All posts by Tanya Adams

Tanya Adams is a freelance writer, content strategist, and lover of all things tech. Not to be confused with her namesake of Red Alert 2 fame, but certainly that cool. Learn more about her at tanyaadamswriter.com.
why join a women's professional association?

5 Professional Organizations Women in Tech Should Consider Joining

Everyone wants to be part of the in-crowd. As a technology geek, you may have spent high school or maybe even college outside the popular kids table. Or, you had the science club or computer club to hang out with and share stories. In the professional world, we still need groups to help us along our career paths, broaden our horizons, and just make like-minded friends. As a woman in tech, finding other women to share our particular geekiness is incredibly wonderful. And, if we can learn new skills, grow professionally, and boost our businesses along the way, well, that’s great, too. With that in mind, here’s the low down on five national organizations for women in technology.

ACW

Association for Women in Computing (WIC)

Who’s it for: Women in the computing professions such as programmers, system analysts, technical writers, Internet specialists, trainers, and consultants.

How to join: You may join any one of the local chapters nationwide or become an independent member by filling out an application online. Independent membership is for professionals in the U.S and abroad who cannot physically attend chapter meetings. Alternately, any five individuals in a particular area can apply to form a local chapter.

Benefits: Career growth through volunteer and leadership activities, networking, and mentoring. Local chapters hold monthly meetings that include dinner with guest speakers and workshops. Job listings, career planning, skill enhancement and scholarships are some of the other benefits.

Cost: Local chapters’ dues vary by chapter but range from $35 to $100 per year. The average is $61. Annual dues for Independent Members is $25.

witi

Women in Technology International (WITI)

Who’s it for: WITI boasts itself as the “leading global business organization for women in technology.” It is for women who consider technology central to their businesses, careers, and professions. WITI encourages men to join as well.

Benefits: They include networking events nationwide, professional development, mentorships, opportunities to establish your personal brand, monthly webinars, teleclasses, and speaking opportunities.

How to join: You can sign up online.

Costs: WITI offers Individual, Small Business, Corporate, and student memberships. An individual yearly membership is $250. Student yearly memberships are $50.

ieee_wie_purple

IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE)

Who it’s for: Women in engineering, computer sciences and information technology, physical sciences, biological and medical sciences, mathematics, technical communications, education, management, and law and policy. IEEE WIE touts itself as “the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists.”

Benefits: The mission of IEEE WIE is to facilitate the global recruitment and retention of women in technical disciplines. Benefits include career resources, awards/recognition, continuing education, access to the IEEE WIE electronic membership directory, a monthly electronic newsletter, and award-winning Women in Engineering magazine. There are also local networking events through WIE affinity groups.

How to join: You must be an IEEE Member to join WIE. Professional IEEE memberships in the U.S. are $197 annually. IEEE student memberships in the U.S. are $32.00 annually.

Cost: The WIE membership dues is $25 annually, but free to students.

Society of Women Engineers

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
Who it’s for: For women and men in the engineering professions including computer software and hardware engineering.

Benefits: Networking, educational development, awards & scholarships, the SWE Magazine, monthly newsletter, online communities, webinars, podcasts, online career center, and outreach; Affinity groups for African-American, Latina, LGBT, Native American, and IRIS (Internationals Residing in the States). Members develop leadership skills by publishing articles, presenting technical papers, leading workshops and seminars.

How to Join: Fill out an application online or by pdf.

Cost: Professional member ship is $100 annually. Collegiate Membership is a one-time payment of $50 that can be renewed every year you’re in college for no cost.

Women Entrepreneurs

Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (WEST)

Who it’s for: Women and men involved in science, engineering, and technology.

Benefits: Networking, mentorships, workshops and panels including advice about career advancement, alternate career options, professional skill building, and entrepreneurial thinking. WEST offers encouragement and recognition of women’s achievement in science, technology and entrepreneurial enterprises.

How to Join: You can join online.

Cost: Individual one year memberships are $95.

With such variety, perhaps you’ll find one of these organizations will be the perfect fit for you. (Or, maybe even more than one.) Remember, it’s never to early to start making those important professional contacts.

 

Main image credit: Stockvault.net; all trademarks and logos are the property of their respective owners.

Does Hollywood Influence Women in Tech Careers?

