In honor of SXSW going on this week down in Austin, we decided to showcase one of our favorite Longhorns. We had the pleasure of meeting Aila Enos last summer when she was an intern at Microsoft. We were immediately struck by her resemblance to Vivien Leigh who played one of Dona’s all time favorite heroines and had to do a dreamy, nostalgic photoshoot to capture the relationship. As we got to know this lovely young woman, we realized that she is not to be messed with! Read on to find out why….
Tell us a little about you.
I’m a graduating senior at the University of Texas at Austin. This past summer I was at Microsoft as a Software Development Intern on the Universal Store team. Before that, I was a Test Engineering Intern at Spiceworks, a company in Austin. I will be returning in the fall full-time at Microsoft as a developer. At UT, I give tours to prospective computer science students as a CS Ambassador and teach a group of around 20 CS freshmen as a POD mentor. Through the POD mentor program I am able to teach them about resumes, interviews, the lab machines, and other information they would need to know but not get from classes. I also had the opportunity to TA for our introduction to programming class in the fall, which was a fun experience. Finally, I am the corporate officer for UT’s ACM chapter.
Some fun facts about me: I was born in Hawaii, I know how to make sushi, and I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do (see? told you, don’t mess with Texas).
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
I always feel most confident when I’m dressed up, and I strongly believe you should wear whatever you feel the best in! My style is very classic, and I tend to end up cycling through a few favorite pieces. Today, I am wearing a tan and black Ann Taylor dress and Christian Siriano for Payless heels. As for accessories, I love my Dynasty Red Kate Spade bag. It always adds a pop of color to my outfits!
Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?
When I was growing up, I was enchanted by anything Chanel. I loved the flowy dresses and simple yet chic color schemes. The whole brand felt very classic and polished. In high school I liked Betsey Johnson a lot. The floral patterns and feminine details like bows and sequins were just my style. Today, I like Kate Spade for the same reasons I liked Chanel when I was younger. Her designs are polished, classic, and chic, but never boring. There is always a fun pop of color or a cute and whimsical message.
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
Give it a shot. You never know it’s for you until you try it. Plus, there’s a fantastic support system for you if you decide to go this route.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
Before this past summer, I would say surviving my operating systems class (us too, Aila, us too!). Now, I would say my intern project from this past summer; The goal was to improve the performance of a service, which included redesigning the service by changing it to a publish and subscribe model.
Every time I decided on a new model and started prototyping, there would be a change and I would have to talk to the other teams and adjust the plan. As a developer I was worried I was doing too much project management work and wouldn’t have much actual code to turn in (which made me worry that I wouldn’t get a return offer). In the end, everything turned out okay - I learned to appreciate my project and the skills I learned, and my team trusted me to make design decisions and to interact with other teams myself.
I realized the things I did — communicating with other teams, reading and writing technical specs, making important technical decisions based on efficiency, complexity of code, and performance — were all very important. I would argue now that soft skills are just important as the more technical skills.
Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?
There is a lot of talk about how girls in STEM receive unwanted attention and have negative experiences in the field. While this does happen, it is definitely not the norm! I have only had one negative experience (a guy kept interrupting me), and he was most likely an outlier.
While it definitely depends on your environment and where you go to school or work, there are guys out there that support women in computer science and treat us like regular, competent, human beings! Don’t let a few bad apples bring you down or make you think that it is the norm.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
I’m not super active on social media (didn’t like Twitter, stopped using Instagram), but you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Whoa. Aila is one busy lady between teaching programming classes, mentoring students and being a full-time student! We share her love of fashion (Chanel and Christian Siriano FTW forever!) and we’re insanely excited to have her back at Microsoft this fall to watch how she absolutely dominates her new job the way she’s dominated university.
Till next time
Dona & Beth