Guiding STEM Students through Impostor Syndrome with Mel Moore

Lindsay Schardon (Zenva)

June 4, 2019 in Success Stories

Guiding STEM Students through Impostor Syndrome with Mel Moore

Hey everyone! We’re here today with another success story! This time we have Mel Moore with us, a software engineering student and creator of the blog Little Ms. Engineer.

Hey Mel! Thank you for joining us. We want to start off by just getting to know you a bit more – what inspired you to major in software engineering?

It’s kind of a funny story. When I was first applying to college, being a software engineer was nowhere on my radar. In fact, I had no idea what a software engineer even was. I actually first majored in Exercise Science/ Pre-PT. While the program I was in was really nice, I realized over the summer that it wasn’t for me. Long story short, I went through a quarter-life crisis and, while that was happening, I remembered some stories from my childhood.

For example, in elementary school, my favorite animal was a butterfly. I know they’re technically insects, but elementary school me didn’t care. Anyways, one day I heard they were going extinct and I was not having that. So, I decided to create a website called Save the Butterflies using I have no idea why I decided to go straight to making a website, but I did. I remember spending hours working on it and searching Google for images of butterflies. My mom even started talking to other people about what I had done.  When my teacher found out, she let me present my website to her 5th grade class, which was a pretty big deal for me.

You really sound like quite the ambitious youth, as not many children would think to create a website, especially for such a great cause! Are there any other stories from your youth that you feel shaped your current choices today?

Another significant part of my childhood was a show called Ed, Edd, and Eddy. It was a cartoon show about the misadventures of three boys who would make these crazy inventions in their cul-de-sac. I watched that show all of the time growing up and would immediately stop what I was doing just to watch it (even if I had already seen the episode). This show ended up inspiring me to build things on my own. I assembled my own toys I got as gifts, I took apart my kid’s meal toys with a tiny screwdriver and put them back together, and I even tried to make a flying car out of a cardboard box and duct tape. Given all of this, I have no idea why I never thought of becoming some sort of engineer.

I remembered how much fun I had creating things and maintaining that website, and I realized I loved using technology to build things and fix problems. That’s when the idea of becoming a software engineer popped in my head.

This is truly an amazing story, even if it took you a bit to arrive at the conclusion you should aim for software engineering. It’s funny how things like cartoon shows shape how we turn out, and we hope your story helps inspire others!

Aside from majoring in software engineering, you also run your website Little Ms. Engineer to provide practical career guidance to STEM students. How did you get started with this project, and what sort of impact have you noticed it having on your fellow STEM students?

I was a semester into my SWEN classes when I started to wonder whether or not I was cut out for tech. I had never coded before my Intro to Computer Science class, and I always felt that everyone was so much farther ahead of me. It felt kind of discouraging, so I decided to turn to the internet to see if anyone else felt the same way I did. While I did find a couple of motivational TED Talks that got me through it, when I started searching for blogs about students in STEM, I didn’t find a ton. So, I decided to start one. Through this experience, I’ve been able to become much more knowledgeable about the tech world and have been able to interact with people I never would’ve been able to before. I’ve noticed that it has opened some students’ eyes to the many, many resources that are out there for coding, and some have even been prompted to look into them for themselves. I’ve even been able to help some students at school out when they were looking for internships.

Little Ms. Engineer Screen

That’s the epitome of doing something yourself when no one else will, and we’re touched to hear it’s helped out so many students find resources. What would you say is the most memorable moment you’ve had while working on Little Ms. Engineer?

The most memorable moment I’ve had blogging is from when I first started. My blog was barely a year old, and I had just transferred it over to WordPress when I saw I had a message from someone who had read my blog. I was so shocked, not just because this was an email from a real person (and not spam), but because someone had found my blog. It was from a woman who wanted advice on creating a music app and on where she should start. Her email was so sweet, and I was touched that she reached out to me. I gave her some resources that I used (and still use) quite often, and she sounded so motivated to start learning. It felt really good knowing that I was beginning to make an impact, not just with the students around me, but with people I had never met as well.

What a beautiful story! Getting those sorts of comments really changes your perspective on the impact you’re having. Little Ms. Engineer truly is a fantastic blog, and we love to see practical advice on portfolios, networking, and recommendations to help students break into the industry. Where are you hoping to see yourself and your blog a few years from now?

In a few years, I hope to be working as a front-end developer at either a well-established company or at a smaller business. By that point, I hope to have made some progress on saving up money to buy my parents a new house. It’s a goal I’ve had since before I entered college, and it’s something I really want to accomplish because they deserve it. As for my blog, I want to continue to maintain and expand it after I graduate. Since it has been following my journey through STEM, I really want to include my journey into the workforce as well. My ultimate goal for it, however, is to expand my blog into a small business someday.

We’re amazed, not only in your dedication to continue to provide guidance to those getting started in STEM, but to even help your parents out as well. We really hope you’re able to achieve these goals, and we’re happy to know our courses have played a role in your life.

Could you tell us a bit more about how our courses have helped you in all your pursuits? It sounds like you’ve had to deal with some feelings of impostor syndrome as well, and we would love to hear more about how our courses helped out with this too!

I had been trying to build my foundation for vanilla JavaScript for the longest time, and I was getting nowhere. I had tried multiple courses online. Most of the time I would leave the course feeling fine, and then I would forget a lot of it a week or two later. It just wasn’t clicking for me, and I started doubting my abilities. In short, I was stuck. One day, I stumbled upon your JavaScript Programming: Learn by Making a Mobile Game course in a course bundle that I had received and decided to take it -and I’m so glad I did. It was the first time I really felt that I understood basic JavaScript. And because the course was formatted so I had to practice what I just learned, I was able to remember it afterwards. It did wonders for my coding abilities.

After I finished the course, I went on to build a simple Halloween quiz that would recommend a scary movie to you based on your answers. Even though it wasn’t a game like the one I created in the course, I was still able to apply the concepts I had learned in the course to it. It was the first side project I had done without the help of a tutorial, and I have the skills I learned in this course to thank.

Mel Moore on Campus

It must have been an amazing experience to have things finally click like that. Even a simple Halloween quiz sounds like a great achievement when you’re first getting started. We’re almost out of time, so thank you so much for chatting with us, Mel. Before we wrap up – what advice would you like to pass on to your fellow STEM students, especially when it comes to dealing with impostor syndrome when they first start out?

I would totally recommend finding a mentor. I am a huge advocate for mentorship because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I found my mentor on a site called MentorNet, and it has been such a blessing, but you can find yours anywhere. Your mentor could be an elder student, a teacher, or even somebody you already know in the industry. Not only will they be able to give you practical advice, but they can help you step into the industry, even before you graduate.

If there is anyone reading this who has been told they are not cut out for STEM or feels that they aren’t as knowledgeable as other people, I want to tell you that I understand where you are coming from. I have been there, and it’s hard to get out of that mindset – but it is possible. My mom always said that if you are doing your best, then there’s nothing else you can ask for. Just focus on doing your best and being better than you were yesterday. And remember- you have nothing to prove to anybody.

And this concludes our interview! A grand thank you to Mel for taking the time to not only answer our questions, but for helping all the STEM students out there.

If you’re a young STEM student and ready to take your first steps into the industry, check out Little Ms. Engineer as a resource!

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