One in Two Thousand: Joyce Wang ’18

In the time I have known Joyce Wang ’18, she has transformed from a starry-eyed first-year into a sophisticated computer science and fashion icon. I sat down with her this week to learn more about her views on life, study abroad and the College.

What was high school like for you?

I went to school [in Holmdel, N.J.] until eighth grade and then went to St. Paul’s for high school, which is in Concord, N.H. It’s kind of a similar vibe to here, but now I’m realizing Concord was a poppin’ city. It’s the state capital, so there’s a ton of political events and such good restaurants there because of it – it’s so nice.

You’re a computer science major. Are there a lot of women in that department?

No, there aren’t – actually, there’s a huge board of everyone’s faces, and I’m pretty sure there are nine girl senior computer science (CS) majors and 36 guys, so it’s like one to four.

I know that you went to the Grace Hopper conference in Florida for women in computer science – what was that like?

It was so cool. It was actually super motivational too – there were keynote speakers every morning and they were talking about how important it is for women to get into the field. And it was cool because [a lot of people] in tech are men and there is this distinct feeling that men are genetically better at programming, which doesn’t necessarily happen in other fields, especially with the Google memo over the summer. So sometimes a lot of people view diversity as a scam – “why are we not hiring the best programmers and hiring women just because we need to” – but it’s actually really important because when you create technology, it is really important to have different voices. If women don’t put in their voices while technology is being built, then it’s just not going to be tailored to all people.

Do you want to work in the tech world after graduation?

Yeah, I really want to. I’ve been interning at start-ups the last two summers, which was really cool. And it sounds really ambitious, but I’d be kind of down to start a start-up. But I don’t think it’s as risky as it seems, because the idea is once you have a job and have some kind of professional network, it’s hard to fail so hard that you never have a job after that. It is really hard, but I think when you have constraints like that, that’s when you’re pushed to do really cool things.

You got a lot from the conference. What is your favorite thing you brought back?

I think probably this IBM t-shirt. It’s really cool. Everyone’s like, “Whoa that’s so sick.” And I really like my Audible backpack with all the pins. The companies will have happy hour events; all of them rent out restaurants for a night, with an open bar and free food – I went to a Snapchat happy hour called “Snappy hour.” The main gifts they gave away were bags with your Bitmoji printed on them – but the line was so long, I was heading out and it was raining and someone gave me a gift bag and an umbrella. It was a nice umbrella with a wooden handle and ghosts on the outside, and when you open it up and look up, there’s a ghost on the inside. I looked kinda crazy bringing it through security, but I was like “I need this.”

Can you talk about the style known as “tech trash”?

I feel like the aesthetic is classic Mark Zuckerberg: hoodies, sensible footwear and then like tech t-shirts or whatever your company gives out. But I’m not sure – I heard this when I studied abroad; they were shitting on people for being “tech trash.” But I think it mostly refers to guys who are entering it, like tech bros, guys who are really ostentatious and arrogant about it.

How was your study away?

It was really fun! I studied abroad in a computer science program in Budapest, which sounds really lame but it was so fun. And I really liked the classes – I got to take classes related to tech, ’cause the classes here are more theoretical, computer science-based. And everyone there was studying CS, so it was kind of cool to be surrounded by that. My friends were nerds, but they were so nice, and everyone kind of went to liberal arts schools similar to Williams or [the] Ivies and generally everyone was of the same academic achievement sort of, and that was really awesome.

What’s it like to be in Nothin’ But Cuties [NBC]?

It’s really fun. I actually had never danced hip-hop before; [I auditioned] for fun … but I had so much fun and I got so nervous, and then I wanted to be in it so badly and I got in! I love it so much. I got to meet so many cool and awesome people. And every time I go to practice, I think about how I would never have guessed that there are 10 people dancing in a crowded studio and not studying in the library. And what we do during tech week is so crazy – it’s so fun but we dance from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and it’s technically all student-run so we’re just all doing it to do it, instead of being forced to. But it’s so fun and I love it so much.

Tell me about how you went abroad to Shanghai two summers ago and you worked at a start-up.

My grandparents live there, and my parents grew up there and emigrated here. We saw my grandparents maybe once every four years or so, but we haven’t really recently because everyone’s doing different things – so I hadn’t gone back in so long and it was my first time going alone, which was an eye-opening experience in a lot of ways. The internship was just coding things on my own and getting occasionally checked by my supervisor. I had really taken for granted coding in English – everyone else has to kind of learn English as they learn how to code, because all of the software is developed by Americans. For their variable names, they’ll sometimes use pinyin – the phonetic spelling of Chinese characters. I lived with my cousin, who is 40 years old and has a family, and I got to meet his kids who I had never seen before, and that was really fun.

I remember you did this Instagram series of incoherent English t-shirts. What are the types of things you saw?

One of my favorite ones was “Alcohol you later.” … I saw hats that said “Chris Brown” and “She wouldn’t love me when I’m angry.” Another one was this hat – this middle-aged man was wearing this black Von Dutch-esque hat that said “worldwide deluxe impact” and I was like “what does that even mean.” [Laughs.] One time there was [a] perfectly normal mom who wore a shirt that said “naughty and nice.” After that my friend and I wanted to make our own t-shirts that said “just China party.” I actually do want to design clothes low key – because you know how the new Supreme, hype beast style is very plain clothing with a word or slogan on it? We were going to do witty computer science ones for girls mostly – like, “I love it when you call me big data” and another one “cash me outside” but like cashing as in when you …  [Laughs.]

Why did you decide to major in CS?

My sister started working out in San Francisco in the tech bubble and told me to take one class to learn how to code. … I took one and really liked it a lot – and I’ve always really liked math a lot, and computer science is just kind of applied math. It’s also just really nice to build things all of the sudden, sort of. Also, the professors here are so amazing; you call everyone in the department by their first name, and everyone is so nice. I think a lot of times you get people who study computer science so much that it seems like an insider-outside thing, but they’re super accommodating. In high school, we were so close to our teachers, but when I got here I didn’t have that as much, but I noticed that the professors in computer science classes actually really cared about my development and learning. Also, Jeannie [Albrecht] and Andrea [Danyluk] are awesome, so they’re the two female [computer science] profs, and they’re amazing.

What’s your favorite non-computer science class you’ve taken?

I really like drawing a lot right now. I actually took it because if I did want to go into user experience, a lot of people have a formal design background. I’ve really liked it a lot so far because it’s a shift from normal classwork and I never really thought that I’d be doing it, but it’s interesting because you go from narrowing down one kind of thinking and doing a lot of papers and reading. It’s a completely different way of thinking – instead of narrowing down your possibilities, you’re trying to open them up as wide as possible.