Maria: A Resilient Tech Talent from Eastern Indonesia

A Story of Maria Misela Adelheid Wona, Bangkit 2022 Graduate from Informatics Engineering, Universitas Indraprasta PGRI

They say limitations can be walls, confining us within our circumstances. However, some, like Maria Misela Adelheid Wona (23), perceived them as stepping stones, propelling them toward a brighter future. Maria, hailing from a remote village in East Indonesia, a region where access to higher education is often a struggle, defied the odds.

Growing up amid limitations imposed by geography and economic realities, Maria refused to be defined by her background. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity and a deep belief in the power of knowledge, she embarked on an extraordinary journey to get a higher education in Jakarta. There, Maria joined Bangkit and honed her passion for tech.

Now, she has become part of her university, not just as a student but a valued faculty member. Let’s explore her remarkable story of resilience and the unexpected opportunities of embracing challenges!

Being Used to Walk 10 Km and Cross Mountains to Go to School

Born and raised in Kefamenanu, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia, Maria is the eldest of four. Her father is a farmer, and her mother is a high school teacher. Despite the limitations of her rural upbringing, Maria’s academic brilliance was undeniable. She consistently excelled in her studies; her name often graced the top of the class roster.
“Due to the distance of my home from school, I used to walk 10 km and cross mountains to attend classes. However, that didn’t mean I should slack off in my studies.”
As Maria neared the culmination of her high school years, the dreams of pursuing higher education collided with the harsh reality. She set her sights on the national selection for public university admission (SNMPTN) as her golden ticket, but sadly, she did not qualify. Moreover, she applied to many campuses around Nusa Tenggara Timur but was rejected.
“Facing rejection was never easy. However, my parents encouraged me to keep trying and seek alternative paths to achieve my goals.”
Recognizing their daughter’s unwavering spirit and academic prowess, Maria’s parents suggested that she attend Universitas Timor. While the prospect of staying close to home was comfortable, Maria craved a broader horizon—an opportunity to challenge and immerse herself in a diverse academic environment.

With a heart brimming with a potent mix of excitement and apprehension, Maria embarked on a two-week odyssey from Kefamenanu to the bustling metropolis of Jakarta. The transition from the serene countryside to the vibrant cityscape was jarring. Cultural differences, unfamiliar languages, and the frenetic pace of life—everything felt alien to Maria.
“Jakarta was a whole new world,” Maria admitted with a hint of amusement in her voice, “but I was determined to adapt.”

Maria’s Experience in Bangkit: From Having No Personal Laptop to Challenging Learning Process

Despite the initial culture shock, Maria’s determination remained resolute. Enrolling at Universitas Indraprasta PGRI (Unindra), she eagerly embraced the challenges of her new environment. Initially, feelings of inadequacy crept in as she surrounded herself with students from diverse backgrounds and educational experiences.

However, through years of dedication, Maria’s exceptional skills soon began to shine through. In her calculus and mathematics classes, her prowess caught the attention of both her peers and lecturers. Gradually, her confidence blossomed, and she actively participated in class discussions, even offering assistance to her classmates.
“There I was, this girl from a small village, helping others with their math problems,” Maria chuckled.
However, not long after, COVID-19 started to outbreak. During the pandemic, around the end of 2021, the head of her department informed Maria about a program called Bangkit. Despite her limited background in tech, Maria was determined to overcome the challenges and embrace the opportunity to learn new skills in Bangkit. Without thinking twice, she signed up.
“I only had tech experience during the national exam at high school. This meant I was stepping into the tech world for the first time.”
Significant challenges marked Maria’s initial foray into the tech world. With no personal laptop, she relied on borrowing one from her cousin. However, this arrangement became unsustainable when her cousin’s work commitments increased. Unable to access a computer for three days, Maria was overwhelmed and resorted to pleading with her mother for help.
“I cried and begged my mother to buy me a laptop. I couldn’t risk not completing Bangkit and losing out on valuable SKS.”
With her mother’s support, Maria purchased a laptop to continue her studies uninterrupted. However, the challenges extended beyond hardware limitations. The demanding workload and strict deadlines required Maria to dedicate an extraordinary amount of time to her studies.
“I was practically glued to my laptop. I even used it in bed and spent an average of 17 hours a day studying, sacrificing sleep and leisure activities,” Maria confessed.
Despite the sacrifices, Maria’s dedication paid off. She completed Bangkit, earning valuable credits that reduced her university coursework to just two additional courses. Her journey into the world of IT, though arduous, opened doors to new opportunities and fueled her passion for technology.

Enjoying Bangkit’s Sense of Community

Maria's experience in Bangkit was filled with both challenges and rewarding moments. Among the many aspects she enjoyed, the sense of community and the opportunity to apply her knowledge in the Capstone project stood out.
“I truly appreciated the class structure and the mentorship provided in Bangkit. Unlike many independent study programs, Bangkit offered a supportive environment with group discussions.”
The weekly consultations with the mentor allowed Maria to express her ideas and collaborate with her peers. These sessions encouraged her to actively engage with the material and learn from her classmates’ perspectives. Forming a Capstone group was quite a roller coaster experience itself.

Despite the initial hurdles, Maria and her team completed their Capstone project, gaining valuable insights into the practical applications of Machine Learning.
“The Capstone project was an eye-opening experience; It allowed me to connect the dots between Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, and Mobile Development concepts.”
Maria’s journey into the world of technology extended beyond Bangkit to Dicoding, an online learning platform. Her initial encounter with Dicoding was through its Python programming course, which laid the foundation for her subsequent learning in Machine Learning.
“I found Dicoding’s approach to learning very effective. The combination of text, videos, and quizzes provided a comprehensive and engaging learning experience.”

“If You Want It, You Will Surely Find a Way”

The seeds of Maria’s opportunity in tech were sown during her undergraduate studies when the head of her school’s department recognized her potential and skills. As Maria progressed through her senior year, her lecture gave her an exciting opportunity to apply her knowledge to her final project.
“My final project focused on Machine Learning, utilizing Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) to classify skin diseases. When I submitted my proposal, my lecturer was thrilled to discover my proficiency in Python.”
Maria’s exceptional work and connection to Bangkit opened doors to a new chapter in her career. As she approached graduation, her department head informed her about establishing two new labs at the university, designed explicitly for undergraduate final projects in Informatics. He offered her a position as a lab staff member, an opportunity that Maria eagerly accepted.

As a lab staff member, Maria’s responsibilities encompass various tasks, from setting up essential software programs for students to managing attendance and scheduling lab sessions with lecturers. She also provides technical support to students, assisting them with troubleshooting issues and ensuring a smooth learning experience.

Maria’s journey into tech has not been without its challenges. As a woman in a male-dominated field, she has faced stereotypes and preconceived notions about her capabilities. However, she remains undeterred, using her experiences to empower other women to pursue their passions in technology.
“My message to my fellow women is to embrace technology and not be afraid to challenge the status quo. Utilize the resources available to you, such as online courses and educational platforms, to expand your knowledge and skills.”
As a closing statement, she said don’t be afraid because if you’re worried from the start, you’ll only encounter more obstacles; it becomes a mental block. “The key is to believe. If you want it, you will surely find a way, and I’m sure God will guide you until the end.”


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