Rachel Harsley is a dreamer, an innovator, and a problem solver. Her father purchased the family’s first computer when she was six years old and her love of technology has grown ever since. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). At 26 years old, Ms. Harsley will be the first African American female to receive a PhD in Computer Science from UIC. Rachel received her B.S. in Computer Science from Vanderbilt University School of Engineering in 2011.
Since her introductory programming class during her junior year of high school up until present day, Rachel has been the only African-‐American female in each of her computer science classes. She is determined to help end this disparity in academia and in the tech industry at large. One way she seeks to do this is with her research and development of ChiQat Tutor, a computer based tutoring system that allows students to collaborate as they learn. Students worldwide at universities and high schools use ChiQat Tutor as they learn foundational computer science topics.
Rachel is passionate about helping others. She founded Maychild Technologies to connect small businesses and non-‐profits to technology solutions, particularly via web design and branding. Additionally, Rachel dedicates time to speak at local Chicago schools and organizations to promote STEM studies and careers. She loves to inspire younger coders and entrepreneurs, especially underrepresented students.
In November of 2015, she launched Maychild Technologies’ entry into the app development industry with the release of Clean Slate Messenger. An Apple computer is typically needed for iOS development. However, as a PhD student strapped for cash, Rachel hacked a method to code the app on a Windows machine. As innovative as her hack, Clean Slate Messenger changes messaging by empowering people to share and delete messages with no message history on either device. In the first two months since release, the user base expanded to ten countries via word of mouth alone.
Rachel is a contributor for several online resources for underrepresented people in technology including, Blacks in Technology and People of Color in Tech. She has been honored with many awards for her academic achievements and community involvement including the Illinois Technology Foundation’s 50 for the Future Award, UIC Abraham Lincoln Fellowship, Microsoft NSBE Scholarship, and the Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Scholar Award.
Rachel enjoys technical challenges and has made her mark through significant contributions in software development internships at several major technology corporations. These include Google, Intel, AT&T, and GE. Rachel’s favorite projects include developing the machine learning technology to predict Google users’ searches and building an iOS application to connect GE field service engineers. With a year left to go in her PhD program, Rachel received employment offers from several tech industry titans and decided to sign the offer to begin a Software Engineering role at Google upon graduation. In her spare time, you will find Rachel on the basketball court competing with her friends in pickup games.