Janeth Moran-CervantesJaneth Moran-Cervantes

By Pamela Dean

Janeth Moran-Cervantes is among a small and select group of women who have managed to carve out a career in the typically male-dominated field of software engineering. Her unlikely path to a plum job as a software development engineer at Amazon began with a program she was unexpectedly placed into in middle school.

The program, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), was aimed at showing first generation students the path to higher education.

“I didn’t know anything about college, but it was in that program that I first learned about career possibilities and a bit about the college process,” she explained.

And it was a teacher in the program who inspired her to pursue a career in computer science after Moran-Cervantes told her she enjoyed trigonometric proofs because they were like puzzles.

“I was good at math, I think mainly because I moved a lot, and math was the one subject that remained mostly consistent. As an ESL student, other subjects were sometimes difficult to comprehend but math had the same syntax and as long as I could see the pattern, I could figure out how to apply them.”

That particular teacher also served as a role model for Moran-Cervantes.

“She studied computer science herself and her career decisions, lifestyle, and energizing personality were a model that I began to see as attainable.”

Moran-Cervantes was born in Morelos, Mexico. Her parents moved to San Diego before eventually settling in Ventura. Her father had high expectations for his children and instilled in her the notion that she should always work hard and, not just try her best, but be the best. Her mother motivated her to be humble, compassionate, pragmatic and to always do the right thing.

After high school, she attended Ventura Community College before transferring to CSUCI. She struggled to adjust to a four-year university.

“It shattered my overconfidence developed in my previous two years at Ventura College, and led me to question my ability to learn,” she recalled. “I considered dropping out. With support from faculty and family, I humbled myself to learn at a slower pace, knowing it would take me one more semester than I initially planned. This resulted in opportunities to do research, attend conferences and focus on both math and computer science.”

She earned a B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics in 2012 and an M.S. in Computer Science in 2018. She served as a Computer Science teaching associate and founded the CI Computer Girls club, now called CSUCI Women in Tech, while pursuing her master’s degree. During her time at CSUCI, Moran-Cervantes found many who lifted her up and helped her believe in herself.

“Every professor in some way made a strong impact on my studies and ability to persevere. In the Math department, Dr. Wyels was one of the first faculty I encountered. She was kind, welcoming, and tough. She challenged me to think like a mathematician, inspired me to carve my own path, and lifted me in some of the most difficult times.

“Similarly, from the Computer Science department, Professor Anna Bieszczad, was my lifting force in a male-dominated tech culture. I particularly admire her ability to balance warmth and rigorous pedagogical approaches. She was a fundamental mentor when I taught at CSUCI and as we got to know each other better, I began to see the parallelism in both of our stories. This speaks to the connection a student is able to make with the faculty at CSUCI in ways I didn’t know was possible.”

Moran-Cervantes has advice for women looking to enter the stem fields.

“Do your research. Learn about the companies. Attend conferences, talk to recruiters, get to know the company culture. Learn about the interview process and practice. Tech is one of the fields where practice is crucial and if you don’t practice, it will show in interviews. Apply to internships. A lot of new hires were once interns and it can be easier to come back full time after an internship since you have more opportunities to showcase your skills. Figure out what interests you and try to figure out how to get there through research and talking to other people. Learn how to learn. Tech is a constantly changing field and you need to be able to adapt and continuously learn and the sooner you understand how you best learn, the easier it is for you to adapt.”

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