How many years have you been in tech?
Tell me about your background. What were your early years like?
I always had a pretty wide variety of interests growing up and was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged both my brother and me to pursue whatever caught our attention. Whether it was history, musicals, mechanics, electronics, or baking, they were happy to hear about it. I never got the discouragement I’ve heard other girls say they received around ‘boy’ activities or ‘girl’ activities.
When it came to choosing a career, I had a hard time narrowing it down. At various times I considered mechanical and/or electrical engineering, teaching, and archaeology. After spending a summer program learning about what engineers do, I decided it wasn’t hands-on enough for me. Teaching and archaeology both required more schooling and politicking than I was willing to commit to at the outset to get to the level I would have wanted. Other career ideas were harder to come by. My mom was a nurse, but being pretty squeamish, that really wasn’t going to be an option for me. My dad has worked maintenance at a factory since I can remember and that seemed more my style. He and I had worked on projects throughout my childhood, often using spare bits and parts he brought home from work to make science fair projects like an electromagnet, a fiber optics light project, and a small robot that we programmed to follow a flashlight. With this in mind, I ended up getting a degree in Industrial Electronics.
While pursuing this degree, I had my first real programming classes. While we had a computer at home when I was growing up, I had never been very interested in more than surface usage of it. It was a tool for doing a few tasks that I needed or enjoyed doing, but I never considered myself a techie. Once I got into the classes, though, I found that I really enjoyed them. I loved the problem solving we had to do. I loved following the logical progression of steps through loops and subroutines to troubleshoot when things weren’t working the way we expected. At that point, I thought it would have been fun to take some computer science classes, but I had no intention of changing degrees that far along, and there wasn’t really room in my schedule.
After finishing my degree, I started a series of jobs, mostly in manufacturing, before deciding a career change was in order.
How were you exposed to tech?
After deciding that I wasn’t going to be happy staying in manufacturing, I had to figure out what else I wanted to do. I knew there were more career options out there than what I had been exposed to, so I started seeing a career counselor for a broader perspective. After a few sessions and some research, I started looking into resources for learning web design and heard about the CoderGirl program while listening to NPR. My first night there, they had Alison Hawke as a guest speaker, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. A few months later, I started as an Apprentice QA at Asynchrony.
What is your current role?
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Moving from “I have no idea what I want to do, but this isn’t it” to a completely new career in a new city in under six months is pretty high on the list.
What are you learning right now?
From a technical perspective, I’m breaking into writing UATs, trying to get a start on automated testing. On soft skills, I’m working on constructive ways to deal with stress.
What was the last fear that you faced? How did you feel after you conquered it?
I’ve done a lot of scary things in the last year and a half. Starting my current career meant relocating and stepping out on a limb both professionally and personally. Honestly, it’s a little scary every time I step into a room full of people I don’t know, but I’ve met some amazing people that way and whether I spend 5 minutes or 5 hours in the room, I’m always grateful for the experience and usually glad I tried.
What advice do you wish someone had given to you? What advice would you give to others starting out?
Don’t feel weighed down by the choices you’ve made. Take what you can learn from each and move forward. I wish I had accepted sooner that I didn’t have to stay in a field just because it was related to my degree, but every job has taught me something that is still useful now.
What are your hobbies?
Reading, knitting, baking, convincing people to incorporate more musical theater into their lives.
What do you like about St. Louis? The midwest? Why do you live here?
Family definitely keeps me tied to the midwest. I like that St. Louis is a small city. There are all kinds of great things to do, but you can still randomly run into someone you know around town.
Who inspires you?
My mom and dad definitely. They’re ridiculously encouraging and supportive and they taught me what it looks like to be a team. My big brother. I’ll always kind of want to be like him when I grow up. Neem, whose boundless optimism both baffles me and makes me want to be a better person. Michelle, who is fierce, fearless, and funny. Brittany, who is my oldest friend and refuses to let a good friendship go. So many others that I’m sure I’m forgetting, I’m blessed with an abundance of amazing men and women in my life.