Oct 8, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Becoming a parent is an exciting new chapter in a person’s life that brings an overwhelming amount of change. Most people try to shed responsibility and adjust their schedules for their new bundle of joy.
For Yanjin Long though, pregnancy and maternity leave was the perfect time to begin her journey as an Online Masters in Computer Science (OMSCS) student at Georgia Tech.
Now in her second year in the program and mother to one-year-old daughter Skyla, Long can’t imagine doing it any differently.
Two Pink Lines and An Acceptance Letter
After working at Ernst and Young in its advisory section for a couple of years, Long was recruited to work for one of her clients, LendingClub, as a risk analyst. Long soon found a great mentor in Ty Sbano, the former head of LendingClub’s security and engineering department. She expressed interest in learning more about his team’s work, and transitioned to a security engineering role.
This transition exposed Long to coding, Python, and software-related projects, something she did not have much experience with as a business major. While she recognized the need for improving her technical skills, she also realized her desire to earn a master’s degree.
“I had always wanted to earn an advanced degree, partly to appease my parents expectations, but, this new role kicked that desire into high gear,” said Long.
Her husband, a former Georgia Tech math Ph.D. student, recommended Long look at OMSCS after seeing a lot of positive news coverage about the program. The low cost of the program also didn’t hurt, especially as the couple knew that they wanted to expand their family soon.
As it so happened, school and a baby were about to happen simultaneously for Yanjin.
Having children is life-altering and might deter most people from adding more to their plate. But, Long says she actually felt encouraged about diving into an advanced degree program after a conversation she had with one of the people who wrote a recommendation letter for her OMSCS application.
“He mentioned that his wife had earned her master’s degree while she was pregnant, and that while it was a tough time for her, she realized that if she didn’t do it then, she might never have. That really spurred me on and gave me a lot of encouragement to keep pursuing this,” said Long.
So, not long after she found out that she was expecting, she soon heard another round of good news. Long was accepted to the OMSCS program for Fall 2018.
A Legacy in the Making
Long started the program while seven months pregnant and gave birth to her daughter in October 2018.
“I was reading papers for class while I was in the hospital waiting to give birth,” said Long.
As she adjusted to life with a newborn, Long says she found unexpected moments to study.
“Breastfeeding actually ended up being a great time to study. You’re up late at night, and it gives you another kind of purpose, which helps you not be angry or frustrated at the baby. It’s actually great because you get to spend time with your baby while also spending time improving yourself.”
Long was especially thrilled to find out she was having a girl, as she hopes that her journey will be a source of inspiration for her daughter throughout her life.
“After I found out I was having a girl, I just really wanted her to know that women can thrive in tech. I felt like the greatest legacy I could give to her would be the story of how when her mom was pregnant with her, she was studying computer science. I wanted to show her that I could do it, and if she wants to one day go into a field where women are less prevalent or people don’t expect you to be there, that she can do it too.”
She also echoes the sentiment of her colleague’s wife about starting her degree at what some might say is an odd time. In fact, she credits OMSCS will helping her maintain her sense of self and value as a person outside of motherhood.
“Being Skyla’s mom is my greatest joy and honor, but I would be lying if I said the days are not long. OMSCS has helped me know that my value isn’t only in changing diapers, and it’s actually really helping me develop my sense of motherhood. I think I didn’t struggle with post-baby blues because earning my degree has helped keep me grounded personally and professionally,” said Long.