ApplyBoard’s Employee Spotlight Series features team members from across our organization, the work that they do, and how they are helping us achieve our mission of educating the world. Throughout this series, we want you to get to know the humans of ApplyBoard!
This week, we sat down with Knajwa Cameron, one of ApplyBoard’s Software Engineers, to learn about her experience as a new graduate and her perspective on being a woman working within the tech industry.
A recent graduate from the University of Waterloo, Knajwa joined ApplyBoard as a Full-Stack Developer in May 2020. Her previous experience includes three co-op terms as a Developer, where she worked as a Back-End, Front-End, and Firmware Developer. This is her first full-time position since she finished her electrical engineering degree, and Knajwa has been extremely eager to embark on her career at ApplyBoard.
A few fun facts about Knajwa:
- Her favourite class in university was calculus.
- She speaks beginner-level Spanish.
- She is learning to play the guitar.
- Knajwa loves sports—she plays volleyball in a city league.
Choosing Her Career Path
Originally from Jamaica, Knajwa came to Canada in 2004. After such a drastic move, she immediately experienced culture shock and became “hyper-aware” of the fact that she was a minority.
“I was the only black woman, and usually the only black person, in many of my classrooms,” says Knajwa. “The lack of representation is evident, especially for women in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] fields.”
At first, Knajwa was indecisive about what program she wanted to study in university. However, despite not seeing herself represented, Knajwa was determined to pursue an education and career in STEM, thanks largely to her parents’ influence.
“My parents pushed me towards research and it helped me make my decision,” says Knajwa. “They really understand the importance of education and were instrumental in my career choice, especially since my dad is also an Engineer.”
Knajwa’s father was a significant inspiration to her.
Throughout her university education, Knajwa participated in clubs such as Women in Engineering, Biomechanics, and Engineers Without Borders, and completed six co-op terms in various industries where she learned many useful soft and technical skills (including learning how to surf over one co-op). After five years of hard work, Knajwa graduated from her program with distinction and landed a full-time position at ApplyBoard.
When asked why she chose ApplyBoard, Knajwa said that when it comes to her career, she is passionate about serving people. That’s why ApplyBoard’s mission to educate the world resonates deeply with her. She wants to be able to make a difference and leave a positive impact through her work.
The other factor that brought Knajwa to ApplyBoard is the diversity and the international teams.
“What I really like is how the company takes an active role in educating employees about diversity and inclusivity,” says Knajwa. “We had a Lunch and Learn on effectively working with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds, and a seminar on Black Lives Matter. Everyone came together to support the cause, which really impressed me.”
Support at Work
Knajwa says that as a new grad, her goal is to learn as much as she can, acquire new skills, and build her portfolio. Her Team Lead has been supportive with weekly and biweekly meetings, and her team members are always responsive to her questions.
“A number of women on the Development Team who have been here longer started a Women in Tech Slack group,” says Knajwa. “The group was created for members to connect with other women in the industry and provide advice, insights, and support to fellow female developers. To see the unity and empowerment among colleagues and fellow women is so important.”
Advice for Young Women Who Want to Work in STEM
When asked if she has any advice for young women who want to start an education or career in STEM, Knajwa drew from her own experiences and insights. She says:
- Be brave and don’t be scared to take the first step in that space, even if there’s a lack of representation and even when it’s uncomfortable. I’ve been in that position many times.
- You being there will pave the way for others to follow you.
- Don’t be afraid to make your claim in that space and never feel like you have to be in the shadows.
- Find allies and people who can help you along your journey, and learn from them.
We are incredibly inspired by Knajwa’s drive and passion for what she does. As a new member of the ApplyBoard family, we are excited to follow along with her journey and see the wonderful things that she will achieve throughout her career.