The other day I was talking to my teenage neighbor; a petite blonde teen, very excited about her upcoming senior year in high school and the classes she would be taking. Just one more year of high school and she would be going to college. When I asked her what she planned to study in college, she told me that she wanted to study forensic science. Curious, I asked her why she had chosen that particular field of science. “Oh, because I love CSI. I think working in forensics would be so cool.”

Her answer did not surprise me. Since I’ve been writing about the lack of women and minorities in STEM careers, particularly computer science, I’ve heard of the so-called “CSI effect.” This television show has not only influenced jurors expectations of scientific evidence presented in criminal trials , but has also been credited with the increased enrollment in programs training forensic scientist helping to turn a once male dominated career into a predominately female one.

According to a 2010 study by Marshall University’s Forensic Program, based on answers given by current female forensic science students and recent graduates, many of the women “ knew they wanted to enter forensic science before they started college and were influenced by popular forensic television shows and fiction.” Just like my neighbor these young women decided long before choosing a college that they wanted to work in forensic science despite the fact that the salary range for a Crime Scene Investigator is $27,683 – $52,471.   Compare that to the salary range of a Software Engineer at $53,873 – $108,150.  One would think that the salary alone would make women flock to a career in the computer sciences.  Apparently Hollywood has a much larger influence on career choice.   A 2013 study conducted by the Gena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media found that over half the women depicted working in STEM careers on television shows were in the medical field as forensic pathologists or medical examiners.

Perhaps what we need to entice more women into careers in computer technology is more depictions of women in those careers on television? With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the women depicted working in technology currently on television.

Penelope GarciaPenelope Garcia (Criminal Minds, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior) portrayed by Kristen Vangsness.   Ms. Garcia is number one on my list as well she should be. She is a free-spirit with a unique sense of style. She loves pink and famously submitted her resume for her job in the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) on pink stationary. She is a woman that gets the job done and I would argue the most important member of the BAU team. A former hacker, Analyst Garcia, got her job by illegally hacking into FBI equipment (not a recommended application process). There is not a computer she can’t hack or a suspect she can’t trace. Without her, the agents of the BAU team wouldn’t catch any of the truly psycho criminals they pursue.

Raven csi-cyberRaven Ramirez (CSI: Cyber) portrayed by Hayley Kiyoko.  Yes, CSI has a Cyber division. Ramirez is a black hat hacker  (I’m seeing a pattern here) who now uses her powers for good as an FBI analyst helping to solve cyber-related crimes. A bit of trivia: The actress who plays Ramirez also played the original crime solving computer geek, Velma, in two Scooby-Doo movies on the Cartoon Network.

NellNell Jones (NCIS: Los Angeles) portrayed by Renee Felice Smith.  Ms. Jones is an NCIS analyst and assistant to technical operator and intelligence analyst, Eric Beale. Unlike the previous two, she was not a hacker, but became part of the team after getting an Ivy League degree. Besides being a great analyst, she is an expert on South America, has a proficiency in foreign languages (Spanish and Arabic) and can handle a gun. With her short pixie haircut, she reminds me of a red-headed Velma from Scooby Doo.

RootSamantha ‘Root’ Groves (Person of Interest) portrayed by Amy Acker. This series is set in the future where a computer known as The Machine collects and analyzes data that predicts terrorist attacks. Root, a former computer hacker (yes, again), is the human interface for The Machine. Oh, and she used to be a contract killer. It’s Hollywood. A computer geek cannot just be a geek.

Charlie-bradbury-spnCharlene ‘Charlie’ Bradbury (Supernatural) portrayed by Felicia Day. Speaking of geeks.  A former IT expert for Richard Roman Enterprises, fantasy lover and LARPing queen, Charlie, becomes Dean and Sam’s go-to person for all their computer hacking needs. Unfortunately, the character was killed off this season.

abbyAbigail ‘Abby’ Sciuto (NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles) portrayed by Pauley Perrette. Okay, so this is a controversial one. Ms. Sciuto has been credited with inspiring a generation of women to pursue forensic science. However, besides being a Forensic Analyst for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a happy Goth, Ms. Sciuto, specializes in digital forensics; one of the fastest growing fields today. (Remember the attack on Sony Picture Studios?) So, that makes her a computer techie even if she can’t thwart a cyber-attack against her own computer as demonstrated in this hilarious clip from the show.  (Ah, Hollywood.)

