We sat down with Temisan Iwere, one of our Full-Stack Engineers at BenchSci and learned about her path into STEM, who inspires her, and how she works to inspire the next generation of STEM students.
Tell us what you do at BenchSci?
I am a Full-Stack Engineer on the Web Applications team. I collaborate with the Product team and work on adding new features to BenchSci's customer-facing applications.
What's your favourite part about working at BenchSci?
I really like the collaboration component of the work. I feel like everyone is open to collaborating and that we’re all working toward the same goal.
What was your path into STEM?
I was always intrigued by technology and machines, and wanted to learn how everything worked behind what we see. I also had an interest in the medical field. So when it came time for university, I applied to a bunch of schools in the U.S. and Canada for computer science and biomedical engineering. I got into the University of Toronto (U of T) for computer science, and I was like, "Okay, great." That’s where I ended up going.
Who is someone that has inspired you?
Beyoncé. She has a crazy work ethic, and she constantly tries to improve, even if she's already great. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people, but she chooses to focus on being the best version of herself. That's the way I aspire to be. I want to make sure I am better than I was yesterday. Plus, I went to her Formation tour, and she's an incredible performer. I still haven't recovered from that.
I would also say the Williams sisters, Issa Rae, Michaela Coel, and Michelle Obama, are people that I look up to and inspire me.
Can you tell us about the work you're doing to inspire future STEM students?
I started my undergrad at U of T in 2013. I was trying to immerse myself further into the tech industry and network with people, so I began to attend hackathons. My friend and I would both attend them together, and noticed that we were the only Black people there, which felt alienating.
There had to be more Black people in STEM. We started to ask ourselves, “Where are they? Why are they not showing up to these events?” The answer was that they were intimidated—they weren't entirely sure what a hackathon was or if they needed a lot of coding skills to participate.
We joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter at U of T and thought about leveraging their organization and community to create a hackathon. That’s how we founded the NSBE Hacks at U of T, the first student-run Black hackathon in Canada.
We wanted to inspire Black people to innovate, network, and give them access to top tech companies while making sure the event was beginner-level and welcoming to all people.
The first hackathon ran in 2019, and with some big-name sponsors such as Google, Shopify, and IBM. There were also over 100 participants, which was a great turnout.
In 2021, we had over 300 participants worldwide with a big list of sponsors, including BenchSci.
I’m excited to see where it goes. Our ultimate goal is to get more diverse people into the tech space and make sure it’s not as intimidating for them.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
When I’m not working, I like to watch TV. Grey’s Anatomy is my favorite.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.