When it comes to computers, Natacha Ngea loves everything about them, from software to hardware. She even keeps a collection of circuit boards, which often look like small green cards etched with lines and nodes.
“I love computers because they represent what is best about human beings,” she says. “You can find anything in there—chemistry, physics, mathematics, whatever you can think of that comes from the human brain.”
During her time as student at Howard Community College (HCC), Ngea channeled her interest in computers into a full and rewarding education and career path.
Ngea started out in an HCC program to earn certification in Cisco Networking, a marketable skill in knowing how to install, configure, and operate computer networks. “I realized I was actually pretty good at it,” she says. “And it was a good option to get better-paying jobs and pay for school at the same time.”
To advance her goals further at HCC, Ngea participated in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics honors program and gained direct experience in computer networking support through a work-study job with the Office of Information Technology. She earned her associate degree from HCC in 2014 in computer support technology and computer science.
“Most people don’t have as much hands-on experience,” she says. “I learned a lot because of the work I did with the IT department, like installing computers, routers, switches, and emergency phone lines in HCC’s health and sciences building when it was newly built and by assisting when the campus upgraded its computers.”
Ngea also credits the quality of her professors at HCC and having access to the latest equipment as key factors that contributed to her learning experience. “I’ve seen other schools, and HCC has one of the best-equipped labs out there,” she says.
As a French-speaking native of Cameroon, Ngea worked through her courses at HCC to gain computer skills and knowledge, and also get acclimated to life in the United States and learning technical English words and American English colloquialisms.
“I had learned English since middle school, but it was British English, which is very different from American English,” she says. “I also had to learn computer-related vocabulary. I would go to class with the dictionary so I could look up what things meant and had to do extra work to understand what’s going on.”
After her time at HCC, Ngea transitioned to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where she earned her bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 2017. Today, Ngea is based in Florida and works as an embedded software engineer for L3Harris Technologies, the nation’s sixth-largest defense contractor—a company that recruited her as an undergraduate at a conference for women in computing. She also received national recognition as a 2021 Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) Modern-Day Technology Leader.
“HCC is where I gained the confidence, the knowledge, and drive to pursue and live my dream,” Ngea says. “I am very grateful for that. As HCC likes to say, ‘You can get there from here’ – and it has worked out for me.”
Wherever you want to go, you can get there from here.