How many years have you been in tech?
Tell me about your background. What were your early years like?
My background is somewhat unusual. I started out as a pharmacist. I was a pharmacist for 16 years before switching to programming in 1997. Back then, I worked for a small consulting firm helping law firms get ready for Y2K. I eventually ended up in a six month programming assignment at a big law firm downtown in 2001. I loved working there, so when a database administrator position opened, I applied. I’ve been doing database administration and working with data since then.
How were you exposed to tech?
I guess it all started with video games like Pong in the 70s. My parents bought us an Atari game system which seemed amazing at the time. I didn’t really care about what was going on inside the machine until typing in code on a TRS80 in college. It was like a light switch turned on in my brain, and I became obsessed with programming. After graduating, writing programs for our household or volunteer projects became my hobby. I didn’t think I could actually become a developer until another parent on one of the school fundraisers saw the database and program I set up and told me I should be a developer.
What is your current role?
I am an independent database consultant. I help customers with SQL Server, especially those who do not have a database administrator on staff.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
That is a difficult question because I am proud of so many things. I guess the biggest for me is being a published author. I’m an author or co-author of eight SQL Server books. Another accomplishment which is just about as big is becoming a Microsoft MVP. This is an award they give for leaders in the tech community. I have received it 7 years.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Tell us about a time that this applied to you.
Switching careers was not easy, and almost everyone around me discouraged me from doing so. I constantly heard “how can you throw away your pharmacy degree?” and “you can always go back to pharmacy, right?” Luckily, my determination and encouragement from three people (my friend Doug and my brothers Bill and Jeff) helped me persist. It was definitely the right thing for me, and I can’t even imagine how my life would have turned out had I not made this change.
What are you learning right now?
I’m learning more about databases in the cloud, specifically on Azure. I’m hoping to start on some data science courses as well soon.
Describe a time where you solved a problem in a creative way. For example, did something in your personal life trigger a solution to a problem at work?
Working with databases requires lots of creativity, but mostly I just break large problems down into smaller ones that can easily be solved.
What was the last fear that you faced? How did you feel after you conquered it?
I think that doing things that scare you is the way to build confidence, grow, and succeed. While not recent, taking my first certification test 21 years ago was frightening. I was actually surprised and of course elated when I passed.
What advice do you wish someone had given to you? What advice would you give to others starting out?
Don’t decide on a career too young, be open to possibilities. I logically concluded at 15 years old that I should become a pharmacist. Don’t listen to career advice from teenagers!
What are your hobbies?
I am the Karaoke Queen! I’m not the best, but I love singing. While not a hobby, I also manage to spend quite a bit of time visiting St. Louis attractions like the Science Center and the Zoo with my grandkids.
What do you like about St. Louis? The midwest? Why do you live here?
My family is all here in Central Illinois and the greater St. Louis area, so it would be difficult to move. I would love to live somewhere warmer, but St. Louis does have many fun things to do. St. Louis has had a lot of bad press in recent years. The media loves to paint a terrible picture of life here. We need to get the word out about the tech start up scene and the great way of life here.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by many women in the SQL Server community, but also by Bill Gates and Barack and Michelle Obama.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am a mentor with the LaunchCode CoderGirl program. This program is really changing the face of tech in St. Louis and throughout the country. LaunchCode is making a difference by finding talented people who may not have had opportunities in the past. This helps companies and the community! I also am a volunteer with PASS (http://www.pass.org), a professional organization dedicated to data professionals. I am co-leader of the Women in Technology virtual group (http://wit.pass.org).