Yamiah Compton

3rd Year PhD Student/Software Engineer
Information Technology
Walden University

About Me

When I was younger, I thought that I was going to be a lawyer, but that changed in middle school. I went on to college to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Computer & Information Technology from Purdue University and two Master’s degrees – one in Crime Analysis and the other in Information Technology from Tiffin University and Walden University respectively.  I currently work as a Software Engineer at Shaw Air Force Base while pursuing my doctoral degree.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

My experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school were most definitely not of the norm. I was introduced to STEM in middle school at the age of eleven by my science teacher, Bonnie Porter. She provided me the opportunity to take four summers of intense STEM training at Wright State University through the Wright STEPP program. It was then that I fell in love with what it meant to be an engineer. In high school, my science and math teachers were my favorite. Being in the International Baccalaureate program, I was allowed to take advanced math and science prior to high school graduation. This experience is the one reason that I wish to open a STEM/STEAM Education Center. I feel that the sooner youth is exposed to STEM/STEAM, the sooner they will fall in love like I did.

What’s next for you?

I plan to gain more experience in my field. Before 35 (6 years), I will open a STEAM education center that educates the youth that are our future, their parents that will facilitate their success, and the teachers that will deliver the knowledge to the youth. Most children that come from my neighborhood think that the only ways to make money are sports and entertainment. My goal is to show them that there are other methods of attaining wealth. I want to expose their minds to things that they may not have been exposed to otherwise. I want to do what Bonnie Porter did for me – provide me with the basic tools to achieve my goals.

What do you do to unwind?

I sing, listen to music and travel. Being on the road, singing at the top of my lungs to awesome artists is the most relaxing feeling ever.

My Software Engineering Career

What motivated you to pursue a software engineering career?

I love coding and working with databases. It was my concentration in college and one reason that I went into STEM to begin with. I have been coding since I was eleven and it is almost second nature. I develop websites in my free time so it only seemed right to do what I love and get paid handsomely for it. I have found my career and it is an awesome feeling.

What are some challenges you face as a Black, female Software Engineer?

Personal challenges that I have faced that have shaped my life as a woman in STEM are both the constant underestimation of my male counterparts and, particularly as a Black woman, the constant battle to try and avoid the label of the angry Black woman. To explain, working in STEM, I have encountered males that will not take my word. This has happened over various communication channels as well as face to face. The way that I look at it is I am qualified to be in the position or I would not have gotten the job. If someone feels that my word is not enough, that is not a reflection of me but a direct reflection of them. In reference to the label, when a man is assertive, they are being men but when a woman does the same, it has a negative connotation. Choosing battles in the industry is tough, but sometimes there is a need to address a concern regardless to the label that will be applied. I have become okay with the fact that I may be labeled, but I will be just as well known for doing a stellar job in my work position.

Staying up to date with the latest software and techniques can also be challenging. These change so often so I am constantly reading and taking courses to enhance my existing technical knowledge.

My Research

Tell us about your graduate research

My research topic is in the realm of cyber-security. A 2015 data breach investigation of 70 organizations confirmed that there were over 700 million compromised records with an estimated financial cost of at least $400 million in the prior year alone. About 19.2% of the targeted organizations are in the education sector which is higher than those of the financial, insurance, retail, government and non-government sectors. The specific IT problem to be investigated is involving the fact that some university data custodians lack comprehensive information security strategies to protect the personally identifiable information (PII) collected from staff, students and other stakeholders of the university.

What motivated you to pursue this line of research?

My current job along with the fact that security is one of the major issues in almost every sector of IT motivated me to pursue this line of research. As a college student and an active consumer, this topic is very important to me.

What is the coolest thing about your research?

The coolest thing about my research is that every article I read and every word I write puts me one step closer to being Dr. Yamiah Compton. It is also cool that I get to contribute to the field. I’m looking forward to checking the number of individuals who reference my research.

What is the most challenging part of research for you?

The hardest part of my research is the constant rewriting. Sometimes it is very discouraging but I know that it is for the best.

My Grad School Experience

Why did you choose to go to Grad School?

I chose to go to grad school to be able to easily differentiate myself from other individuals in my field. I also chose to go to grad school to have a proper justification for job placement and salary requirements. I have to pay for school myself. In order to do that, I must work full time. Walden University provides the only accredited Doctor of Information Technology program for the professional that desires to further their education. It gives me the opportunity to develop a program that is going to be used by thousands. Many feel that online programs are a cake walk, but that is absolutely not the case. Traditional schools have set times, you listen to lecture, you go to lab, you do homework, and repeat the next day. Online schools, although structured, there are no set times yet you still have information to read, labs to complete and homework to do. You have to be disciplined and push yourself all while balancing work and family. Seems easy, but it absolutely is not.

Do you ever feel discouraged? How do you get around that?

I have definitely felt discouraged during this journey. What helped me overcome that feeling is knowing that I have a support system that is cheering me on. Without them, honestly, I would have given up a while ago. My family is always right behind me attending all my graduations and honor society inductions. My sorority sisters randomly call me on a regular basis to make sure that I am in good spirits. One other big portion of my support system are my classmates. We push each other to go on and that really helps when you’re writing a paper at 1 A.M. that you really have no mental capacity to finish.

In pursuing STEM, I honestly have to say that my mother was an instrumental part in my pursuing such a male dominant field. She has always told me I can do whatever I want and not to let anyone keep me from doing that. It pays to have such a strong line of support behind you.

Who are some of your biggest cheerleaders?

As I mentioned above, my biggest cheerleaders are my friends, family and sorors. They make sure that I always have what I need. Whether it is a motivational speech, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to vent to, they are always there for me. My sisters in Sigma are women that have amazing backgrounds and the desire to accomplish the impossible. One of the best decisions I have made in life was to affiliate myself with such a dynamic group of women.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

The most useful life advice that I have received was to fail until I succeed. The only way that you can trul er the years, I have reclassified them under lessons learned.

My favorite quote to date in reference to success is: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

The most useful life advice that I have received was to fail until I succeed. The only way that you can truly fail is give up. Missing the mark is not necessarily failure. It just means that you have more to accomplish. With the many failures I’ve taken over the years, I have reclassified them under lessons learned.

My favorite quote to date in reference to success is: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

You are the only one that can defeat you. Never stop pushing forward because you would be surprised to find out how motivating you are to someone else.


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