Author, Software Engineer, Advocate: How Terysa Ridgeway Continuously Strives to Inspire
Terysa Ridgeway is both an all-star software engineer and a book character- one that she wrote herself to help encourage young girls to explore their curiosities. Ridgeway has worked hard to follow her passions and to ensure that others can do the same, no matter their age, gender, race, or even where they live. Her advocacy has earned her well-deserved international recognition- let’s dive into all the work she’s done!
Photo courtesy of LinkedIn.
Growing Up Curious
Ridgeway was born in a small Louisiana town to two teachers. Growing up, she was always encouraged to explore her curiosities- and this was only elevated when her mother would bring home a computer over the summer. Ridgeway was fascinated by how it worked and was determined to learn the ins and outs of the machine, eventually learning to code when she was customizing her MySpace profile as she got older.
Working in STEM
She went to Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College at Baton Rouge
to become a math teacher. But once she took a required computer science course that connected the knowledge she already had about HTML, her plans changed and she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science in 2006.
While in college, she completed an internship with Raytheon Missile Systems and was hired full-time as a Software Engineer. She went on to work for a hospital in their IT department and worked as a Program manager for a consulting company, currently working for Google as a Technical Program Manager. Here, she leads large projects and supervises long-term strategies.
Ridgeway has been very open about her experience being a Black woman in STEM.
“I knew I was different,” she said in an interview with Forbes, “I was fresh out of college, I’m 19 years old [and I’m wondering] are they treating me differently because I’m young, is it because I’m Black, is it because I’m a woman. But it was at some point where it’s like, I could spin my wheels and figure out why I am being treated differently, or I could show them how great I am, and I preferred to take that road. But I know that’s not the common path for everyone, and that’s why now I’m trying to be more thoughtful about things I do and how I present myself.”
This experience is what led her to mentor younger girls and to write her book series.
What started as Ridgeway just mentoring a friend’s daughter who had an interest in computers blossomed into her working with educational programs that empower younger students with an interest in STEM from her hometown. She works to ensure that students in this rural community have the same educational opportunities that would normally only be available to students in larger cities.
Think Like a Computer
In late 2021, Ridgeway self-published her first book, Think Like a Computer. Inspired by the same curiosity she felt when her mother brought home the computer as a child, Ridgeway wanted to encourage young children’s inquisitiveness and introduce them to STEM.
The book is the first in the series called Terysa Solves It and revolves around 8-year-old Terysa who loves to solve problems. By the end of the book, Ridgeway hopes to empower young girls to think like a computer.
She recently created a toy robot named Alio the Explorer to further spark the curiosity from her books. Alio the Explorer utilizes puzzle-based coding to help children ages 3-9 learn problem-solving and critical thinking skills, gain confidence, and learn about logical reasoning.
Ridgeway frequently hosts storytimes around the country where she’s able to read Think Like a Computer to children and interact with them.
Through her immense work to bring STEM to children, Ridgeway has received many awards and recognitions. From receiving keys to three different Louisiana cities to the professional recognition that she’s received from Louisiana lawmakers to her hometown even issuing a proclamation to celebrate her work every year on March 24th, it’s safe to say that her accomplishments have made a large impact on her entire community.
Additionally, she was recently featured in an Afrotech article, was celebrated by the BeyGood foundation by Beyoncé, and was a featured author on the Delta Author Tour in Dallas, TX by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
On top of her career at Google, her educational programs, and her book series, Ridgeway is a United States Goodwill Ambassador, appointed by the Republic of The Gambia’s president, President Yahya Jammeh. Her books are already in their libraries and she hopes to bring her STEM programs to their country. On top of everything else, she’s planning to write more Terysa Solves It books.
Keep up with Ridgeway’s blog here!