The Lecturer | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
"Always strive to be a better version of yourself."
GET TO KNOW KIMBERLY
Meet Kimberly Hermans. She’s a lecturer at the University of California for the School of Information and Computer Science and a computer science teacher at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California. Discover what motivated her to pursue tech education in her extended interview.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
When I graduated with a degree in information and computer Science, I started working in the tech industry. It was very different back then. People worked in isolation in their little cubicles, and I felt there was no real meaning or purpose in what I was doing. I started volunteering at Think! Together, which is an after-school program for at-risk youth, where I helped high school students with their homework, which was primarily for their math class. I found that I was looking forward to my volunteer job much more than my day job, so I changed careers very early on and went back to school to be a teacher.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
Everything about the first half of my teaching career has been a challenge. When I was back in school for my teaching credential, I was still working full time at my software job, while doing student teaching and taking night classes. It was a very challenging year, and after I was fully transitioned into being a teacher, California faced troubling times in educational funding, which meant I lost my job every year for five years. It was only after I approached my current high school and told them about my vision of starting a computer science program, did I get to a place where I created a job for myself that has stability.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
My dad has really helped me get where I am today. He was an aerospace engineer and was very interested in technology. I was one of the few kids when I was growing up who had a home computer, and we were one of the first families on our street to have dial up Internet. He was always showing me things on the computer, and having that experience at home, encouraged me to teach myself to design websites. That led to taking a programming class in high school, which led to studying computer science as an undergraduate. When I first became a math teacher, he gave me his slide rule, which was this strangely bonding symbolic gesture. Through the years, he has told me how proud he is of me and loves to brag to his neighbors that his daughter is a professor. He continues to encourage me professionally, and relishes in my successes more than I do.
What do you love most about your job?
The thing I love the most about my job is my students. Everything in education is very cyclical, and basic things like curriculum, schedules and events can be similar from year to year, but what keeps my job interesting is the diversity of student personalities. I have an excellent poker face, and I never let on that I find them as entertaining as I do. I also get very excited when I’m around to see their aha moment, where something clicks, and they get it. It’s very motivating and inspiring to see them feel successful.
Early Bird or Night Owl
Cats or Dogs
Mountains or Beach
Stripes or Polka Dots
Left Brain or Right Brain
Boss Lady Icon
Can't Live Without
Describe yourself in three words.
Analytical, sarcastic and ambitious.
Your life philosophy is…
Always strive to be a better version of yourself.
What is the best piece of advice you received?
Sometimes I have a hard time letting things go, so the best piece of advice I’ve received is to think about if this will matter in a day, a week, a month or a year?
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
French Polynesia because I adore beaches and any place where I can SCUBA dive.
What’s something you cannot live without?
Vacations. I start to feel restless when I’ve been home for too long.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
“The Power of Now” by Eckert Tolle. Whenever I feel at a low, I’ll reread the book because it reminds me that the negativity is in my head, and I need to live in the present and focus on the things that I can influence.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
I think my dream job would be working in animation either as an animator or as a voice over actress.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
My teacher friend and I started a podcast a few months ago that recaps everything on “90 Day Fiancé.” The fandom is engaged, so I always feel like I’m doing homework for our podcast. Homework is either watching the show, listening to other podcasts or viewing a lot of memes. It’s been fun and has certainly helped me to disconnect from my job at the end of the day.
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
Seeing my students develop a love for computer science. It’s not just my A students who love the subject and want to pursue a career in computer science, sometimes it’s my B and C students who love being challenged and find the subject interesting. I have a passion for computer science, and I find it rewarding when I share my passion and other students find their own passion for it as well.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
“Get off your phone!” It’s somewhat ironic that I teach computer science, but in many ways I’m a luddite. The part about computer science I really like is the algorithms, logical reasoning and critical thinking piece. Technology is just a byproduct of those things, and I’m less interested in that. I feel that technology has really changed how we think, we live, and interact. Students have lost their ability to truly connect in person. If anyone doubts this, just observe a room of young adults with phones.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
I have been a lifelong insomniac, as falling asleep has never been easy for me. I have made a conscious effort to respect a bedtime and to not allow myself to be on my phone after a certain time. This has helped curb my insomnia, which helps me get through the day a little happier.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
When I feel overwhelmed, I make a list. I find that clearly defining the things I have to do, makes it seem less stressful. It’s also satisfying to be able to chip away at the list and feel like you’re making progress.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
One of the most worthwhile investments I’ve made is leaving my life in California to move to Washington, D.C. for a year as an Einstein fellow at the National Science Foundation. It was very difficult for me to be away from my friends and family for a year, especially since my sister was pregnant with her first child. I uprooted my life, and when I came back, everything was different, and the transition back was very difficult. The reason why I have absolutely no regrets is because of what that fellowship has done for my professional life. The opportunities as a result of my fellowship has been priceless.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
When I was working at the National Science Foundation as an Einstein fellow, I had a mentor, Jan Cuny, who I looked up to. She has been a driving force behind broadening participation in the computing movement. She has contributed and accomplished so much for the computer science education community. She’s famous in the community, but she is so humble, and approachable. I can only hope that I can contribute a fraction of what she has for the advancement of computer science education.