Spotlight on Alumnae: Electra Chong ’15 and Rona Chong ’15: Programmed for Success

CLAREMONT, California - February 16, 2016


By Andrew Nguy (PO ’19)

Twins and newly minted Scripps College graduates Electra Chong ’15 and Rona Chong ’15 recently joined the inaugural class of the Holberton School, a two-year software engineering certificate program that accepts only 32 students per year.

A “community-driven” school, Holberton relies on volunteer mentors from the tech industry as well as current students to determine the curriculum. Electra and Rona will work closely with instructors who are software professionals at companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

The twins’ lifelong interest in computer programming is rooted in their childhoods. From a technologically savvy family, they grew up playing with HTML and CSS with their self-described geeky father and older brother. Rona saw coding as a hobby, one she partly sidelined to focus on her academic work at Scripps. She majored in sociology, which gave her insight into the forces that shape her and others, and has allowed her to see computer science from a different perspective.

“My focus became critically thinking about the way society works, rather than indulging in creative impulses—although in a liberal arts setting, I often came across a way to combine those two in assignments, which was nice,” she recalls.

Electra, who dabbled in a variety of subjects at Scripps before majoring in linguistics, appreciates that she was able to take the time to explore her interests over the years. Because of Scripps’ emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, she was able to learn about linguistics as well as how the discipline connects with other topics. Encouraged to cultivate both breadth and depth of knowledge rather than stick to a singular track, Electra was led to understand that a career path is potentially a journey.

“I discovered that I enjoy being a well-rounded person,” she recalls of her time at Scripps. “Now I have many interests that I feel at liberty to pursue all at once, or throughout my life.”

Though they were not computer science majors, Electra and Rona continued to learn about computers and programming while at Scripps. From the time they were first-years until a few months after they graduated, they interned in the College’s Office of Information Technology. Electra worked independently on projects dealing with networking in the residence halls, and the problem-solving skills she developed were of great assistance when it came to completing the Holberton School’s rigorous application process, which included a test, projects, and a two-week “challenge” to learn the operating system Linux and create a website with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

“My internship in the IT department formed an important part of my Scripps experience,” said Electra. “I’m incredibly grateful to the staff who mentored and supported my growth during those four years, and for the opportunity to become a part of the team when I graduated.”

For her internship, Rona worked with audio and visual information and equipment. “[She] could do anything you asked her to,” recalls Dorienne Brewster, a user/application specialist in the department. “She picked up everything really fast, and picked up technology really well.”

Electra and Rona also authored training documents for the department, with Electra writing a job guide for the residential network technician who replaced her, and Rona drafting technical guides for the College’s Macintosh computers.

Electra and Rona are excited about the road ahead of them and feel equipped to take on the challenges of this new chapter in their education. They credit the education and opportunities they received at Scripps for being able to penetrate Holberton’s two-and-a-half-percent admissions rate.

“The similarity between Holberton and Scripps, for me, is that both are places bringing people from different backgrounds together to collaborate in a learning environment,” said Rona. “And because of the experience I’ve had at Scripps, I feel very primed to take full advantage of and appreciate this at Holberton.”

Electra echoed this sentiment in her application essay for Holberton, writing, “Attending a women’s college vested many values and beliefs in me, core among them faith in my own abilities. As a child, when I thought of competent programmers, I dreamed of 16-year-olds — no, younger than that —11-year-olds who already knew how to program the web and hack systems. I already saw myself as outdated and irrelevant. Today, however, I don’t subscribe to the notion that one must fit into an idealized paradigm or possess a neatly package-able backstory to be capable of being a good software engineer.”