“The big idea is getting out of your comfort zone,” says Applied Data Institute alumna Hillary Tran
by Abby Thompson, Alumni Network Manager
Hillary Tran exemplifies the engaged student seeking to explore further after obtaining an undergraduate degree. She attended Equitech Futures’ Applied Data Institute in Spring 2022. Hillary focused her undergraduate thesis on sustainability and alternatives to plastic produce bag usage while majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in Sustainability, which piqued Hillary’s interest even more. Upon graduation, she wanted to reassess her next course of action. With the help of her brother who was a member of the inaugural cohort of Equitech Scholars, Hillary found Equitech Futures!
“I thought it would be a great way to enhance my skill sets and knowledge in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science since I didn’t really take those courses in undergrad. I took a broad data science course in undergrad, but I really wanted to try something new. I was able to reference my interest in sustainability through the program,” she says.
On the University of California, Berkeley campus, Hillary was involved in the Southeast Asian Student Coalition as the Curriculum Coordinator and Operations Coordinator, galvanizing Southeast Asians on campus, specifically students impacted by the Vietnam War. The space was intended for students to be vulnerable and discuss their personal identities and strategies to navigate being Southeast Asian in a mainstream milieu while embracing cultural heritage and history. Hillary actively promoted the cause of the Student Environmental Resource Center on campus and a zero waste group where students championed awareness to focus on being more environmentally conscious. Industry experts in the environmental field mentored students. Hillary developed strong program management experience from her foray into student organizations on campus, ably preparing her for her current role.
Currently, Hillary works for Zoom, the telecommunications company that has become an invaluable resource since the recent pandemic increased remote working. As a Leadership and Performance Development Specialist in the Talent and Organizational department, Hillary supports three consultants on her team with developing the content and formatting for leadership training. She also leverages strengths and helps with early career planning for new graduates. Prior to this, Hillary was working in Early Career Program management.
“My goal used to be to work in sustainability and then move into tech to implement sustainability, and it was a whole different turn to get into this,” she says. However, Hillary is now helping drive different initiatives at Zoom. In her role, she supports different consultants with the leadership programs and creates enhancements for them, in addition to supporting content for professional development workshops.
Recently, Hillary facilitated a session on professional development in front of the Women’s Employee Resource Group at Zoom during Women’s History Month. Hillary says this was extremely meaningful to her because, “it’s important to set time to prioritize ourselves as women and what our needs are.” The session empowered participants by presenting women leaders and peers who provided a support system, all with the aim to help all women to reach their career goals.
“Because of Equitech Futures, I felt more equipped to have these conversations to interact with AI and technology when talking with new engineers in the company about Python or the projects they work on. I understood the lingo more.” Hillary says her goals are to strengthen her program management and project management skills, and she still maintains an interest in sustainability. In a few years, she’d like to pivot into a bigger department and potentially continue her education through a graduate program. “I want to continue working with initiatives that prioritize purpose-driven processes such as sustainability in consumer packaged goods.”
When asked about advice for the future, Hillary says “It’s never too late to start over again. The skills you have in one career might be entirely different from another industry and it’s absolutely transferable. It’s important to utilize your strengths even when you want to transition into a different industry. It’s doable if you put your mind to it. Also, prioritize your wellbeing and ask for help when you need it. Joining Equitech Futures was out of my comfort zone because I joined without an understanding of AI or data science, but my classmates and faculty were my biggest resource. I could ask Bhasi or Abhilash questions or reach out to the community when I needed it. I appreciated the opportunity to meet such a global cohort. The big idea is getting out of your comfort zone.”
Hillary would like to note that all of these thoughts are her own and are not representative of any official opinion endorsed by Zoom. Sonali Aatresh contributed to this article.