“If you are coming from a non-tech background, remember that you bring unique strengths and diversity to a tech job, and that those experiences make you even more valuable.”
How do you stay passionate in your career?
I love solving problems and finding interesting solutions to all sorts of issues–code and non-code related. Luckily, the web industry seems to have no shortage of these complex problems, and being able to tackle new challenges each day at work keeps me engaged.
I have also found that teaching, mentoring, and bringing coding and STEM knowledge to communities that are less represented in the tech space keeps me passionate. I have loved being an organizer for Girl Develop It Pittsburgh, a non-profit focused on teaching adult women web and software development. This year, I also started helping out at a YWCA STEM after school program, and really enjoyed being able to engage a younger group of aspiring women.
Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?
I don’t think my path into tech was very traditional, but I don’t know that many are! I was an English major in college, and had to take a Computer Science class for a requirement. While taking the class, I realized I liked the subject matter and the professors in the department, and decided to minor in it.
After graduating, I got a summer job working at my college’s library where I was paid to create a website related to Quakers and mental health in the 19th century. These experiences learning to build a website cemented my desire to do something professionally in the web–where I felt my English and Computer Science backgrounds came together in a unique way.
What’s your favorite thing about being a woman in tech?
I love being able to connect and share stories with other women in tech. Some of the most inspired moments of my time in tech have been at Girl Develop It events, or at ELA Conference in Philadelphia (a tech conference for empowering adult women, trans men, and genderqueer people).
If applicable, how have you given back to the WIT community?
I took a bunch of Girl Develop It classes in Philadelphia when I was trying to find a career in tech. Those classes gave me confidence, female peers I could look up to in the industry, and helped me to level up my skills. I owe a lot to Girl Develop It, and try to give back by volunteering with my local Pittsburgh chapter!
In the past and coming year, however, I have intentionally pivoted my focus on the WIT community a bit, and have been trying to get more involved with younger female communities to spread STEM knowledge and awareness. I believe that for gender equality, and further diversity to be achieved in the tech industry, more attention must be devoted to educating and empowering girls in grade school through high school about STEM-related concepts. I hope to continue being involved with the YWCA’s after school STEM programs, and more recently, I have been helping teach an introduction to building websites for teens at the Oakland Carnegie Library branch through my company, Sparkbox.
What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?
This is a piece of advice that stuck with me when I was doing research on how to get a job in web development: if you are passionate, dedicated, and hard-working, you can learn anything. The soft-skills, however, such as the ability to teach, work with others, and communicate, can be far more valuable in the tech ecosystem.
Also, if you are coming from a non-tech background, remember that you bring unique strengths and diversity to a tech job, and that those experiences make you even more valuable.