Of note is that only one of these characters represents minority women. There are currently a couple of portrayals of African-American men in tech positions on television, but none of African-American women. And, although two of these characters have Latino surnames, none of the characters are portrayed by Latinos. Perhaps next season’s crop of shows will include at least one African-American female techie. I would love to see another no-nonsense female computer scientist like 24’s Chloe O’Brian in future television offerings.  Maybe she could be African-American or Latina.

What female tech character would you like to see on television?  Are there any that I missed?

Cover Image by Eva Luedin

A Chat with Software Developer Victoria Fry: A Career in Tech is All in the Family

There is a shortage of women in tech. That’s a fact.

Could it be that schools don’t encourage young girls toward a career in computers or math? Could it be the media and its lack of females depicted in tech oriented careers?

Yes, it could be.

Offering more courses in schools, science and tech camps for girls, and profiling women in the profession can all bring more women into the field.

But there is a larger influence in any young woman’s life that could be the most important element in choosing a life in tech or any other profession. That influence is that of the young woman’s parents.

Family Support

Software Developer and Integrator, Victoria Fry, credits her very supportive parents when asked how she came to choose a career in technology; especially her mother, Suzanne.

Fry is one of three siblings (all females) who have opted for careers in the sciences (One sister is a nurse; the other is in bio-medical research.) Fry chose technology.

At a young age, Fry had an aptitude for math. Her mother, who also works in tech, recognized her daughter’s ability.

“She saw that I enjoyed math and encouraged me,” Fry says.

With her mother’s encouragement, Fry continued to enjoy math throughout elementary and middle school. In high school, she was introduced to computer programming.

“In high school, we didn’t really have too many programming classes,” she says. “We had maybe one and it was kind of the same environment that you see now. There were one or two girls in that class and twenty guys.”

Despite being one of the few women in the class, Fry took that programming class and found her calling.

“I really enjoyed it,” she says. “I loved being challenged to figure things out. That class really got me interested in computer programming, so that’s what I pursued in college.”

In college, the trend of being one of very few women in her computer programming courses continued. But that didn’t faze Fry.  However, she did find the interaction between the men and women in her college courses minimal.

“I joke with my husband, because we were in the same computer classes in college. I tell him, ‘you were one of the only men that talked to me in college.’” She laughs.

Throughout college Fry says her parents were there for support. Whenever she was stressed about a test or felt overwhelmed with her studies,  her father would remind her to put it all in perspective.

“He’d say ‘relax it will be okay. The world will keep going,” she laughs.

She credits her parents with creating the balance in her life that allowed her to pursue technology and for giving her the confidence to know she would succeed.

Serving Those Who Serve

Today, as a Software Developer and Integrator for USAA, a financial services firm serving U.S. military members and their families, Fry works on the team responsible for USAA’s iPhone and iPad apps.

“I love working at USAA, because of the team atmosphere,” she says. “In mobile development we’re a close knit group.”

Fry works on the maintenance side of the application; correcting any issues that USAA members (clients) see in production. Her integrator title means that she also works with colleagues across USAA’s large organization. At any given time, she may work on other projects as well as the apps.

Fry finds creativity in the problem solving aspect of her work.

“Figuring out problems, implementing a solution, and creating your own solution. I definitely think there’s creativity in that.”

Fry began at USAA directly after graduating from college with a computer science degree. Her mother also works in IT with the organization.

bestplaces_2014_iconVoted # 2 of COMPUTERWORLD’s ‘Best Places to Work in IT 2014,’ USAA’s campus boasts fitness centers, child care facilities, and Starbucks coffee shops. All great amenities for sure; however, for Fry providing services to military members and their families is most fulfilling.

“At USAA, the mission we are all striving for is serving those who serve,” she says proudly. “And the people who work here have such a wide range of technical knowledge and technical backgrounds. It’s interesting day in and day out working with these people.”

Since the birth of her own daughter, Fry says she has started mentoring through the Aspire community within her workplace. The group plans to mentor young people in the local schools in Texas next year and encourage young women who have an interest in technology.

“Now that I have a child of my own. I definitely see that drive to encourage others.”

Fry is grateful to her mother for recognizing her talents and encouraging her into the technology field.

