Ifeanyichukwu Onyeanakwe, is a rising senior and computer science major at Calvin University, a software engineering intern at Oracle, the winner of an InternHacks award, and someone who immediately strikes me with his sharp sense of humor. “I tell people to call me Ifeanyi for short. Only my dad calls me Ifeanyichukwu when he’s yelling,” he deadpans before breaking into a laugh.
ColorStack last spoke with Ifeanyi in early 2021. At the time, he described the challenges he faced as a computer science major and his aspirations to land a summer internship. Nearly a year and a half and two internships later, we meet over zoom to chat about what has stayed the same and what has changed during his time as a ColorStack member.
In spite of his impressive credentials, Ifeanyi still emphasizes that the path hasn’t always been easy. At his high school in Nigeria, he found STEM classes challenging and had to work hard at them. “That affected my confidence going into Computer Science in college,” he says. Ifeanyi recounts that there were times when he felt like he shouldn’t be passing––when he felt like he was just getting by.
Though imposter syndrome marked much of Ifeanyi’s early college career, his story is one of confidence and tenacity. “I got into CS because I didn’t want to be boxed in post graduation from college. I wanted as many doors as I wanted opened… it wouldn’t be a necessarily easy path but it would make things more accessible to me later on,” he says. “This is something that I wanted to do, something that I can do.” There were bumps in the road, but he remained firm in his decision to pursue computer science and began recruiting for tech internships the summer after his first year in college.
He quickly learned that the recruiting cycle posed its own set of challenges. “I was still applying to a few random jobs but I wasn’t getting anything,” he says. That was when he found ColorStack. With the help of founder and CEO Jehron Petty, Ifeanyi came across InternHacks the summer after sophomore year. He participated in the program and served as the Product Manager for his team. The project won InterHacks’s Best Technical Problem Award. This was in large part because of the project’s solid concept and Ifeanyi’s ability to convey its value as the team’s PM.
Ifeanyi’s journey in tech gained still more momentum the following summer when he attended ColorStack’s Stacked Up summit, a three day event with panels, workshops, speakers, and recruiting events that connect Black and Latinx students with industry professionals from some of the world’s most successful companies.
Soon after he attended the Stacked Up summit, Ifeanyi landed an internship at Oracle. When I ask him about his experience at the event, he says, “I was able to talk to the people at the company through the Stacked Up summit, which is one of the reasons that I swear by it. It was really helpful.” He’ll be attending the summit again this year and has encouraged his roommates to attend too.
Ifeanyi also emphasizes that the larger ColorStack community has been a continual source of hope. He says that through all of the hardship, “ColorStack members have been encouraging. They say you can still do it. They remind you to stay in the field. They ask what you need. They do their best to be there as a service to help out other students who are struggling.” It is striking that in saying these words he is also describing the person he has become.
Ifeanyi Onyeanakwe above all else, is a person with a rare and persistent belief in himself and his dreams.