We had the pleasure of partnering with Microsoft to bring DigiGirlz to Sioux Falls. Not only did we get to meet so many young women entertaining the idea of a career in STEM, but we also got to hear great stories from our wonderful volunteers. Allison joined the Omnitech team in January after graduation from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. She jumped at a chance to teach the Coding 101 session, and she brought a very special guest – her mother Sue who is also a software engineer. We wanted to take the opportunity to gather their thoughts on the DigiGirlz experience and what they are excited to see in the future.
Question 1: Allison, Do you think the idea of working in technology was more accessible to you since you saw your Mom working in that industry already? When did you know you wanted a career as a software engineer?
I grew up watching my parents work in the technology field, and that sparked my interest in technology at a young age. Seeing my mom working in the field showed me that it was possible to have success in the technology field as a woman. This made the idea of working in technology more of a reality for me when I started to think about what I wanted to do. I knew that if my mom could have success in what is usually a male-dominated field then so could I.
I have always had a love for math and figured I would go into a field that would require a large math background but didn’t know what that would be. I didn’t consider engineering until I took a programming class my junior year of high school and after that, I fell in love with the idea of becoming an engineer and getting to explore both my math and technology interests.
Question 2: Sue, Share a conversation you had with a girl that made you know these events are very important to host.
One of my favorite events was the “Speed Networking” session where we (mentors) had a short visit with one or two girls before rotating to another match up. What great questions they asked! They were sincerely interested in how I chose my career, the college I attended and what I have done since then to advance my career. We talked about taking AP/dual credit classes in high school, “CLEPing” out of college classes, Bachelor vs. Master degrees. One conversation that sticks out, I was asked if we forced my daughter Allison to become a software engineer. I smiled and said “No” we did not force her. We encouraged her to do what she enjoyed, and from the time she was little she had a knack for math and playing on the computer. I explained that life is too short to have a job you do not enjoy and encouraged them to pick a career that they love. It is much easier to go to work every day doing what you enjoy.
Question 3: Sue, How has the environment for women in technology changed in the last 20 years?
I truly believe the biggest change is in the number of women in leadership positions – from Team Leads and Managers to Vice Presidents and President/CEO’s. I also see many more women becoming involved in the technology arena that are willing to mentor other women.
Technology as a whole has evolved into every aspect of our lives, with our Smartphones, tablets, smart tv, etc.. we are connected to technology 24/7. Where will we be in the next 20-30 years? That is for our young people to decide as they pick their careers and it does not’ matter which career they pick, technology will be a large part of their future. Technology, Love it and Live it.
Question 4: What was your biggest take away from the DigiGirlz event?
Sue: What a joy it was to see so many young women, excited about technology. I enjoyed helping out the “new” coders in the Coding 101 breakout session. To share in the excitement they experienced as they “coded” and completed each of the 15 different labs. For those girls who already had experience coding, they quickly picked up the new language and were able to adapt when they already have learned and apply it to the labs. These young ladies will go very far in life with the excitement and enthusiasm they showed me during this DigiGirlz event.
Allison: My biggest take away from the DigiGirlz event was seeing how engaged and excited the girls were in the coding and networking sessions. These girls are going to have great futures, and I am excited to see more girls pursue careers in technology and other STEM fields!
For more information and photos of our DigiGirlz event, check out Facebook!