I fell in love with programming when I was in high school math class. My teacher, who was in her 30s and had majored in computer science, decided one day to expose us to the fundamentals. We were asked to traverse a robot to another part of a house using only steps of ‘forward, backward, turn right or turn left’. Pretty straight forward, but so very cool when my robot got there, and I was responsible for making it happen!
Because of Ms. Bailey, I went on to major in computer science, become a software developer, and later a product manager. I felt empowered every time I made my piece of a project work or drove a new product concept. Of course, I have noticed that I am often one of the few (if not only!) women in the room, but I have just acclimated to it.
Is it in the best interest of the business to have mostly male dominated teams? The best software products are created with teams that are diverse. Let’s face it, people from varying races, religions and genders think and behave differently and when they come together to work on a project, first-rate ideas are formed.
The sad part is that the number of women in technology careers has been declining over the years. Across our nation, only 12% of the computer science majors are female. So my latest mission is to inspire more young girls to become interested in technology careers by spearheading TechGirlz in Raleigh and Durham. To do this, we are exposing middle school age girls to how much fun it is to create their own website, to work with a team to design something new, and to the natural high of getting their program to work. The best part, for me, is when I see the girls’ faces light up during the process. That is the moment they realize that they can indeed do it, and do it well. Each time that happens, it validates that every hour I spend on the initiative is truly worth it. It is then that I feel like I have helped a young mind realize her potential, and hopefully put a dent in changing the equation in the future.
Throughout my lifetime, I have always donated money to various charities because there are so many worthy causes. But nothing really compares to donating my time and seeing, with my very own eyes, the difference that I am making. It undeniably feeds the soul.
What cause do you feel passionately about? Pay it forward by donating your time and then experience the enormous sense of gratitude. It is intoxicating.