“I asked her why she chose tech. Why did she go in this direction?” she says. “Her answer was simple. She said she wanted to make a better life for herself and her family. I really admire and respect her for that.”

Fry’s advice to other women who are contemplating a career in tech?

“It’s a male dominated field,” she says, “ but, I think if you have a passion for it, you’re more than capable of standing in a room with nothing but males and holding your own. Don’t be intimidated if you’re the only woman in the room. You’re smart. Go for it!”

Should You Apply to the Ada Developer’s Academy?

Even though there has been an increase of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations since the 1970s, women in the computer sciences remain sorely underrepresented. Just 15% of software jobs are held by women and 1.5% of open source contributors are women.

The Ada Developer’s Academy (Ada) — named for Ada Lovelace, purportedly the founder of scientific computing — is addressing this skill gap by training women to become software developers.

Ada is currently accepting applications for its second class slated to begin September 2nd.

“Ada is increasing opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry while addressing an acute and ongoing shortage of local developer talent,” said Elise Worthy, Program Manager & Co-Founder of Ada. “Our program is providing women with a solid footing in technical careers and tackling head-on the gender imbalance at local software companies, who recognize that Ada is a great opportunity to create a more equitable, diverse culture in tech.”

Established in 2013 as an intensive software developers training school exclusively for women, Ada offers six months of classroom-based instruction followed by a six-month internship  with Puget Sound-area tech companies. The internships prepare students for the transition into junior developer positions. Students completing the program also receive a certificate from Bellevue College.

Because of the immense time commitment (classes meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), the women are awarded a monthly stipend.

Why a full year program?

Search the web and you will find 8-week hacking programs, but those programs are not sufficient enough to prepare students with limited or no technical background.

“We want to make sure that students are fully prepared. Learning to program in a classroom only gets you halfway there. The internship component is key: students experience being on software teams, working with legacy codebases, deadlines, and production code,” said Bookis Smuin, Lead Instructor at Ada. “The internship is just as important as the classroom experience in preparing the students to be productive and successful developers.”

The first class of students numbered 16. For this upcoming class, 24 students will be admitted.

Potential students do not have to possess prior programming experience, but should demonstrate technical aptitude.

According to Worthy, a majority of the women interested in programming are novices and have had limited access to technology education in high school and college. In fact, many of the students in the previous Ada class were switching careers. They held bachelor’s degrees in everything from theater to linguistics.

Of this first class, 25% relocated to Washington State from as far away as Florida  and half were women of color.

Ada did not release any information as to the specific ethnicities of the first class; however, according to a 2013 government report, African-Americans and Hispanics, regardless of gender, have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6% of STEM workers were African-American and 7% were Hispanics.

So, Ada may be helping fulfill an ethnic diversity deficit in STEM jobs as well.

What do the women learn in the classroom?

The curriculum covers web development, how to work on agile development teams and lead software projects. Students work on projects that simulate real applications under real deadlines.

Specifically, students learn the Ruby on Rails tech stack (Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, HTML/CSS) and Agile Methodologies (pair programming, test-driven development, user-story creation).Through their training the students become adept at information gathering and creative problem solving as well.

“We’ve been so impressed with the student’s progress over the past six months. They’re developing full, production-ready applications on agile teams. They’re not only becoming fluent in code, but in the development process,” said Scott Case, COO of EnergySavvy and Ada Co-founder.

In May, the current class of Ada students held a demo of the civic apps they created as part of they’re coursework.

How can this education be offered for free?

As part of the Technology Alliance, Ada relies on sponsorships from Seattle-area tech companies who cover the students’ tuition, actively engage as mentors, and provide hands-on experience through internships.

Sixteen Seattle-area tech companies, including Expedia, EMC Isilon, EnergySavvy, Zillow, Marchex, Redfin, and Nordstrom, are now sponsoring Ada students.

Ada’s Future

Ada is on its way to training software developers who will fill a few of the 20,000 open STEM positions within Washington State.

Perhaps other organizations will take note of Ada’s approach to training software developers and duplicate the model. The need for diversity in tech is nation-wide.

Interested in applying to Ada Development Academy? The application deadline for the upcoming class is June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Women interested in making a career change to software development are encouraged to apply.

