Going from community organizing to creating government applications, Deloitte Digital’s Kristian Tran gives insight into her journey in the world of computer engineering

According to a study from the National Center for Women and Information Technology, in 1985, over 35 percent of computer science majors were female. Today it’s 18 percent.

I went to college wanting to change the world through political science and international relations, but my aspirations changed after taking my first computer science class. Instead of writing 20-page papers, I was writing 100+ lines of code. I got hooked.

I didn’t know anything about computer science. Growing up, I played with computers, but I was more inclined to community organizing, bringing awareness to societal issues, and volunteering initiatives. In my first year of college, I overheard my friend’s parents telling him to study computer science and from there, I took it upon myself to discover what it truly was.

Rather than take calculus for my math requirement, I decided to enroll in CS111 “Introduction to Java Programming and Problem Solving.”

After countless problem sets and late-nights of debugging to get my program to run and return the right answer—rather than synthesizing political theories and formulating theses—I preferred writing code. From then on, if I had an idea, I could execute it by programming. I could use my computer skills to create anything I wanted to contribute to society. Over time, studying CS gave me the skills to see where and when technology can be useful and transformative to everyday processes.

What is so cool about technology today?

  1. You can create something out of nothing. Technology can create new business media that didn’t exist before before, such as social media jobs and the sharing economy.
  2. Technology is everywhere. In everything you touch, there is a software component that works behind the scenes. Take, for example, credit cards and payments.  With a swipe of a card, a transaction kicks off exchanges by your bank and merchant.
  3. You can change the world. The evolution of social media has 7+ billion people in the world better connected and enabled to exchange innovative ideas. The amount of people linked online has transformed the way we interact with each other in business and personal life.

Having studied at an all-women’s college, I didn’t realize the discrepancy between men and women in the technology industry until I enrolled in a study abroad program in which the ratio of male to female students was eye-opening. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this industry and inspire more women to get involved in it.

Tons of organizations are addressing the pipeline problem of producing more CS grads by showing girls at an early age how computer science is actually cool and fun with websites like girlswhocode.com and the Girl Scouts initiative Made with Code.

I’ve now been in the industry for two years creating apps that significantly improve productivity and experiences for government employees and citizens. Technology solves problems, and it inspires me to look at problems in the world and imagine how technology can help solve them.

Deloitte Digital enables me to work at the intersection of business, technology, and design. And being in the Deloitte Digital D.C. studio provides a unique opportunity to use my technological skills in the federal government space. What is rewarding about my work is creating beautiful and user-centric applications that provide great value for citizens and government employees.  These applications elevate the livelihood of citizens by enabling them to be more connected to agencies and government employees and engaging them to be more dynamic and productive in their work.

Even though I've come full circle on the goals I wanted to achieve, my story is far from over.

How will you make an impact? What drives you?

Kristian Tran is a front-end engineer in the Deloitte Digital D.C. studio. You can find her tweeting about the D.C. tech scene and innovative industry insights @ktran13.