Christine Munar On Life, Learning And Giving Back
I love being inspired - personally and professionally - and I love meeting really cool people who inspire me, which is why I’m so happy to introduce you to Christine Munar - a software engineer, cross-platform developer, creative and a rising Senior at the University of California, Berkeley.
Not only is Christine a kickass software developer who landed an internship with Linkedin during her sophomore year in college, but she’s also an educator and mentor striving to bring computer science education to younger generations who lack resources as did she when she was a younger student.
“Resources are more than just tangible books or objects. When I say I lacked resources, I lacked connections and opportunities, or even the knowledge of opportunities.
Christine blogs about tech and travel at www.christinemunar.com - like so many others who blog about these passions, but what’s unique about Christine and why I’m so proud to be featuring her here on this blog, is the fact that she is an educator and a living example of the possible.
“I hope to help those with even the slightest interest in computer science discover what it’s like to learn the field, to work in the industry, the pros and cons, and much more.”
He mission is to motivate and act as an encouraging and inspiring force for the students about the possibilities and beauty of Computer Science.
“I believe Computer Science is incredibly accessible to learn and achieve. Even on the most basic level, developing the problem-solving skills that engineering teaches you can bring you a long way.“
When asked how she became an educator and mentor for others, Christine mentioned a virtual meeting with a young aspiring software engineer.
“She too was an aspiring engineer who looked forward to studying computer science in college. As we exchanged a few words about ourselves, I had a moment of reflection. I remembered being in her shoes a few years ago. I remember having an interest in programming that always lingered in the back of my mind. However, this is where she and I differed. Whereas I was unaware of the opportunities and lacked resources available to me at the time, here she was only a direct message away from a resource, which was, surprisingly, me."
You're an engineer, creative, educator and you also travel and write about traveling. How did that all happen? And how do you combine all of that with studying?
All that is definitely a mouthful, but to be honest, they are all areas I’m incredibly passionate about. Traveling is deeply rooted in my life. Growing up, my family invested in experiences more than anything, so we would have family vacations at least once a year to a different country or state. As for engineering, I owe it to my dad for my tech savviness.
My dad is a computer nerd, and throughout middle and high school, I would go on his computer and make websites, download programs for film production, and etc. Afterwards, I wanted to learn all aspects of development on all platforms and languages, which is when my Computer Science career took off.
In addition to that, I call myself a creative because I love photography, videography, and fashion just as much as I love computing. This resulted from continually being inspired by amazing content that satisfied my boredom growing up. Lastly, as an educator, what drives me in life is how I can take what I know and give that back to the community.
Again, this is something that has always been deeply ingrained in my core values. Time after time I feel that I spread myself too thin. But honestly, I have a passion for all these fields that I don’t think I can sacrifice even one. I strive to make it happen, and despite the challenges, I know this is what I want.
My biggest tip that allows me to make this possible with studying is utilizing routine and schedule. I am a huge planner and it has been a tremendous help with making each and every day productive. But other than that, you must desire to do what you are doing. If you don’t have a passion for it, it makes it difficult to find another source of motivation.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your role as an educator?
In the past semesters in college, I mentored high school students an introductory computer science course in Oakland. I also have been a Lab Assistant for a Data Structures course at my college. In addition, I educate through blog posts written about my tips, tricks, experiences, and such in the Tech industry.
Mainly, my role as an educator is about giving back my experiences and knowledge that can help others in any way possible. Long-term, I would love to volunteer internationally, once a month each year, as a Computer Science instructor, possibly in the Philippines.
“I started receiving messages from a few more students with the same ambition and curiosity. I joined a program that allowed me to be a mentor. I took advantage of opportunities that allowed me to give back. I realized I want to be that resource. I strive to be that voice of encouragement, guidance, and inspiration.”
You can read more about how she unveiled her purpose of becoming a teacher and role model here: “I unveiled my purpose which has been a driving force for me throughout…”
You say that you "strive to bring computer science education to the younger generation who lack resources like you did." How so? How did you lack resources and why are you so passionate about teaching?
I started my computer science education in college whereas peers of mine had many opportunities much prior. In high school, I was the sole person who was interested in a computer science course, but that wasn’t enough to set aside the funds or resources to have that course.
I came from a humble upbringing where my parents immigrated from the Philippines. They both worked incredibly hard in their ordinary 9-to-5 jobs, but since most of my family was in the Philippines, we barely had any connections in the US.
Resources are more than just tangible books or objects. When I say I lacked resources, I lacked connections and opportunities, or even the knowledge of opportunities. And that is what drove me to be so passionate about teaching. Having the sheer knowledge of opportunities can truly take someone so far. I hope to be a resource for younger students interested in Computer Science.
You say "I enjoy devising and developing products meant to impact, transform, and inspire communities." Can you tell me a bit more about this? What kind of communities?
What I like about computer science is that with the skill, you have the capability of transforming
an idea into something impactful such as an app, a start-up, etc. With technical products, you can reach a large audience because of the incredible availability of the Internet and app stores.
To me, communities can mean anywhere from peers in your own local community to consumers worldwide. Interning as a software engineer for LinkedIn allows me to impact communities on a massive scale.
LinkedIn has this unique mission to provide an opportunity to professionals around the world through their platform. Thus, I love helping develop the application and contribute to its incredible use cases.
What' your background and what would you like to tell young women who aspire to pursue a career in tech?
I grew up in a small suburb of Orange County all my life up until high school. I enjoyed high school very much, and I identified as the girl who was very into her studies but loved dressing up each day with a new hairstyle or outfit. Like I mentioned before, I had no computer science
background prior to college. For women who aspire to pursue a career in tech, I would say to go all for it full forcefully. I would encourage them to not be discouraged by any challenges they may face, and a great way to do so is to surround oneself with lots of support. This can be in the
form of a role model, other female peers in tech, mentors, groups, or any type of support that can help one power through. Personally, my peers have been my best support.
Also, can you tell me a bit more about what you're hoping to do in 5-10 years time?
After I graduate college in the next year, I want to become a full-time software engineer for a tech company I believe in. After a few years, maybe 3, of honing my computer science skills, traveling, and cultivating my online platforms, I hope to go to graduate school to earn an MBA.
Beyond that, I hope to continue my entrepreneurial efforts and maybe work at a startup. But during it all, I want to volunteer as a mentor, teacher, or any role that allows me to give back to my community, and I want to, of course, travel as much as I can!
What do you think about traveling and learning becoming a new way of experiencing a place, any thoughts on this?
I one hundred percent believe that so much learning is accompanied with traveling.
I am a testimony to this statement as I have spent the past 2 months living in New York. In NYC, I have learned many more things about fashion, hustling, taking initiative, navigating my way using public transportation, communication with others, and so much more through the multiple experiences I’ve had in the city.
I believe that if one is open to learning while traveling, it can come very naturally. However, taking the extra step of joining a class or learning from locals broadens the opportunity for development even greater. I think traveling and learning is an incredible way to experience a new place as you get to meet new people, understand different perspectives, be immersed in the culture, and so much more.