Graciela Perera interview: Selected quotes

Graciela Perera

On a separate page: Overview page for this interview

“Latisma” and the role of a woman

[The priest, my spiritual advisor,] later influenced me because when I had my boyfriend, which I was engaged to, the first thing I felt was bringing it to him just to make sure I was on the right track. And he helped me sort out in that moment in time what I really wanted. I was engaged, but I think I was pressured to be engaged by society because that’s what everybody expected. I was in high school, I went through college, got my bachelor’s, went on to get my master’s. I got a boyfriend, he was working, everybody thought he loved me. And you have a 4-year relationship, you’re expected to get married, and that’s not what I really wanted. And [my priest] guided me, explaining to me what the role of a woman was, what the man expected. I come from a Latin culture, so what we call “Latisma” is that the woman stays home, the man should always be professionally and intellectually better than the woman. You should have children, dedicate your life to cooking. Your priority is always first your house, your children, and then if you have time, your work. But work was never … I love my work, I feel passion about my work. It’s part of me, it just drives me. It’s something that I have to have. Even if it’s little, I have to have that. He wanted to take that away from me, and that made me very unhappy.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 96-109
  • Audio clip [about 90 seconds] located at about 05:17 in full audio of interview

Sense of safety and its effect on science

Venezuela is a very dangerous country, there is a lot of delinquency. You can get robbed, you can get kidnapped. So you have to watch out where you’re going, when you return home, you have to look behind a mirror just to see if somebody’s not following you, to take your car away, things like that. … I don’t think that influences me in sciences. Although it makes me more aware, be more analytical. Like if you are feeling safe, you don’t look around. I always look around to see who’s behind my back. So when I do analysis, I try to do a more complete analysis of what’s going on, what’s around. It makes me be more analytical than usual. But from my job, I don’t think it … it helped me because it made me be more analytical but from the safeness point, I know here I’m safe, there’s no problem.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 330-343
  • Audio clip [about 56 seconds] located at about 20:32 in full audio of interview

The value of MentorNet

I got into MentorNet. So I registered and got in contact with an e-mail mentor, so he e-mailed a lot. He was a physics professor at Duke University during that time, and he helped me out. He was very reasonable, scientific. “Do this because of this. Do this under these assumptions, do this …” He was very logical. Although physics has nothing to do with computer science, he told me things that were common sense. He had very spectacular writing. He knew how to write very well, very clear. So I learned also how to write clearly because of the e-mails we exchanged together.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 526-546
  • Audio clip [about 44 seconds] located at about 37:04 in full audio of interview

Getting started with independent research

I went to my advisor, said, “Look, I got a job, we have to finish up.” And he said, “Well, let’s go for it.” I went for it. Didn’t sleep, didn’t eat. Saturdays, Sundays, all days were just continuous. I was just reading and working and working. I defended the 21st of May, and it got signed off. Get ready. And I was doing my Grace Hopper poster against my advisor’s … because I needed to do something on my own. I said my goal was to graduate with some independent work, even if it was very little. So I said this poster seems to be … I know this is a good idea, I can put it down. It had to be some kind of research. But I have to tell myself that I can do some independent work. So I sat down, didn’t sleep for two days. I sent it off to Grace Hopper, it got accepted. I applied for a scholarship, I got a scholarship. So before I started my job, which was actually in computer network security, I already had something that I could start my research agenda with. So I was very happy to … I finished the Ph.D., I got my research in what I wanted to do, my independent work, going. I got my work going.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 655-668
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 18 seconds] located at about 53:23 in full audio of interview

Asking for what you want during interviews

My chair, we talked in the interview. I told him what I wanted to do, and that’s what I wanted to do, and he has set me up exactly where I told him to set me up to do. So people say, “Well, you’re lucky.” No, I told him that I wanted A, B, C, and D, and I really did want A, B, C, and D. It wasn’t because it was the interview, it’s because those were my goals. He set me up with A, B, and C, and D. Well that’s what I’m doing. There’s no magic to that. So he’s been very supportive, and here I am, and hopefully everything will go well, but I know I have to work a ton, maybe 10 tons. But I’m definitely looking forward to that.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 756-762
  • Audio clip [about 44 seconds] located at about 54:42 in full audio of interview

Why teach?

I love teaching because I can help people and also getting money out of it, maintain myself. It’s a work that you can do, that you get benefits, economic benefits, like money, so you can sustain yourself, you don’t have to depend on others economically. But also you get another kind of reward, which … seeing a laugh, a face, working, helping somebody be something, and that really, really, really helps. Maybe somebody may come in a class, and they don’t think of themselves very high, they don’t think they can do it, and then helping them, discovering, being a part of their discovery process of the world of knowledge of something else, because I always view education as a discovery process.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 773-780
  • Audio clip [about 47 seconds] located at about 55:55 in full audio of interview

Using practical, familiar examples

[M]y university is an open-access university, so there’s very good students, very good students who will always be very good students. But I need to take care of the other half of the class. So what can I do, how can I make a class in such a way that the good students will not be bored? I can give them projects, I can get in touch with them, telling them … try to make them do more. But then teach to those who are not as bright as they are. And I think, my university … I’m switching more from concepts to hands-on experience. And not hands-on experience with computers, hands-on experience with toys. So what I try to do is go to toy stores, because we all have the children inside of us, and try to bring toys that they have previously handled, so they have that previous experience, and thinking of how those toys, you think about them, and tying — because they were small, they were children when they played with those toys, or even a teenager — and putting that so I can teach them the concepts and then use that to bring them up a level, to try to bring them up to expertise. I haven’t yet evaluated if that’s possible, but that’s what I’m right now doing. I bring cards to class. I bring toddler toys to class. They are very colorful. I can throw them in class, and they’ll follow the toy. And I try to bring as much as possible … My examples are always about them. You get up in class, you go to class, what do you do? I try for them to tell me what they do. I have students who work, so all my projects are basically, “What do you think this project can bring to your work, to your boss? How can you not only impress your boss, but how can you use this in your work?” I think that’s where I’m trying to lead.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 841-859
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 57 seconds] located at about 61:12 in full audio of interview


I have one very big strong outside interest. I like running. I like speed. I started walking first, when I was doing my dissertation, for the stress. And I started literally walking. And I walked faster. Then I walked faster. And I started walking faster. Then I started running. Then I ran one mile. Then I ran three miles. Then I ran six miles. Now I’m up to nine miles. So that’s the way I am. I’m there, I’m constant, and I always want more. And I’m planning to run the Cleveland half-marathon, not the complete marathon, this coming March. And that’s something I do. Nobody else has to know about it, nobody is controlling how much I run, nobody else is seeing, taking the time, or anything, but I’m there, it’s constant, and I see the evolution of it. Each time I go running, it’s a challenge. I never know if I’m gonna make, I’m gonna do the six miles I intend to do. And on the way, I was like, “I wanna quit.” And I’m like, “Nope, you’re not gonna quit, you’re gonna go ahead and do it.” So running to me is a parallel of how you should lead your life. You don’t need to go all the way the first time. You go baby steps. One step at a time. And life, those baby steps, will lead you to where you need to go. You need to take more baby steps, eventually you will evolve.

Quote from interview with Graciela Perera
  • Transcript lines: 1105-1115
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 31 seconds] located at about 82:31 in full audio of interview