Getting to Know Alumna Lauren Merka ‘05 | Trinity University
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Getting to Know Alumna Lauren Merka ‘05

Friday, September 1, 2017
Trinity alumna Lauren Merka

We asked alumna Lauren Merka ’05 a few questions to get to know her better.

by Susie P. Gonzalez

Lauren Merka ’05 is no longer a “baby programmer,” but says she still uses computer science principles she learned at Trinity in her job at a digital media company in Seattle. She thinks it would be lovely to be a turtle on a beach in Mexico as long as no other turtles turn up the music volume in their headphones. To learn more about this alumna who joined a sorority and studied abroad in Ireland, keep reading.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Trinity?

That's a difficult one, as my time at Trinity was pretty fantastic. I'm going to have to go with two experiences. I absolutely adored my time with my sorority, ZX. It provided me with wonderful friendships that I still have today. One of the things that I saw as a huge perk to attending Trinity was how supportive it is of students doing a semester abroad. I spent my semester abroad in Ireland, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn't trade for the world.

What was your favorite professor or class at Trinity?

My favorite professor would have to be Mark Lewis ’96. I met him my first day on campus, and he was a brand new teacher. He taught my very first class at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, “Principles of Algorithm Design I.” Throughout my entire time at Trinity, his classes kicked my butt, but I always learned so much in them. The principles I learned in his classes are some that I still use daily in my job.

Is there something you regret not pursuing while at Trinity?

After majoring in computer science, minoring in art and business, joining a sorority, studying abroad, and being active in campus life, I can honestly say I feel I got the most out of the Trinity experience. I always wished I had time for more minors. I was drawn to the fields of geosciences and psychology. Four years just wasn't enough time!

Describe Trinity in 3-5 words.

Endless possibilities. Grab them.

How did you get involved in your career area?

This is a complicated one. After I graduated, I decided I wanted to pursue something outside of computer science. I'd always been more attracted to the more visually creative elements that programming can accomplish, and I ended up going to art school to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in interactive media and web design. I thought I would focus just on design, but throughout the program I found myself spending all of my time building these really complicated, interactive interfaces in ActionScript, JavaScript, and PHP. All the languages were new to me, but I instantly picked them up thanks to my computer science background. I quickly realized that it wasn't that I didn't want to be a programmer, I just hadn't found my area yet. Best of all, I've had my job since before I graduated from art school. They found me at a portfolio show when someone asked the academic director if they had a web design student with a strong background in programming theory. The academic director immediately sent people looking for me, and I had my first interview right then and there. Seven-and-a-half years later, I'm still working for the same company! I started as a “baby programmer” and worked my way up to being head of development. I've even been sent to Israel four times on business!

Do you have any advice for women interested in pursuing a computer science career?

Don't give up. Don't get discouraged. There were definitely times where I felt too overwhelmed, and switching majors seemed like the easy solution. But I didn't want to become another statistic; I wasn't going to let it beat me. I was determined to finish. The world of what you can do with your computer science degree is so much bigger than the sliver you're taught in school.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

I would want to animate movies for Disney Pixar!

What sound do you love? The sound you hate?

I love the sound of airplanes because it reminds me of getting to travel. I hate the sound of music coming out of other people's headphones—it's the worst.

What is your favorite color and why?

Blue. It's such a versatile, pleasing color. It comes in so many fantastic shades and conveys a full spectrum of emotion. It's by far one of my most favorite colors to oil paint with.

If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be and why?

A turtle! I've just always loved turtles. They're so cute, and getting to spend a lot of time sunning yourself doesn't sound that bad.

Where would you like to retire?

Sayulita, Mexico. It's one of my favorite vacation spots. It's just so quiet and laid back. I once was reading in a swimming pool and looked up and saw whales migrating in the ocean. It was pretty fantastic!