By admin | May 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

VI Asset Viewpoint: Andrea Russell

Meet our VISTA+ VI Assets: Virgin Islanders not only working in STEM fields, but leading amazing work in their industries and representing the territory well.

Born on St. Croix and a graduate of the St Croix Country Day School, Andrea Russell is currently the Global Product Lead at Google and mentor for the RTPark’s Accelerate VI program.  Andrea shares her thoughts on her journey into tech, giving back to her USVI community and the benefits of working in STEM:

Thinking back to when you became interested in STEM, what programs or resources do you wish were available at the time?

I wish I were able to take basic coding or programming classes in high school or was able to access some courses online. When I got to college everyone taking STEM majors seemed like they knew way more than I did. I was intimidated and decided not to pursue that as a major. I feel if I were exposed to more of the field or even different available roles, I would have been better prepared.

How has your tech career impacted your life outside of work?

I think working in tech has changed the way that I think and approach problems.  Building products is very solutions-oriented so it has helped me learn how to break down large problems into smaller pieces and tackle them individually. I feel I’m less intimidated by complexity. It’s also taught me the importance of testing!

You recently participated in the Accelerate VI program as a mentor. Can you share a little more about that experience and what it meant to you?

Participating as a mentor was a very cool experience. I gave one general workshop to the entire cohort about Product Development and then I was matched up with two companies for 1:1 time to discuss their individual challenges and goals more in-depth. It meant a lot to me to be paired with founders from the Virgin Islands — I love supporting my community and it was awesome to see technology being built for us by us!

What are the top skills you encourage young adults to develop when they’re getting started in a tech career?

Aside from technical skills (learning coding languages, algorithms, or whatever you’re into, etc), I would encourage young people to focus on building “softer” skills like design thinking, strong communication, influencing, and empathy early. For some, those skills are challenging to develop so if you focus on them early on it will serve you throughout your entire career.

STEM careers are often associated with an image of a “stereotypical nerd.” Or the intimidating idea that you have to be a genius to enter the space. What should the RTPark and other invested organizations be doing to help make STEM development, training, and careers seem more accessible?

I think the RTPark could help expand the idea of what working in tech is! Even just hosting panels, talks or networking events could be helpful. There are so many jobs under the tech umbrella and so much diversity in terms of the “types” of people who do those roles. I think providing an entry point is helpful because if you don’t have an entry point it can be hard to see yourself there or even know what’s possible.

A fun one! Tell us your favorite tart, fraco, and pate flavors? We promise we won’t judge you if you like pineapple tart.

My favs are Guava Tart, Tamarind Fraco and a tie for saltfish or conch pates.