Moe Hay Mar Kaung, junior at Mills College became the recipient of the Grace Hopper Celebration Scholarship. The Grace Hopper Celebration scholarship hopes to bring the career interest of women in computing to the forefront and give a helping hand in pursuing their dreams.

Being a native of Myanmar, Moe Hay Mar Kaung shows us the power determination plays to follow one’s career while overcoming hurdles. Stick with us to uncover her recipe to success through the enriching journey she shares with us.

Key takeaway of the Interview:

INTERVIEW

  • Hi, it is lovely to have you with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m a 20-year-old international student double majoring in Economics (Concentration in Strategy) and Business Communications at Mills College. I was the first daughter in my family to fly 8,000 miles from Myanmar to California for college, so I aim to always challenge myself by going beyond theory and understanding the needs of real-world people. 

Experiences ranging from consulting for black-owned startups to conducting qualitative market research at global firms made me realize my true calling is to forge and maintain meaningful relationships between customers and brands. I’ve worn numerous hats in marketing, from extracting insights for high profile clients (Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone) to creating educational content featured in publications (EuroCham, The Womanist, Voices and Visions).

I have a Venus Flytrap named “Uranus that gives me emotional support. He has his own Instagram account where he highlights his values, flirts with other plants, and debates Trump 2020 supporters. I created the account under my plant’s name after my parents told me to stop interfering in American politics in case the Trump administration deports me.

  • Can you describe the application process?

First, you have to create an account with your basic information (name, email address, and a suitable password) to proceed with the rest of your application. Since AnitaB.org seeks to promote diversity and inclusion, they have a separate section with specific questions for demographic information. Following this, there’s a section for education and career information that asks for academic institutions and areas of interest. 

As for the essay questions, there’s two: the former asks you about the impact you believe a conference for women in computing like GHC would have on you and the latter asks you how you would apply the experience you gained from GHC to your existing community. 

The final stages include uploading your resume (optimizing all your experiences to fit in one page is recommended), unofficial college transcripts, and a recommendation letter (mandatory) by a faculty member.

  • Why do you think you were selected?

I believe I was selected due to my background as an international student from Myanmar and how I proved to be proactive in pursuing diverse opportunities no matter the number of barriers I faced.

  • Major accomplishments

I recently completed my first product management role at URx’s InternHacks program, in which my team and I built ZoneIn, a Chrome extension to prevent fellow Gen Z students from zoning out as they adjust to remote learning amid COVID-19. We took home the award for Best Technical Problem and we are currently working to ensure it’s accessible to everyone on the Chrome Web Store. I believe this was the most recent of all my experiences that led to me getting accepted as a Google Developer Student Club Lead. I’ll be taking this opportunity to ensure that by the end of this program, small businesses in the Bay Area will benefit from our pro-bono tech consulting services and underrepresented students in tech at my school will have tangible skills to display on their resume to help them stand out in the job search process.

While serving as the Project Manager of a marketing consultancy group for a BIPOC-owned wine startup, I managed to successfully conduct in-depth interviews for qualitative research despite the lack of in-person interaction due to COVID-19. To build a strong connection with consumers through the phone, I made sure my interviews were conversational and discussion-based, which made probing easier. I gained insight into their behaviors as they’re coping under unpredictable circumstances. After making sure such deliverables are met, I oversaw my team’s user persona and journey refinement through the valuable insights I extracted. I would also say that the product management internship that I was a part of, contributed to my current position as a Google Developer Student Club lead.

  • Any failures or rejections that you have faced in the process?

 My greatest failure so far was initially underestimating the impact of coronavirus. When COVID-19 became the world’s top concern, I was too preoccupied about my own internship prospects. Only when I saw my next-door neighbor in a state of panic, I was brought back to what truly matters. As president of the International Student Association, I decided to advocate for my fellow peers to prevent them from being displaced from housing and food arrangements after seeing it happen to other private institutions. I petitioned and communicated extensively with influential figures on-campus and they agreed to allow students who need their facilities to stay for the rest of the semester. 

  • Any advice you would like to give our future applicants?

Authenticity is key! Don’t tackle the essay questions with the sole desire to impress the judges with a perception of who you believe their “perfect” applicant is. I promise you that you are more than enough. GHC scholars don’t fit into a specific mold, so take pride in your individuality.

Moe Hay Mar Kong inspires us to fight for our dreams just like she did despite the obstacles thrown her way. She meticulously prepared and did not let any circumstance pull her down. 

While she continues on her road to success, we hope that this article inspires you to pursue your passion no matter the circumstance!

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