Interview with Veronica Ray '13

Interview by Howie Rhee. Published September 17, 2014.

What did you do before Duke and where did you live?

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and went to an all-girls Catholic high school. During high school I was president of the Latin Club, played the harp and spent my summers at the Texas State Honors Summer Math Camp.

What did you focus on at Duke? What were your main activities and areas of study?
My first two years at Duke were unfocused. I was involved in Blue Devils United, the LGBT student organization, and volunteered as an HIV counselor. I also played club rugby. Academically, I switched between engineering, economics and public policy classes. 

I started to focus on entrepreneurship during my junior year after an internship at a social enterprise startup in San Francisco. I worked at startups and learned as much as I could about Silicon Valley.

Tell us about the Summer Innovation Program. What did you do and what did you learn?
I interned at Jellyfish Art. I spent most of my time creating Google Adwords campaigns that generated thousands of dollars in revenue for the startup. Since the website manager was part time and remote, I was able to also gain experience with web development. However, the Summer Innovation Program was more than just an internship. Through the books we read, group discussions and field trips I became immersed in Silicon Valley culture. During my senior year I was thankful for the people I met during the program. They were extremely supportive while I finished my Computer Science major searched for a startup job.

You switched to Computer Science. How did that go? Was it too late to do it?
I had enough classes to easily graduate with a minor in Computer Science. However, completing the rest of the classes for the major during my senior year was very difficult. I sought out lots of help from my professors and classmates. During that semester I was also looking for a post-graduation job which added to the stress. While it wasn't too late, it is not a path I recommend. I succeeded because I had excellent study skills, could cope well with stress and was completely committed to finishing off the major. I missed out on taking interesting elective classes, doing research and building relationships over time with professors and classmates.

What did you do after graduating from Duke?

I received my offer from Bizo during the last week of class. I moved to San Francisco and began working for the startup in July.

Bizo was just acquired, what has that experience been like?
It's been very exciting. I look forward to developing even more as a software engineer and doing great things with the Bizo team at LinkedIn.

You are involved in diversity efforts in the Bay Area. Tell us about that.
I mentored at Hackbright Academy, a 12-week software development training program exclusively for women. I was a teacher at OpenHatch's Open Source Comes to Campus event at City College San Francisco. I spent a day teaching at the Maven Queer Youth Tech Camp. I am also a member of the feminist hackerspace Double Union. I enjoy teaching and care deeply about exposing people from underrepresented groups to computer programming. I primarily hear about these volunteer opportunities through Twitter, Meetup and email newsletters.

Any key pieces of advice to pass on to Duke students?
You will accomplish more and be less stressed if you focus on what's most important to you. Don't spread yourself too thin.

Favorite memory of Duke?
Going with my friends to Duke Performances and dance parties at the Pinhook.

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