Category Archives: Interviews

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!”

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.”

Women in Tech – It’s a Media Problem

CooperHarrisMaybe it’s good luck; I’m not sure. I’ve only been in the content creation game for a short time and the people I’m meeting are pretty amazing. Cooper Harris is no exception and was exceptionally fun to talk to. She was kind enough to sit down with me between events at the AT&T Developer Summit. I really enjoyed learning a little about her company; getting her thoughts on women in tech; and getting inspired by her excitement with the combination of entertainment and technology.

Entertaining Tech

iGirl: You were sitting on one of the panels and mentioned that you were transitioning from entertainment to tech. What happened that prompted the change?

Cooper: I’ve been acting professionally since I was twelve and really never considered that I would be in tech whatsoever; it never crossed my mind until about this past year. I just found that I was no longer feeling fulfilled by entertainment. I wanted to become an actress to tell compelling stories that were life changing and would help people. I found that I was getting kind of the same roles; the damsel in distress seductress type.

That’s really only one side of what I can do. I wanted to show the side of me that’s a tech CEO and runs things and makes cool apps that help people. That’s when – about a year and a half ago – I had the idea for my startup. Then, about a year ago I made the decision to put everything aside  and dive completely into tech.

Too Many Clicks – Resolved.

iGirl: Tell me a little about the startup.

Cooper: It’s called Klickly. We’re basically a big optimization platform for mobile. Companies are paying a lot of money to tweet and post about their products on Facebook and Instagram. I found that it was very difficult to actually follow through on a mobile purchase from one of these companies. There are just too many clicks. They send you to the website; make you click through the shopping process and it just took much too long to accomplish. Klickly has developed the tech that makes the whole process of purchasing on mobile – from social – much easier for the consumer.

iGirl: So, what got you started with going to hackathons?

Cooper: Getting into tech, I realized there’s this whole world I don’t know anything about – and that it’s really fascinating and it’s creative. People don’t realize just how creative it is. I found that hackathons are a great place to use my story telling talents.

I’ve found that I can be a huge asset  to these teams of magnificently talented developers by helping them tell the story. I get really passionate about whatever we’re creating and I think that tends to put us over the top. I won the last AT&T hackathon in LA and that was really cool. It’s not something most people thought I would do; they were like “why is this actress doing hackathons?”

Women in Tech – It’s a Media Problem

iGirl: I tweeted the prize from Ericsson yesterday for women in tech and received an overwhelming response. There’s a big issue with the lack of women in tech right now; what are your thoughts on that?

Cooper: I go to tech events in LA and I’m the only woman there; or one of three – and the others are recruiters. I’ve honestly run into a couple of situations where I’ll be asked to meet and talk about my company and have found that the guy actually wanted a date. I think if there were more women in tech the perspective would change and this might not happen.

iGirl: What do you think we can do to encourage more women to be in the tech industry?

Cooper: I think Ericsson has exactly the right idea. You give a prize to women who are willing to make that leap and put themselves out there. Let’s be real – it’s not something we’re encouraged to do from a young age. Maybe there’s more of that happening now; but when I was growing up you were an actress or singer. Those were the prestigious and valued images of women; pretty, sexy and in front of the camera.

I think it’s so important to show young women that – yes – they can absolutely be a beautiful actress; but they can also do all of these other things. It’s all available – it’s not like someone is stopping us anymore. But when you don’t see something; you don’t know that it’s there or gravitate towards it. When it’s not celebrated you aren’t going to be compelled to do it.

I want to show young women that you can be young and hip and in tech as well.

iGirl: Do you think the education system is part of the problem?

Cooper: To some extent – maybe. But I would say that it’s more a media problem. I think celebrities need to come out and say  – I’m a fan of science. I know that – as I was growing up – I saw boy and girl toys and I was to play with the pink toys. That’s hurtful and problematic. I really want to take the focus off of women playing dress-up – not that it’s bad. I just think it’s important to champion other stuff because it’s way out of balance right now.

Nerds at Sundance

iGirl: You’re doing a hackathon at Sundance of all places. It sounds like a cool combo of entertainment and tech.

Cooper: That’s my main goal – to kind of bridge that gap between entertainment and technology. And, to do it in a smart-cool way that increases the liveliness of both. I’m producing the first ever tech and innovation summit; I’m really excited about that. Literally, the first hackathon at Sundance; with the first Pitchfest with VC panels and female entrepreneur panels.

My end goal is to blend the smartest minds in the nation in tech with the best story tellers of entertainment. Because that’s what I’m doing in a microcosm in my life. I feel like I’ve been trained as a good storyteller and I want to surround myself and become a tech innovator.

I think when we blend those two together we have the best of both worlds and we can achieve really cool things.

In Closing

I really like the concept of combining storytelling with technology. Heck, the gaming industry has been doing that for a very long time. It’s obvious that with her passion, drive, and perspective that Cooper will make some significant inroads in the tech community. I’m looking forward to seeing how she furthers her passion of combining the two words of techertainment.

I will close by mentioning the research I did – after the show – on women in tech. There are a ton of resources that are trying to fit this need. However, the media issue that Cooper talked about is definitely a problem. I think that when we start portraying more women in tech in our cultures media; only then will the balance shift properly.