Sophia Goreczky, Senior User Interface Design Engineer at Synopsys Software Integrity Group, is the recipient of 2017 YWCA Emerging Leader Award. She will be honored, along with four other award honorees, at an awards dinner on May 11, 2017 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose.
Since 1984, the YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Awards have honored Silicon Valley’s Executive Women and the companies who employ them. According to the nomination website, the annual event showcases up to 50 women in Silicon Valley “who exemplify and reflect the innovation, creativity, and excellence that the Silicon Valley is known for.”
In the beginning, Goreczky wanted to be a biological engineer. She said she changed her mind because she couldn’t build prosthetics without also studying mechanical engineering. Upon that realization, she switched back to computer science, something she started learning in middle school.
“[Programming] started off as a school-based project because I had to do a science fair,” she said. “I had to do the science fair from first grade through when it became optional—I didn’t even see it as optional. I was just going to keep on going.”
“Programming started as just an idea,” Goreczky said. “My dad wanted to see if I would be interested in that. And I was in fact very interested in that.”
As a result, her seventh-grade science project was about re-creating crop circles. “So, looking at pictures of crop circles, which for a seventh grader is like, wow, that’s interesting. I don’t know if an alien did that. It didn’t matter. The point was it was something cool, something geometric, and I always liked patterns. So, I learned a way that I could re-create patterns easily without having to do it manually, that’s how I learned about For Loops.”
Goreczky said her dad was subtle about computer science. “He tried to get me interested in programming by saying ‘Hey, there’s this program where you can make these turtles draw—does that sound interesting to you?’ And I said ‘Yes. That sounds awesome, what can we do with that?'”
Logo is a programming language created in the late 1960s by Daniel G. Bobrow, Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert, and Cynthia Solomon. The onscreen cursor is literally a turtle which contains a set of drawing tools.
Later, when Goreczky was a teaching assistant at Cornell, she used a similar method. “It was a class where the students didn’t necessarily have a technical background, they certainly didn’t know about objective programming. And we were working in a programming language known as Processing, and processing is a very visual language. It analogous to the Arduino interface, oddly enough, in that you set up your variables and then in the script just runs it continuously. It helped get my students to understand the value of loops.”
As an assignment, Goreczky got them to draw stars. “Sure, drawing one star, drawing two stars, no big deal. So, I said to them, ‘now we’re going to do a thousand.’ They really didn’t want to do that by hand. It was a fun class. And it was very rewarding because I like empowering people and helping them understand something that they might have thought was very complex for them. ”
From her work with Logo and Processing, Goreczky said “I went through this formal scientific progress. I worked in clean rooms, I worked in labs, I wrote scientific research papers. It was in college I that I realized there’s this other facet of computer science called Human Computer Interaction (HCI). That sounds very interesting to me because I find people very interesting.”
HCI focuses on the interfaces between users and computers.
“I usually have to balance how can I meet our technical needs and our user needs with a priority on the user needs.”
At Synopsys, Goreczky started work with the Coverity Integrity Manager or CIM. She is currently working on creating the user interface for SIG’s Next Generation Product (NGP). She says her work is hard, but rewarding.
“My purpose right now is to build the ecosystem where all of our tools can live in the cloud to help our customers mitigate risk in their codebases and products,” Goreczky said. “That means building out what the templates look like so that we can start working with all the different teams that are now around the globe. Everyone comes from a different background with all the different acquisitions. What I want to do is build a global enough template that all these tools can put all their information into and still have it be very useful for our customers and our users which is the point of it all.”