Overview of Women in Tech Week
We had an inspirational Women in Tech Week at 42. Guests included a former fighter pilot, a panel of women in the auto industry, and a creative technologist. We are grateful to those who participated in interactive discussions with our students. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to share your unique insights. Below is a recap of our events:
Presentations: Advice from Experts in the Field
Ilana Golan: From Fighter Pilot to Venture Capitalist
Ilana Golan was the first female to become an F-16 Flight Instructor commander in the Israeli Air-Force simulator. She gave an interactive presentation at 42 titled, “Innovate, Lead, Break Barriers.” Now working in venture capitalism with her own firm called Golan Ventures, she told the audience that breaking barriers takes you outside of your comfort zone, “When you wake up in the morning, you need to know your purpose, your mission, your goal. Just thinking about it helps you make decisions when things get really hard.” Illana also acknowledged that big successes will come with big failures. It is important to know your audience if you want to change people’s hearts or minds.
Illana encouraged students to never give up, “one thing that is critical to understand is that companies don’t fail when people make mistakes. Companies fail when people give up. Startups are like throwing spaghetti on the wall, most won’t stick. As long as you keep on trying, there is hope. The other thing I want you to think about is, you basically need to think differently in order to shine. If you don’t, you will fall behind.” Illana also advised 42 students to think positive, celebrate the little wins, communicate effectively and don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your priorities.
Dana Stevenson: Journey to Becoming A Systems Architect
Dana Stevenson serves as a System Architect for Enterprise Database Management at Wells Fargo. She shared her journey from growing up in North Carolina, and how she came from a nontraditional background. With a bachelor’s degree in Biology, she never thought she would be working in computer science. Now Dana is a technology professional with more than 18 years in experience with technical DBA and Lead positions. This includes roles in SaaS, IT, Finance, Marketing, Sales and Legal. Dana had a lot of great advice for our students. Not only did she go over what a system architect does but also the responsibilities of a database administrator.
Dana talked about how she is currently working on her master’s degree in Cybersecurity Operations and Leadership. She encouraged students to keep on learning, even later on in life. She finished off her presentation with a few quick life lessons, emphasizing that diversity is our strength. A student who attended Dana’s talk shared, “I loved Dana’s energy and unique story. It was reassuring to hear that she overcame obstacles to achieve success, even though she didn’t have the easiest start. It’s great to meet successful people who take the time to invest in those who are learning at our level. They show us how the learning never stops no matter how far you get.”
Allie Glotfelty: Apprentice to Software Engineer
Allie Glotfelty, a full-stack software engineer at Twilio Inc., gave a talk that focused on software engineering apprenticeships and what it takes to convert to a full-time engineer. She encouraged students to be open to apprenticeship opportunities, “Apprenticeships give you a ton of support and feedback out of the box. From mentors to multiple managers to learning sessions with your fellow apprentices. These resources are all available to you as a full-time engineer, but they’re something you’ll need to find for yourself.”
Allie also gave advice about the benefits of developing your soft skills. She shared, “I think in order to be successful in any career as a software engineer, you have to have a positive attitude. You also need to work hard and be an effective communicator. That’s what helps folks convert to full-time as apprentices and what will help folks progress in their careers.” Allie has a wealth of experience in improving processes and building relationships and we are glad she was able to pass along that wisdom with students during her presentation at 42. Allie shared with us, “Overall, I had a wonderful experience meeting with the students at 42 during their Women In Tech Week. Everyone was engaged and asked thoughtful questions that helped make presenting much more interactive, easy and enjoyable.”
Kitty Yeung: Creative Technologist incorporating Science + Engineering + Design + Art
Kitty Yeung, also known as “Physicist Kitty,” is a Creative Technologist and Manager of the Garage, Microsoft. She is developing a new type of career path and she manages the space of Microsoft’s Garage. According to Kitty, “The name comes from the fact that in Silicon Valley, all the innovation started in the garage. People have these great ideas and need to find a place to build them. The Garage is Microsoft’s idea incubator. People can have a space to build what they are passionate about. We not only have a makerspace, but we also have partnerships. To leverage the ecosystem we collaborate with startups and universities. I get to work with all these people and work on my own passion projects.”
