Barbie Mentor Program - My Day with Yoky Matsuoka

Barbie Mentor Program

If the world was a perfect place, every girl would have a mentor like Yoky Matsuoka. On April 15th, I was lucky enough to shadow Yoky at the University of Washington in Seattle through the Barbie I Can Be mentor program. The program matched ten girls across the country to ten mentors in varying fields in the hopes of inspiring young girls to pursue their dreams. I was nominated through NCWIT and was ecstatic when I found out that I would be able to participate.

When I met Yoky and got a first glimpse of the Neurobiotics lab, I was completely overwhelmed by both her and the work that was occurring. Technology was being used in ways that I had never even considered. The work was focused around the theme of helping those with different disabilities, with a robotic hand being central to much of the research. I had the opportunity to follow Yoky as she met with different members of her team and was updated on the progress of their projects.

What I loved most was the holistic spectrum that the lab covered. There were projects that dealt with the rehabilitation of patients, projects that would improve prosthetic devices, and even a brake-actuated manipulator. As we moved from project to project, I tried to absorb as much of the information as possible. My head spun, but I found myself eager to learn more.

Though learning about the technology and research in the lab was a fascinating experience, learning from Yoky was even more valuable. If I was able to fast-forward my life and see the person that I will become, I sincerely hope that I am like Yoky. She did not carry a notebook to take notes or reference, but instead seemed to remember everything. She spent much of her time brainstorming with her team, trying to solve problems that each project was running into. Instead of leaving problems unanswered, she worked through issues with each of the projects. She was open to new ideas and to shifting the direction or focus of the projects. Most importantly, she really seemed to love her job, and her team seemed to love working for her.

I asked her for advice about how I should approach my future, and she told me that she always tried to take the path that would leave the most doors open for the future. Her advice has already helped me a great deal in choosing a college (I will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall). I know that this advice will always be in the back of my mind. It worked well for Yoky - I am sure that it will work for me too.

Yoky is exactly the type of mentor that every girl should have, especially girls in technology. She is confident about her ability and extremely intelligent, and has spend her life pursuing her interests. She is the opposite of the stereotype that too often permeates the image of women in technology, and an inspiration for what I hope to one day become.

Check out the NCWIT interview with Yoky!

Ciara Proctor is a 2010 winner of the national NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.