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I didn’t love math

Cristina knew she wanted to do something with a lasting impact, so after studying economics in college, she worked for the government of Mexico tracking poverty and the government’s effectiveness in addressing the problem. Now she works for UNICEF at the UN in New York collecting data and monitoring nutrition programs for children around the world.

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Cristina might tell you she didn’t love math as an elementary school student, but today she works with numbers, statistics, and data every day.

“I didn’t grow up thinking I didn’t like math or it was too difficult. Physics was difficult; math was just a class that was sometimes hard and sometimes not. My sister had a hard time with multiplication, but then she went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in math. I’m not sure your early struggles with math relate to your success in a data career later. How you approach math is a long process.”

In Mexico you have to decide your career when you are very young and it was difficult to know what I wanted to do. I knew economics had a very good component in math, but also politics, so I could work for the government and that’s how I chose to major in economics. I did a social service project with my professor researching poverty and was very engaged in using math to do something that mattered.

My parents told me that I could do whatever I wanted. It’s the conversations you have with your parents or your mentors that really help you shape the decisions that you make. My father encouraged me to challenge myself. That was very helpful. It gave me a lot of confidence.

I learned that it’s good to be challenged. The best reward is knowing that you did it. Try to explore that. Don’t be scared of being uncomfortable and don’t be scared of failing. Everybody makes mistakes. That’s part of growing up.

We’re living in a moment when it is a time to step up, go out, and do whatever you can to make a change. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth it and you can do it.”

– Cristina in New York City