Inspiring People Through Art and Science
Kitty explained how the Garage interns form a group with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Their existing groups will pitch their ideas to interns so they can actually work as a startup. The interns build something that is complete by the end of their internship. Kitty shared, “I really enjoy my job right now. It combines manager with creator so it is actually a position I came up with myself. A creative technologist incorporates science, engineering, design, and art. I want a career where I can combine all of these things and pursue things that haven’t been done before. This is a spectrum, art and science are very similar, they inspire people. At the interface of engineering and design, you can build useful products for people.”
Kitty’s presentation was lit, literally. She was wearing one of her projects that uses electrical circuits and programming and combined it with fashion design. She also designed a dress that detects her motion and shows the corresponding constellation when she moves her hand. For more information about Kitty, and the amazing projects she is working on, please visit her blog.
Tesla Panel: Inspiring Words from Women in the Auto Tech Industry
During Women in Tech Week, 42 hosted a Tesla Panel with Associate Software Engineer Dayana Hijaz, Senior Software Engineer Monica Lin, Controls Engineer Roslynn Ricard and Senior Staff Product Manager Sair Buckle. Two 42 students, Isa Hodge, and Maya Soni, served as moderators for the event. The diverse group of women shared their backgrounds in technology and how they got the positions they have at Tesla.
It was encouraging for our student community to hear that there are different pathways for getting into auto tech, such as Sair Buckle who has a background in sales/marketing/advertising but now works as a Product Manager. The panelists answered questions about their roles at Tesla. This includes how they got into the field, what advice they have for nontraditional students, and what prior knowledge you may need if you want to work in hardware. They also went over any challenges associated with being a woman in a male-dominated field.
Sair told the audience about her nontraditional path to Tesla. She gave some advice, “My career is actually not that dissimilar to most product managers. People fall into product management who generally have this sort of love of finding problems and wanting to solve them for people, and not getting wedded to the solution but getting wedded to the problem. So my advice would be to say yes to things, that has definitely helped me, and continuously be curious.”
Monica encouraged the audience of 42 students to have confidence and to use the vast resources online that are available to them, “Don’t be scared. Obviously, you guys are all here. You all have a vested interested in learning about software. The big first step is recognizing that and going after it. Beyond that, it is more I would say, keep trying. At work, for example, there are so many people I work with in firmware who don’t have a background at all in software engineering. I work with a neuroscientist, a psychologist, someone who majored in physics and switched to Python and became an embedded engineer. It is finding what you want to do and getting the resources to do it. We live in a day and age where those resources are accessible.”
Dayana spoke about motivation and gave some tips on how to land a software engineering job, “I don’t know what will motivate you. Whether it might be decent salaries, a love of coding, or a lot of opportunities. There is the fast iteration cycle, or the feeling, for me, software is almost like magic and can create whatever you want. It is amazing. Whatever the motivation is, you need to keep reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing. As to how to land a software engineering job, you need to have the technical know-how for sure. But I think a lot of it is attitude, commitment and discipline. Show you are driven and passionate. If you don’t know something admit it and say you will learn it and are interested in learning it.”
Ask Yourself the “Why?”
Roslynn touched on something that we continually ask of our students at 42, to ask yourself the “why?” and to recognize and build on the skills that you don’t have, “The “why?” is very important. Why are you doing this? You don’t have to know exactly where you are going to end up. But if you have an idea it helps you focus a lot. It feels like there are infinite resources, it is about “where do you start?” And when you do start if you don’t have a “why” you are going to drop it very quickly.”
Roslynn continued, “The other thing is, try to identify what kind of learner you are. I found that I get a lot of enjoyment working with a group. There is a lot of personal development as well. It is about really investing in yourself, and getting the skills that you know you don’t have. You will always have a knowledge gap. The big thing is identifying what those are and what resources you have available. What you guys are doing right now is exactly correct. You are getting the technical know-how and from there, developing a network is the best thing you can do. Being very persistent, continuing to invest in yourself and reevaluating why you are doing this will give you a lot more focus and will keep you motivated.”
42 student and panel moderator Isa was inspired by the advice that the Tesla panelists were giving. She noted, “That is really inspirational. At 42 we have to strive every day to be here and to motivate ourselves. So I feel like we go through this all the time.” Afterward, the audience was given a chance to ask the panelists questions related to their careers at Tesla. Overall, the event ended with more knowledge about the field and encouragement about how to stay driven…pun intended.