I would try to pursue music and a little bit of art. However, I don't really know how to pursue that right now.
Push Playlists: Do you play instruments?
Chloe: I grew up playing the piano. That's how I learned how to read music and then I've been singing for as long as I can remember. I was in a children's choir when I was a kid. Then when I was in high school I was in the youth choir. I went to a Christian school and I also used to sing with the praise band. Which was a group that sung at our chapel every week. In college I joined my school’s gospel choir and the choir of another nearby school.
Push Playlists: Interesting.
Push Playlists: So how do you listen to music now and how does music play apart in your life since you left Atlanta?
Chloe: It's always played a big role. For instance, my dad is really into music. I think that's where I get it from to be honest. My mom also likes music but she doesn't have the same type of passion that my dad has. Both of my parents made sure that gospel was played at all times in and out of our household. My dad also played a lot of jazz and that gave me a huge appreciation for the instrumentation and music layering. When I got to college, I found out that I liked to listen to music that reminded me of home. I was so far away and Cambridge was so different from where I grew up. It was cold, the people were different, and the culture wasn't as warm as what I experienced in the South. Music was my escape. Music was how I could remember Sunday mornings at my church. Music was how I could feel the warm Atlanta summers. Music was how I could feel close to my family even though I was miles and miles away. It reminded me of home.
Chloe: That made me learn to appreciate music a lot more. Especially my sophomore and junior year, I started to truly research the places that artists were coming from when they created their music. I really like going to small concerts because of that reason. I feel a lot of the times, artists can have a much more intimate experience with their fans. Then you actually get to meet other people who love the music as much as you do and each person has their own story of how they connect.
Push Playlists: So what's the song that you would say is the soundtrack to your life?
Chloe: The best album to define me would probably be something from Lauryn Hill's MTV Unplugged. It probably described me the most in college because I legitimately felt every single word and every single note. She was just so raw in the Miseducation and I think that album is still beautiful to this day. I think a lot of the lessons in her album, I learned about myself as I began to grow into an adult. It's truly special.