Catherine Laserna, 18 – FUNDED

Catherine Laserna likes to remember that successful people aren’t just lucky, they open every door — and at least one of those doors led to an opportunity. She always keeps in mind this mantra — “It’s not whether you can or can’t, it’s if you will or won’t.” It cues her to explore as much as she can and keep an open mind about other perspectives. “It also humbles me and reminds me that I am where I am and I get what I get not just because I was capable, but because I was just one of many who tried,” she added.

This New Face of Tech winner is working on a degree in Computer Science and a Business minor at California State University – Fresno, which will power her dream is to be a software engineer in the gaming or AI industry.

What does being the New Face of Tech mean to you?

In a male-dominated society, the title “New Face of Tech” empowers young women like me to flip the switch and strive to make our voices heard.

Diverse faces can impact the ethics of these industries — especially in a revolutionizing field like tech. It is critical to give diverse identities the opportunity to lead.

Women are underrepresented in STEAM. How can we change this?

Women should be given support all the way through their paths in STEAM. I find that there are a lot of people willing to help women and minorities start, but they aren’t given enough resources to keep going.

It isn’t enough to introduce STEAM to underrepresented groups of students, when they’re going home to find that they don’t have the guidance or resources to maintain and grow newfound interests.

One way of providing guidance to women new to STEM is as simple as becoming friends with them, going further than the warm welcomes, and including them within impactful projects as coworkers.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

I’ve faced both mental and financial challenges along my journey.

Whether it’s through school group projects, hackathon contests, or just in my daily life, I find myself being pushed toward an “easier” role because I’m a woman — not just by classmates, but by a lot of traditional friends and family in my life, as well.

It took me a long time to recognize internalized misogyny in myself and in the people in my life. These biases and my family’s situation as immigrants coming from a rural Philippines city has heavily shaped me to be adaptable and has driven me to change.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals?

Though I am grateful for my life and all my family has given me, my biggest motivating factor is that if I take what they’ve sacrificed, I can provide more. It is through my hardships that I am driven to lead and to change.

How will funding from the 1,000 Dreams Fund and HARMAN help you reach your goals?

The funding will help me continue my college education with less financial worries, which will allow me to focus more on my studies and extracurricular involvements. It will also help me in knowing that those organizations believe in my potential to contribute to society through tech, which will give me extra motivation to continue pushing through difficult classes and obtain my hard-earned college degree!