Deonna Owens

A Little Bit of HOPE launched its second Capstone Program for the Langston University Computer Science department this spring to provide students with experience working on real-world technology solutions under the guidance of industry practitioners to bolster workforce readiness. Last month in lieu of Women’s History Month, we gathered for coffee chats with the dynamic women of the cohort to discuss their path to Computer Science and the active contributions they are making to help shape the field to be a more equitable place for all. Today we are in the lab learning from Deonna Owens, a member of the Spring ’22 ALBH Capstone Cohort – read on to learn more about her journey.

About Deonna: Deonna Owens is a Tulsa, Oklahoma native and current sophomore Computer Science major from Langston University. She serves as a leader on campus through her positions as Vice President of the Computer Science Club, Vice President of the Sophomore Class, and Treasurer of Women of Purpose. Deonna also holds memberships in the National Society of Leadership and Success, the National Council of Negro Women, and the NAACP. Last summer she was a participant in a learning program hosted by Google Cloud’s Higher Education Team which provided her with hands-on experience with the Google Cloud Platform and the opportunity to obtain several certificates. This summer she will be interning with Cisco Systems in San Jose, California as a Software Engineer on the Cloud Networking team.

Deonna Owens - Langston University Computer Science Student.

Q: How did you get started in Computer Science and what drew you to the field?  

 Due to my passion to help others, I began my collegiate studies in Nursing. Soon after I realized that wasn’t a right fit for me. During a period of experimenting in other fields of study to discover my calling, I began learning HTML and CSS through a free coding camp. I enjoyed the experience so much that I reached out to the head of the Computer Science Department, Dr. Grayson.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a Computer Science student?

The opportunity – there are endless routes you can explore that can be tailored to your interests, and you never have to worry about getting bored. There is no shortage of possibility with the variety of internships, full-time roles, and special projects at your disposal.

 Q: How do you invest in yourself to become a better technologist?

 I’m continuously learning – in school we are learning Java. In my spare time, I’m taking a course on Linux and exploring Operating Systems. I also often utilize free courses, like the Google Cloud course I took last summer. 

 Q: How are you spreading a little bit of hope and being the change that you want to see?

 Pouring into youth is one way. I find that motivating kids to learn S.T.E.A.M. is not necessarily difficult because children are often willing to learn and explore new things. My method for introducing kids to new things is by relating it to something they are already doing. For example, if a kid is into gaming, I will let them know that they can use technology to design games. Once their interest is piqued, the challenge is just teaching and providing them with the right tools to build something.

 Q: How can we create communities that are safe havens for people new to technology?

 It’s important to create environments where true learning is prioritized. Those in technology must avoid being dismissive or condescending to newcomers that are trying to figure things out. Leaders must be more patient and open to answering questions. Many computer science students struggle with information overload and the content can sometimes be difficult to retain. There is often an attitude circulated that not understanding something right away is a weakness, instead of an opportunity for discovery. As I was completing my Introduction to Programming class – over half the students ended up dropping out of the program, demonstrating a retention problem. That’s why I feel that our leaders need to shift towards a more patient approach to teaching so that students feel confident persevering.

Rapid Fire Question Segment

Q: Name a role model in technology or business for you.

Professor Grayson, who oversees the Langston Computer Science department. I am inspired by what he has done with the Computer Science program and the way in which he pours into Black women in technology in particular.

Q: Favorite technology product?

Hardware – My MacBook, I do not go anywhere without it. Software – IntelliJ.

 Q: What’s one thing that excites you about the future?

Autonomous Driving.

 Q: Favorite undergraduate class?

Data structures and algorithms.

 Q: Morning person or Night Owl?

Morning – I am a 5 a.m. riser.

 Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

The next generation – young kids who look like me. I often think about my neighborhood, and the impact my influence as a leader will have on them.

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Author: Amanda White, Director of Marketing & Communications, ALBH

Contact: [email protected]

About The Series: Phenomenal scientists, technologists, engineers, artists, and mathematicians aren’t created by chance. Their brilliance is the product of the exposure, experimentation, and perseverance required to realize their dreams and potential. Our series “In The Lab” provides a glimpse behind the scenes of the work that everyday STEAM trailblazers are doing to make a meaningful difference in their spheres of influence. Get inspired and encouraged by what is possible in STEAM by diving into real stories that shed transparency on the journey, events, and people that helped build their careers.