Cameroon native wins her dream internship at IBM

Cameroon native wins her dream internship at IBM

YORKTOWN – Three years ago, Ghislaine Tembiwe could barely dream of coming to America, a distant land of ease and opportunity to which her native Cameroon seemed to pale by comparison.

That perception may have been a bit too rosy, as once Tembiwe enrolled in college here, she worked on campus and at a department store. Still, the opportunities she dreamed of when she successfully participated in the U.S. green card lottery in 2006 proved true when she began a summer internship last month at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center at IBM.

"In my country, usually after you go to school there’s no jobs," said the 22-year-old from Wappingers Falls, who had been a chemistry major in Cameroon. "You end up selling clothes and opening a small store or working on a farm. We don’t have companies over there I could work in."

The green card lottery wasn’t Tembiwe’s only big win. Her professor at Dutchess Community College, where she just graduated with a degree in engineering science, told her about a Seventeen magazine internship contest.

Since the fall, the magazine has placed interns with IBM, Nike and NASA. Each intern blogs about their experience at Seventeen’s Web site, providing insights and inspiration to young girls about finding their dream jobs.

That fits well with IBM’s emphasis on increasing the number of women in science careers.

"It not only gives Ghislaine a learning experience and exposure to life as an engineer, but we also hope her example will encourage more women to pursue careers in science and technology," said Stanley Litow, vice president for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM.

About 30 percent of IBM’s global work force is female, with 22 percent in technical jobs.

Ghislaine works five days a week at the Yorktown campus, headquarters for what IBM boasts is the world’s largest industrial research organization. A supervisor assigns her to work with various researchers. This past week she assisted Kate Fisher, an advisory engineer in photovoltaics.

Fisher studied the discipline as an undergraduate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The program had an equal number of men and women, she recalled, but that was not the case in every technical field.

"I think engineering, all types of engineering, it’s what makes up how we build our society," Fisher said. "And if women aren’t involved in those important decision-making processes, the world, I guess, gets skewed."

Tembiwe will transfer to Stony Brook University in the fall.

She plans to study computer engineering, though the internship has led her to weigh other possibilities. A research-oriented field now interests her more than sitting at a computer terminal all day.

"As a girl, we have a team spirit," she said. "(Fisher) does experiments and then shares with her colleagues. They have meetings all the time. I think this is how girls usually work. It’s not like guys."

19 July 2009

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