In the Field: Zaza Soriano

The phrase “STEM career” is a vague term that actually represents an exciting array of jobs. For STEM month, we at Girl Scouts of Central Maryland would like to introduce you to several women who work in STEM fields. They will tell you in their own words why STEM careers are the best!


Zaza SorianoZaza Soriano
Embedded Software Engineer (Associate Staff 1) at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)
Education History: AA Business Administration (2007) | AA Computer Engineering (2009) | BS Computer Engineering (2013) | BS Electrical Engineering (2013) | A dabble in art school between my AA degrees

What do you do?
Working at APL I mainly do Software Engineering, but everyone once in a while I get the chance to do some Electrical Engineering. My projects range from cyber security to Android kernel development even to homeland protection. Essentially I solve hard problems all day 🙂

How did you end up in this field?
I ended up in this field by accident. I remember being in Physics 2 at my community college and looking through the catalogue of degrees that involved math and physics. I chose Computer Engineering because I knew I could make a lot of money with it so that one day I can open a non-profit for abused children (my ultimate goal). I also loved how challenging it sounded, as I had no idea what it was, but always strive for more challenging things. I never knew how much I would come to LOVE this field!

I remember the day I learned about national labs from one of my professors. He described them as this perfect world between academia and industry (this wasn’t until my last year in college). Up until then, I wanted to work at Microsoft. I knew as soon as my interview was over at APL where I would be working until I retire.

What is a typical day like at your job?
Most days I come in and check my email and try to plan out my day. Some days are full of meetings, others are not. Some days are spent working on one project, others are spent juggling between many projects. Some days I make progress, other days I get stuck. Some days are extremely fun, others are extremely frustrating. So a typical day at APL really is more like an a-typical day.

What is the best part of your job?
Getting to solve hard problems, learn new things, and getting encouraged to do so.

What is the most surprising thing that you have discovered about your field?
The lack of women 😦

What did you have to learn in order to do what you do?
The obvious ones are Computer and Electrical Engineering, but I think learning to “think outside the box” and to not be afraid to fail (or stay up all night trying) were essential as well.

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls about careers in STEM?
“Think outside the box” 🙂

What is something girls should know about STEM?
“They” say STEM is for boys, but girls can do STEM too and MANY do and EXCEL at it. Don’t be discouraged by anything, keep pushing forward, don’t be afraid to fail. Part of science is to exhaust all possibilities, this means failing over and over again, until you find a solution. STEM is discovery, so be creative, take risks, and learn from your mistakes.

Were you a Girl Scout?
Nope (no time growing up due to rough childhood)

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