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As the deadline approached for grad school applications, Holliday Sims often found herself staring at a blank page on her computer screen asking herself: “What is my why?” 

The answer was likely more obvious to everyone around her, but it took some serious soul searching for the senior computer science student at the University at Buffalo. 

Holliday Sims, Women in Tech 2024 Fireside Chat

“I needed to figure out a personal narrative to weave all my experiences together, but I just didn’t really see the connection in it,” Holliday says. “But the theme of helping people and using computer science in a way that you can see the positive effects, I think that’s what’s always been there for me.” 

And it will continue to be, as Holliday will next pursue her doctorate in UB’s engineering education program. The decision to further her studies will allow Holliday to advance her impactful research, which has included a project on analyzing academic support services for African American youth aging out of the foster system and identifying the disparities in educational success across different demographics. 

“I know that that experience helped me to see the why behind my classes earlier than my peers,” she says, adding that two movies – “Hidden Figures” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” – also cemented for her that coding and real-life problem-solving can coexist. 

Next year, Holliday will be working on making computer science education more accessible and equitable. Her passion for increasing the equity and inclusion of underrepresented communities in computer science has caught the attention of peers near and far. 

In addition to being recognized by Gov. Kathy Hochul during the State of the State address in January, Holliday is involved in various national organizations, such as NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program) and WiSE (Women in Science & Engineering). 

She also provided inspiring insights on the future of tech during the Fireside Chat that concluded the third annual Women in Tech WNY event on April 11, sharing the stage with fellow industry leaders such as Women Who Code CEO Julie Elberfeld, Tech:NYC Vice President of Policy Marjorie Velazquez and TechBuffalo President & CEO Sarah Tanbakuchi-Ripa. 

The responsibility of being a trailblazer in tech comes easier to Holliday than the grad school applications did. She embraces making a difference in the world now while also lifting her peers and serving as an example for those who will follow her path in the future. 

“For me, it’s really important that computer science and helping people intertwine,” Holliday says. “That’s why I always just want to make sure that everyone knows that we need diversity of thought in order to build actual products and systems that we can all benefit from.” 

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