Donna Auguste is an unusual leader in new technology. Although computer science is a field dominated by white men, she was the first African-American woman to enter the Ph.D. program in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Although project-development teams are often made up of people who share similar backgrounds, Donna has always sought to create diverse teams for her projects. She says that her style comes from growing up in a Creole family in Louisiana and Berkeley, California, where diversity was an important part of her culture. Her own ethnic background includes ties to the Choctaw and Blackfoot nations as well as the African-American community.
Donna grew up with a strong interest in technology. From the time she was seven years old, she would take apart appliances in her house to see how they worked. She received encouragement from her family to pursue her interests, and enrolled in the electrical engineering and computer science program at the University of California at Berkeley, where she overcame many obstacles. Male students refused to work with her on project teams; one professor told her that she had been allowed into Berkeley only because the admissions standards had been dropped to accept African-American students. However, Donna continued to excel, and went on to begin doctoral studies at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. She began doing computer research for Xerox, then moved on to other high-tech companies for several years, taking a break to go bicycling through Japan before she began working at Apple Computer, where she led the successful product development team that created the Newton hand-held computer.
Donna left Apple to move to US WEST, a large telecommunications company that develops interactive products for the public. Her work as project leader on a large project for US WEST is featured in the BreakThrough program. Today, she is the CEO of her own company, Freshwater Technologies, which develops new technologies. Outside of work, Donna remains close to her mother and sisters, and takes pride in her involvement with black community activities. She participates actively in her church choir, and composes gospel music. She also enjoys quiet time, and lives in the country outside Boulder, Colorado.
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