Amanda Baran ’21: ‘I grew up not knowing any women in tech’

Amanda Baran ’21, graduate student, Computer Science and Engineering

She loved all things tech, and when gadgets around the house didn’t work, she was her family’s go-to problem solver. So why not dive into computer science in high school? “It would have been a social death sentence,” says Amanda Baran. “I came from a very traditional, small-town school where a girl doing computer science is not okay. We still had cooking classes that were all women.”

So Baran started at Lehigh as a finance and accounting major. But during an internship in Prague, she realized that she really didn’t care about the data she was seeing on her dashboard—she wanted to know what was going on inside her dashboard. So she switched to Computer Science and Business and started her master’s research during her senior year.

She’s now leading research in next-generation distributed synchronization protocols within Lehigh’s Scalable Systems and Software Research Group. Together, the team is designing and building faster, more reliable ways to process data so consumers can get what they want, when they want it.

Baran loves the challenge of improving existing systems. And it’s that determination and drive that carries her through the moments of doubt and imposter syndrome brought on by being in a male-dominated field. She came late to a discipline she loves, and sometimes, she says, her peers won’t let her forget it. But she has professors who remind her that she is heard, she is seen, and she belongs.

Baran is also determined to be the role model she never had. She’s co-president of Lehigh’s Women in Computer Science, and until COVID-19 hit, she volunteered with TechGYRLS, a community program that engages 8-to-11-year-old girls in STEM activities.

“I grew up not knowing any women in tech, and now as a student, having a lack of women to look up to is intimidating,” she says. “If you think of the big people in tech right now, it’s Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk. It’s like, where’s my technical role model? I’m trying to change that for future generations.”

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This profile is part of Resolve Magazine's Soaring Together series.

Photography by Douglas Benedict/Academic Image