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My Accidental Career as a Woman in Technology

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-Molly Webber
Yukōdit Center Director

My entire career in technology happened by accident. As a high schooler, I was an avid athlete trying to play softball at the next level. I managed to gain some interest from the Stevens Institute of Technology coach and ultimately decided that was where I wanted to go. Stevens presented opportunities to play softball, be near New York City, and be close to home, but like any 17-year-old, I had not given much thought to the academic side of things.

I can remember flipping through a brochure of majors and seeing Cybersecurity, Information Systems, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Systems Engineering, Civil Engineering and more. I can also remember thinking I had NO idea what ANY of those were and I wasn’t alone in that. It is almost a joke at Stevens that the only way female students enroll is if they intend to play a sport. How sad is that? You mean to tell me these disciplines aren’t attractive enough on their own? Well they should be.

Cybersecurity professionals keep our personal records AND our nation’s records safe. Biomedical engineers help wounded soldiers walk again. Computer engineers are the masterminds behind today’s supercomputers. Computer scientists design sophisticated gaming software. Civil engineers design the bridges, roads, and buildings that we use every day. It is time to educate our kids about the careers that cater to the problem-solvers and the tinkerers.

I made an uninformed decision to major in Cybersecurity. My first semester of classes included Introduction to Computer Science and Introduction to Innovation and Creativity, neither of which seemed like an introductory level course. The content was fast paced and advanced, and I was the one of the only girls in the program. It was intimidating and way out of my comfort zone, but I could have been more prepared. I have since learned that my high school offered optional computer science classes, but I am sure I dismissed that offering as something built for Brainiac girls and gaming boys, a stereotype I am now committed to eliminating.

In the end, I graduated Stevens with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business and Technology. I don’t regret my decision. I spent my 4 years learning about advanced technology and the way it could be used to improve a company. I built mobile applications, a database, and optimization models, but it was not until I had some real work experience under my belt that I realized two critical skills were missing: design thinking and computer programming. Computer programming was an everyday challenge during my time in Financial Technology, and since my exposure to coding was limited, I had no choice but to dedicate personal time to learning languages such as Python and SQL. The combination of code and design thinking was vital to adequately meeting the needs of my clients. After leaving finance for a role in Educational Technology at a local independent school, I was again reminded that needfinding, understanding, and creating were all key ingredients to writing and implementing curriculum in a project based environment. I’m willing to bet you can find a way to apply these skills to any career, and not just in technology.

I was unfortunately forced to recognize the benefits of design thinking and coding on my own, and therefore, my skills in these areas are largely self-taught, but they shouldn’t be, and that’s what Yukōdit is trying to change. Our team is ready to prepare all of our students, especially the young girls, with the skills needed to contribute and create in ways they did not think possible. We want our students to feel confident that they can be the next Meg Whitman, Renee James, Weili Dai, Tracy Chou, and Isis Wenger because they can be. And better yet, they can do it on purpose.

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