Greetings, Science Cheerleader fans! Please welcome Megan, our newest Washington Redskins SciCheer! Just when I think we’ve found everyone, new ladies appear. Please give Megan your attention as she talks about getting into computers and cheerleading!

What turned you on to engineering and when?
When I was a young elementary school student my favorite class was mathematics. Aside from our daily curriculum, I looked forward to the computer class we had once a week.  My favorite day was when we played Mario Typing, and each time I would try to beat my highest words per minute score.  I don’t think any of my classmates enjoyed this game as much as I did!  It was then that my love of computers started, and as technology progressed I became more intrigued with how computers worked. I was more interested in solving math problems than memorizing history dates or writing papers.  Once I reached high school, I was excited to take my first programming course.  The introductory Java programming courses I took in high school cemented my plans to major in a technology related field.  My teachers in high school encouraged me to enter the field of science, especially since I was female.

You have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from George Washington University. What were some of your favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
My favorite course was the VLSI (very large scale integration) course I took my senior year.  This class was extremely hands on and gave me the opportunity to create complex systems using CAD design and simulation.  I had the opportunity to design a transistor level system virtually and have it made into a chip that I was later able to test.

Tell us about the teams you’ve cheered for, how long you’ve cheered for them, and why you tried out to be a professional cheerleader.
I started dancing at age 3 and cheering shortly after.  I went to a very small grade school which fed into a very small high school, both of which did not have football teams.  I became used to cheering for basketball, and doing a toe touch each time one of our players was at the foul line.  The number of students at my school was small but our spirit was not.  We always had fans to cheer on and shout for our team proudly.  There was no other school I wanted to cheer on, and putting on the uniform for my high school made me proud.   I always looked forward to game day and using my blue and silver sparkly poms.  Our high school squad was dedicated and we focused more on our motions and dancing than our pyramids.  I was captain my last year in grade school and in high school, and I took the roles very seriously.  I believe that my love for cheering helped me be a great leader and role model.
My most memorable experiences before professional cheerleading occurred while in college as part of the GW Spirit Program.  Again I somehow chose to attend another school that did not have a football team!  We cheered on our Colonials in the Smith Center for both men’s and women’s basketball games and sometimes we attended other sporting events around campus.  We hoped to keep up school spirit whether we were winning or losing.  Aside from our school spirit at the games, we also competed at national competitions.  During my four years on the team I attended NDA Nationals once and UDA Nationals three times.
When I performed at my last GW basketball game, I knew that I was not done with dancing.  I had seen videos and photos of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders while I was in the DC area for school and I was intrigued by the thought of cheering for a football team.  I had dreams of continuing my dance career professionally and this seemed like the perfect way to do it.  As the time for tryouts rolled around, I had fulfilled my goal of receiving a college degree and a full-time job, so it was time to take the next step in my passion of dance.  My first year as a Washington Redskins Cheerleader was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of this team.

Which came first? Your interest in engineering or cheerleading?
Cheerleading!  My first performance on the court was at age five and my first dance recital was at age three, both a few years before I discovered my love of computers and science.  I looked up to the older girls at my school and wanted to be great cheerleaders just like they were.  The poms that the older girls had were pretty cool, too, and I wanted to have my own.  My cousin was a cheerleader, and she is part of the reason I started so young.  I wanted to be just like her and make her proud!

What’s a typical day like for you?
My typical day at work is spent at my computer writing code, testing code, or researching how to write code for a new task I’ve been given. When I use the term code, I mean using a computer language to instruct the computer to complete a certain task.  There are many different computer languages, so my daily tasks can vary in the language I use.  Sometimes I will have technical meetings to attend or I will work on documentation efforts.  When five o’clock comes, I am ready for job number two!  I drive straight to Fedex Field for practice!

Best part of your day job or studies?
The best part of my day job is when my code works!  Many times I have to troubleshoot problems in code I have written, and the best feeling is when I can fix the problems and get it working successfully.

Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
There were a few times in college when my academic advisor questioned my membership in the spirit program.  She had told me that I needed to focus 100% on my studies, and recommended that I think about quitting the dance team.  This was not an option for me since dance was my passion, but these conversations with my advisor were very discouraging.  I had to prove to my professors that I could handle the time commitments for both while putting my school work first.  The same goes for my life in the professional world, as I always try to keep my job commitments first.  Many people don’t understand the time, dedication, and hard work that makes a cheerleader, so I have learned to not worry about the opinions of others.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
My best advice is to follow your dreams and never have regrets that you didn’t give it your all.  If you really want to be a cheerleader and have a career in science you can do it!  Anything worth having is hard work, so trying to balance both is very important.  You must be willing to make sacrifices and give your all to both science and cheerleading.  Just keep focused and don’t lose sight of your dreams, no matter how hard it gets you will get through it.  The rewards of both make it all worthwhile.  We all have a little geek in us and you might not even know it!

Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell my 12-year-old self to never stop trying and always reach for the stars.  Never forget your love of dance, and use it as an outlet to relieve the stress of your school work. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, prove them wrong.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the near future are to continue cheering and working as a software engineer.  I hope to have the opportunity to work towards a graduate degree once my performing days are over.  I want to spend a few more years in the professional world to help me decide what direction my career will head. I hope to stay involved in cheerleading throughout my life by coaching.  It would be an amazing experience to help young girls reach their dreams and goals, just as my coaches have helped me.

Best cheerleading experience?
My best cheerleading experience was my first Redskins game as a cheerleader.  Stepping onto the field for our pre-game show was such a rush, one that I had never experienced before.  All of the hard work, sweat, and tears that my teammates and I put into the season before that moment had all paid off.  Although each game I have a similar excitement, there is nothing like the very first time and I will never forget that feeling.

Best science/engineering-related experience?
Graduating from The George Washington University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering was one of my most gratifying moments.  My college years were filled with hard work, difficult classes, and very few hours of sleep (or sleep in the engineering building!).  When I received my degree all of my hard work had finally paid off.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Something that people may find especially surprising about me is that I once dreamed of being a comedian, an unbelievable thing since I’m really not funny!  When the movie “The Mask” came out, I had decided that Jim Carrey was my idol.  This dream to be a comedian died fast to my dancing dreams, but there is still a little part of me that secretly wants to be a comedian!

If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why?  If not, why not?
I would not change my degree at all.  Although the curriculum was very challenging there is nothing else I could see myself doing.

Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Science and cheerleading are two of my favorite things, and both are extremely important in my everyday life.  My career in the science field keeps me learning every day and progressing in my field of engineering.  Cheerleading is my passion and performing allows me to feel free from the stress of everyday life and work.  Science Cheerleader exemplifies everything I have worked so hard for all my life and still do today.  Its members balance careers, schooling, and cheerleading while giving 110% to all of it.  Having achieved both of these dreams in my life I would like to help others to show them hard work and dedication can make your dreams come true.  I feel that being a Science Cheerleader would give me the opportunity to share my love of science and cheerleading with others, and I would feel honored to be a part of this elite group of cheerleaders.

Update, December 2012:
I recently started working as a computer engineer for a Testing and Certification department.  I work with other engineers and project managers to review test plans and test reports that lead to system certification.  I also act as a system administrator for our internal server.

I like what I do because I love working with computers and new technologies.  My job allows me to test and work with computer systems, as well as collaborate with other engineers to learn more about the field.  Of course, my day wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t end it cheering on the Redskins!

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