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Bringing Black history to lifeFebruary 23, 2021

From authors to activists to engineers, the Periodic Table of Canadian Black History celebrates the men and women whose contributions have shaped our country. And thanks to Isabela Ozamiz, it’s now bringing the stories of Black Canadians to students across the country.

The 2017 electrical engineering and management grad created the digital tool, which organizes important figures in Canadian Black history as elements in the familiar periodic table.

Launched on Feb. 1 in celebration of Black History Month, the site was viewed more than 40,000 times in the first week and averaged 1,000 users every 30 minutes during school hours.

The online tool was inspired by a 2020 project pioneered by Parents for Diversity and displayed in an Ottawa primary school.

“When my brother showed it to me, I was shocked that I only knew about five people,” says Ozamiz. “It was proof that a digital resource like this needed to exist, and I was the lucky one who got to bring it to life.”

Her partner, McMaster alumnus Nick Simard, provided a French translation to make the site usable across the country.

As a second-generation Filipino, Ozamiz says Black History Month has made her reflect on what it really means to be an authentic ally.

“I’ve always been moved by the powerful narratives surrounding racial injustices throughout North America,” she says.

“But I’ve learned that being an ally is not necessarily about ‘fixing’ something. That is not the role. We need to listen. We need to learn. Only then, can we begin to understand.”

In her day job, Ozamiz is a lead software developer at Hopper, a company using big data to predict flights and hotel prices and help travellers find the best deals.

“I lead a team of front-end software developers and together we are building a web application for our B2B partnerships,” says Ozamiz.

“I love the challenge of solving software development problems and I love the creativity you can bring to the table when designing and developing web applications that people will use.”

Pointing to both her co-op experience and her time as president of the Electrical & Computer Engineering Society as influential in shaping her career and personality, Ozamiz is pleased to see McMaster’s most recent EDI initiatives, including the new IBET Fellowship and the NSBE Scholarship.

“These initiatives are amazing,” she says. “It’s so great to see the university making education more accessible for underrepresented groups.”

Along with networking and seeking opportunities to learn about industry, she urges students to be gentle with themselves.

“Try not to put so much pressure on yourself,” says Ozamiz. “You may feel stressed out often but know that it will pass and if you work hard, you’ll end up on your feet.”

Check out Isabela's Instagram takeover today (February 23) on why she created this platform, what it means to be an ally and on her career as a lead software developer at Hopper.