How many times have we seen "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" on Netflix?
We probably never had a complaint about the quality of streaming; we just enjoyed the movie.
That's because the software engineers and research scientists responsible for video analysis, processing, and encoding are the best in the field, and leading them as director of Video Algorithms is Filipina engineer Anne Aaron.
As the team leader, Aaron helps ensure that all 137 million members of Netflix can watch their favorite movies and television shows with the best quality of video possible.
Two decades ago, when Aaron was barely in college, research by the National Science Foundation (NSF) found that only 23.6 percent of people who worked in STEM fields in the US were women – a statistic that didn’t stop Aaron from pursuing a career in computer engineering.
Now a maven in her field, Aaron takes pride in seeking out and creating opportunities for one's self – something she would advise people to do if they want to succeed.
'Take things into your own hands'
Aaron recalled she has always liked science and computers. She graduated from a specialized public high school in the Philippines that operated as an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), the Philippine Science High School. Then, in college, she decided to major in both Physics and Computer Engineering.
At that time, there were not a lot of opportunities in the Philippines for people like her who wanted to be in the STEM field. If one was good in school, the normal route would have been to join a multinational like Proctor & Gamble or Unilever, and then maybe get an MBA along the way.
Aaron said she knew that was not for her; she looked for greener pastures in the United States where she applied to some of most prestigious engineering schools in the world. Her mindset was that she needed to learn from the best.
She ended up earning her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.
"Soon after, I immersed myself in the startup scene in the Bay Area and through the years, experienced the good, the bad, and everything in between. All of those led me here," Aaron said.
'Stay focused, power through the obstacles'
"I try not to dwell too much on the fact that sometimes, I’m the only woman and the only Filipino in a room of engineers. It is hard being part of the minority in the tech industry, but it won’t be to my benefit if I let that get in the way of doing my best in the field that I love," she said.
Aaron said she also feels she has been "extremely lucky" because while there might be preconceived biases against her as a woman and as a Filipino, she was blessed with the generosity of other people.
"A lot of incredible people – colleagues, family, friends and mentors – throughout my journey have helped me power through them," she said.
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Carissa Villacorta is an author and a publicist. She is the creator of #PHTimeIsNow. She has been running her own PR firm in New York since 2007, with high-profile business executives and multinational companies as her clients.
This piece has been contributed as part of a partnership between PHTimeIsNow and ABS-CBN News' program 'My Puhunan.'