CHANTELL OSEJO: FINDING HAPPINESS AS A WOMAN IN TECH

Software Developer, Chantell Osejo never dreamed that she would be a woman in technology.  It came as a complete surprise.

“If you had told me five years ago that I was going to be in IT, and a programmer, I would have laughed” – Chantell

THE BEGINNING

Coming from a small town in Tennessee, the opportunities in technology were limited. In her high school, the only computer classes offered were a basic keyboarding class and the occasional Dreamweaver course. None of her teachers suggested technology as a possible career path.

“Nobody ever suggested tech to me. Lots of [other] female dominated fields were the typical thing,” she says. “It wasn’t frowned upon necessarily; it’s just no one ever said, ‘have you considered this?’ “

At home, her mother wasn’t too fond of computers and limited Osejo and her siblings’ access to them. Her father was a different story.

“My dad always had been pretty much tech-oriented. He built computers with us when we went to visit him and we’d play on the internet.”

Osejo soon discovered Neopets and made her first foray into programming, although minor, by dabbling in HTML so she could make her Neopet town pages. Still, a career in computers never dawned on her.

FROM VET TO TECH

After high school, she enrolled in the Rochester Institute of Technology anticipating a career in veterinary medicine.

But, a funny thing happened.

Osejo found that she hated all of the classes in her major, but did have an intense interest in math, science, and logic. She took a career assessment to determine if the career she’d chosen was the best path for her. Her fiancé (who was a friend at the time) suggested that, with her interests, she may enjoy computer science.

Then, the results of her career assessment came back. The assessment ranked science at the bottom and computer science and technology at the top.  Osejo promptly switched majors. She remembers calling her mother with the news of her new found career goals.

“Her response was, ‘are you kidding me,’ “she laughs. ‘You must have lost your mind. You are going to be so miserable!’ It was probably a shock for her. It was a shock for me, too. “

FROM SHOCK TO BLISS

Osejo began exploring computing; originally starting with networking and systems administration. She took on internships in the field. During her second internship she was doing mobile development and fell in love with the mobile operating system and building apps.

Today, Osejo has found her bliss as an Android Developer for Glympse, a start-up based in Seattle. Glympse is an app that allows the user to share her location in real time with people of her choosing for a specific amount of time. The user can send a Glympse to let someone know she is going to be late or to follow her to her destination. A Glympse can be accessed from any platform.

Osejo explains her role at Glympse this way: “I own our Android customer facing platform app in its entirety. I build. Right now we are going through a re-design, for example. And, I’m tasked on occasion with implementing features as part of our partnerships. So, hypothetically, I might build a car mode UI that may be set up in your vehicle.”

Osejo truly enjoys her job!

“I kind of feel guilty talking to people who are not in the tech industry about how much fun I have at my job.”

START-UP OR CORPORATE

Before her time at Glympse, Osejo was a Software Integrator at financial services company, USAA. She found the culture there much different from that of a start-up. She says that at a big corporation you get a small slice of whatever application or product you’re working on; making you an expert on that particular thing.

A start-up culture is the polar opposite of that.

“I have so much freedom sometimes,” she says. “If I want to implement a feature and I have time; I can do it.”

When asked what she likes most about her job she says, “Oh, the creative aspect. Hands down!”

She says a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that programming is all about logic and math. It is an important piece of the job, but about eighty to ninety percent of programming is creative.

“You’re creating something. You’re building something. You’re fitting together the pieces of the puzzle,” she says. “Especially, if you’re designing. You’re building an experience.”

WOMEN AND TECH

Osejo would really like to see more women choose technology as a career. (When she graduated from college in 2012 there was only one other woman in her IT major.)

She gives back by volunteering with younger women and girls. Tutoring middle school kids in technology and leading an exhibit at a science fair designed to encourage girls to pursue technology and science, sponsored by Girls Inc., are just two examples of how she is giving back.

She feels that opportunities are wide-open for girls and women just starting out in technology as well as  career changers who want to pursue technology. She has met people with backgrounds in art and history who now work happily in technology.

“The opportunities are great,” she says. “No matter where your personality is on the spectrum, you can find the right fit for you.  Whether that’s a start-up mentality where you are able to drive the direction of the company or whether that’s corporate where you can be a piece of the bigger picture and really see how your bit interlocks with everything else that’s out there. There’s something for everyone.”