Meet Erica: 49ers cheerleader and a software engineer

In our continuing effort to playfully challenge stereotypes–and inspire young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and health–I, Dr. John, would like to introduce you to Erica, a San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleader and a software engineer with a masters in Instructional Technology.

In between nailing double pirouettes, Erica works as an Instructional Designer for online classes for graduate students. As distributed e-learning becomes more and more common, it’s great to know that multi-talented women like Erica are working hard to improve online education and training.

I recently had a chance to ask Erica a few questions about her passion for engineering, the challenges of balancing two different worlds, and her future ambitions. Thanks to Erika and the 49ers Gold Rush for spending some with ScienceCheerleader!

Erica, what experience turned you on to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers?

I went to a Math, Science, and Technology High school where I could take programming and advanced math classes. Math was my favorite subject but wasn’t my best. I asked one of my teachers if I could be an engineer if math wasn’t my best subject — he said no. From then one I was determined to prove him wrong, which I did.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream associated with beauty or physique (like cheerleading) and pursuing a science and engineering career usually associated with, well, geeks?

I think you experience the best of both worlds when you pursue both STEM careers and beauty/physique-centered activities. I am constantly challenged by both, but one is a mental challenge and the other a physical challenge.

How did your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in engineering?

My fellow cheerleaders accept my interest in engineering. I don’t think they know how much I’m into it. It’s funny because they find what I do to be amazing and challenging when I think of them as just as smart as me and able to do it just as easily. We all find qualities in each other that we wish we had.

Is there advice you would give your former 10-12-year-old self, now that you have the benefit of hindsight?

If there were advice I could give my former 10 year-old-self it would be to accept my talent and not follow the crowd. I was in advanced math and science class throughout elementary and middle school. When I entered middle school, I wanted to be in classes with my friends so I complained to my mom that I didn’t understand my teachers and the work was too hard. She eventually pulled me out of the advanced classes. I was taking Pre Calculus and Physics in 6th grade.

Eric-49ers-Gold-RushCan you describe a “typical day” at work?

I usually come in and check emails. After emails I work on the Xserve for about 3 hours. I have lunch and watch tourist out on the Pier for about an hour. The rest of my day is working with instructors to design online classes for graduate students.

What are your plans for the future?

In the future, I would like to get my PhD in Instructional Design and become a college professor.

Best cheerleading experience?

My second best cheerleading experience is when I made the Gold Rush finals. My best cheerleading experience is when I actually made Gold Rush. I couldn’t wait to tell my family and especially my Dad who was the most excited.

Favorite and least favorite courses you took to prepare for your work?

My favorite courses were Calculus, Physics, and Probability and Statistics. I liked these courses because I could teach myself. Also, these were the only courses where I could concentrate and listen to music at the same time.

My least favorite course was Differential Equations, hands down. Thinking of Laplace Transform of F(s) = f(t) just makes my skin crawl. I hated it because I wanted to get it so bad but instead I struggled with it.

More exhilarating: positive experimental results or nailing a cheer move?

I am always excited when I nail a double pirouette. Often times I sneak to the bathroom while at work and practice them. Actually, as I am responding to these questions, I took a break to go and practice, ha-ha.

  • Wow, she seems like a great person to have met. I especially liked her advice for people to not follow the crowd and embrace their talents.

  • Jjames

    i already like her. not only is her look so exotic and different but she seems smart yet funny. thanks scicheer

  • holy guacamole she is hot

  • I agree, Fred! Thanks for sharing your comment with us. I’m sure Erica will appreciate it, too.

  • I agree, Fred! Thanks for sharing your comment with us. I’m sure Erica will appreciate it, too.

  • I agree, Fred! Thanks for sharing your comment with us. I’m sure Erica will appreciate it, too.

  • Thanks, Jjames. Totally agree. I hope we have a chance to meet her in person before too long. A host of these Science Cheerleaders are performing in Washington, D.C., at the USA Science and Engineering Festival, Oct 23-24. Check back for details. If you live in the area, it’s a “don’t miss” event!

  • Thanks, Virgo47tp. Holy guacamole is right. It’s also my new phrase this week, so thanks for that. My kids love it!

  • Got an autographed 8×10 for my ‘fridge?

  • Timothy

    please tell me she is performing! would we be able to meet her in person?

  • mitchell

    me too!!

  • John Takao Collier

    Erica – Differential Equations is also were I finally met my mathematical match. The stuff before I understood, I just didn’t grok DiffyQ. Oh well, for me it was good to finally understand my limits. Thanks for the tips on what to tell a 10 to 12 year old girl; my daughter is that age and is excelling in math and science and loves it. So far, we have no problems with her wanting to scale back, and we intend to continue to encourage her (she’s in 7th grade and is taking 9th grade advanced math at our high school).

    Daddy’s goal is to have her explain DiffyQ to him when she learns it in, say, 10th grade (maybe 11th grade if she’s a slacker). 🙂

  • A’cemetric

    Erica is the epitome of concentrated focus. Your drive is like bmw, ultimate. Much success to you throughout all of your endeavors.

  • BMW ultimate? Very nice! Be sure to sign up for the SciCheer newsletter so you can receive more info on more of these amazing Science Cheerleaders!

  • Mitchell: consider signing up to receive the scicheer newsletter so you can learn about more of these fabulous Science Cheerleaders in the future!

