Education Technology

A Teacher’s 5 Words That Changed My Life

Posted 03/01/2021 by Tracy Hamilton, Electrical and Computer Engineer

When I was asked to share my story for International Women’s Day, I immediately said “yes.” I didn’t know what I would share, just that I had to say “yes!” This year’s theme — Choose to Challenge — had a simultaneous effect. It touched my soul because we have the freedom to make choices. It sank my spirit because the challenge exists: Choose to Challenge.

Tracy Hamilton
This International Women’s Day, Texas Instruments (TI) engineer, Tracy Hamilton, has her hand up high to show she is committed to “choosing to challenge.”

We choose our inner circle. We choose our lifestyle. We choose our beliefs. We choose our careers. I’d like to think I chose engineering, but in reality, engineering chose me. My choice: I was going to be a doctor, a pediatrician to be exact. I researched childhood diseases, maintained notebooks and interviewed my pediatrician. I went to the library regularly to study my chosen medical profession. Then I discovered there were procedures that I wouldn’t be able to stomach, bringing an abrupt end to my medical career. I was in the sixth grade.

I had to choose a new profession. Math and chemistry always excited me. I was the student not allowed in the chemistry lab without oversight, meaning the teachers thought I had to be watched. They were right! In ninth grade, a very special algebra teacher said I should be an engineer. More importantly, he said, “I could be an engineer.” Those words changed my life.

I didn’t really know what an engineer did. I didn’t know any female engineers, and I didn’t know any African American engineers. Yet, it never dawned on me that I couldn’t be an engineer. Computers and internet weren’t as readily available as they are today, so back to the library I went, researching engineering careers. Upon finishing high school, I chose to commit my whole self, my whole spirit, to engineering. I entered Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with my sights set on majoring in engineering, and I later earned my Master of Science in computer engineering from the University of Colorado Denver. I have no regrets. Today, I can proudly say:
  • I have design experience in the automotive industry
  • I have tested heat-seeking prototypes
  • I have developed and tested landline communications systems
  • I have collaborated with national security teams and led projects for national and international mobile phone network providers and carriers
  • I work with a team passionate about education and helping educators and students achieve academic success

My STEM career has been evolving for many years. I’ve often been the only female and, more often, the only African American in the room; still I chose to be heard and actively contribute.

Today, I choose to share the contributions of women engineers, and diversity of thought on what an engineer looks like, and the various career paths an engineering degree can offer.

Today, I am a problem-solver, a thinker, an electrical and computer engineer, a leader and an advocate.

Choose to Challenge? I accept.

About the author: Tracy Hamilton is the Director of Program & Product Management for TI Education Technology. Hamilton holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the historic Southern University, a Master of Science in computer engineering – artificial intelligence from the University of Colorado, and is a certified project management professional. The National Society of Black Engineers has recognized Hamilton with the Outstanding Woman in Technology Golden Torch Award. Hamilton is passionate about coaching and mentoring tomorrow’s leaders through involvement in professional and community endeavors.