  • John: I know about your daughter’s math and science talents. Maybe she can teach me fractions sometime? 🙂

  • Well, Timoty, Erica won’t be performing because the 49ers are playing that day. However, we will have former cheerleaders from the Texans (she’s an engineer at NASA now), Redskins (she’s a doctor AND and lawyer now…and competing for Ms. Texas), and several other teams…

  • Very funny, Jimmy! I’ll see if Erica can send a few autographed cards to scicheer commentors, including you, of course!

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  • Rmartin152

    As someone who have known you all of you life, I must say you are a very smart and beautiful person inside and out so just want to say i’m so proud of you and you can be all you want to be.

  • N’diaye

    Simply gorgeous and very inspiring!!! Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for your advice.

  • Erica, not only are you beautiful but you’re also very intelligent and talented! You definitely have my best wishes in all of your endeavors. I’m so proud, you’d think I was your mother instead of your cousin! 🙂 I love you. Continue to do well!

  • Priscobb2003

    Wow what a go getter. Erica you are not playing around, take your life and continue to go for it. At least until you reach the stars. You are very ambitious, smart, and beautiful young lady. You have made your parents proud. And I think you are the perfect road model, for all young ladies, to look up too! Hey even me, I would love to have the same attitude you have. Keep up the good works that you do. Too you its just being you. To others its a dream……….

  • Aja Glover

    Erica is wonderful person! I have had the pleasure of knowing her for 25 years and she is as beautiful and smart as they come. I am so proud of you for being an role model for young girls. It is very refresshing to see a woman who has made something of herself and it is because of her smarts and not her body. Thank you for being you and never let anyone change you.

  • Aileen Lockhart

    Wow! is all I can say Erica! You continue to amaze me! I’ve read all of the comments and mine is similar to another one about challenging stereotypes. One never thinks that you can be beautiful, talented, smart and just plain fun to be around. I love it when you get to come home and see us. One thing that no one has brought out yet, is that you are so family-oriented and welcome all of us into your inner circle. I’m proud to be a part of your life and family.Thanks for showing us what true success looks like.

  • Aunt Diane

    Hi Erica,
    How are you? I enjoyed reading your inspiring story (smile) You are truly a positive force for (all) young women to follow and admire. I feel you on the Math it wasn’t my favorite subject and it was a struggle for me. Im amazed how you can listen to music while doing Calculus, Physics, Probability and Statistics that make my eyeballs itch well……. CRY..Wow!!! I don’t know if I ever told you but I am very proud of you. I am truly blessed that you are my lovely niece who is fun loving, kind, gentle, jazzy, smart. down to earth mad cool and will take a challenge on with the Lord on your side anytime RIGHT! (smiles), I wanted to tell you you were the most Beautiful bride I ever seen and you should have been on the cover of Bride.
    Oops… I got to go ASW meeting now however You are always in my prayers. Love you…. Aunt Diane

  • Shoes2boot

    Awesome! Not only is she is smart and giving great advice to our youth but she is also beautiful. We are so proud of you Erica. I loved math when in was in school. Statistics was hard for me; wish you could have been my tutor.

  • Yo-Yo in NC

    WOW, is all I can say! You are such an inspiration to not only me and my daughters, but also young ladies all over the world. Go beautiful girl!!!!!! You inspire me!

  • Yo-Yo in NC

    WOW, is all I can say! You are such an inspiration to not only me and my daughters, but also young ladies all over the world. Go beautiful girl!!!!!! You inspire me!

  • Thanks for all the great comments. We’ll have more from the 49ers Gold Rush cheerleaders tomorrow, so stay tuned!

  • Emmalena

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Erica since she was a little girl. She is everything that you guys think and so much more! She is my younger cousin although I have never told her this I often looked up to her as we were growing up. I love her humility. She doesn’t know how great she is, which makes her that much more. I hope that young adults and kids get to read this article as well because she is truly inspiring.

  • Steph

    Yeeeah that’s my future cousin! She is just as amazing and bubbly in real life as she seems! And she was the most stunning bride ever. I love you Erica and appreciate how effortlessly accepting, kind and warm you have always been towards me.. Derek is very proud to have such a bright and exuberant cousin, as am I! Your strong spirituality and love for life are an inspiration and light up my day whenever I see you. Keep doing your thing girl! We love you!

    Love ya,

  • Erica

    Thanks Science Cheerleader for sharing this. I shared this with my family yesterday who live so far away. This article bridges all types of gaps including distance.

  • Erica, truly our pleasure. If you’re interested in participating in science cheerleader events in the San Fran area related to young women in science, let me know. I know there are plenty of schools and educational organizations who’d benefit from your words of wisdom. Thanks again, Erica. Feel free to email me directly at

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  • Michelle

    Wow. i have a 13 daughter that is facing the same challenges This is very inspirational

  • Kittenbrowneyes

    Erica i am so impressed but not surprised. You have a strong family unit and that mean so much. You are not only beautiful on the outside but you have a beautiful spirit and attitude. I am waiting to see you on the big screen in a movie. Continue to remain humble and God will raise you higher and higher.
    Love Kitten

  • John Takao Collier

    Darlene – Perhaps my daughter can teach you fractions some day, but she’d probably get bored. Ah, the tortured life as a brainiac. 🙂

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