Posted by: arbeam | August 9, 2018

How I Became a “Woman in Tech” (and why more military spouses should consider doing it, too)

In Virginia Beach, VA at AFCEA East in 2010. I spoke regularly at DON CIO Conferences east and west every year.

I Work with Leaders to Develop Programs Designed to Build a More Successful and Resilient Military Community.

When I graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1997 with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, no one, and I mean NO ONE, could have predicted the life that lay ahead of me. I had already decided against pursuing a PhD in Anthropology for the time being after a trip to New York revealed that Brancusi’s “Bird In Space”, which I’d thought to be the size of an Emmy Award thanks to a small photograph in an art history text book, was instead a huge sculpture (a series of sculptures if I’m to be accurate.) I decided in that moment that I wanted to experience the world, not read about it.

The office manager job I got immediately following my post graduation summer gig suddenly required me to learn how to make a “web page” and they promptly sent me to UCSB Extension to learn how to be a Webmaster and use Adobe Photoshop. Netscape Communicator became my jam (EEESH). This Internet thing was starting to get BIG and I had fun learning how to design and code (as wretched as my first designs may have been.) Soon, I was consulting for small businesses, non-profits, and individuals, creating much better websites and, after learning how to do more complex programming beyond HMTL and Javascript, I became a professional Web Developer.

ME. The woman who wanted to follow my professor, Napoleon Chagnon, into South America JUST to see the Yanomamo with my own eyes. ME. The woman who HATED math. ME. Once a kid who was told I should stick to writing and forget about pursuing sciences because I was better at the former. THAT woman suddenly was a no kidding “woman in tech”. That was 20 years ago when the tech space was still largely a lonely and frustrating place to be for women, from my perspective. Still, I did everything I could to excel in my profession, advance my career, and become “successful”. And to some extent, my LinkedIn profile will tell you that I did.

Fast forward many years to a few weeks ago when I volunteered my advice for a book written for women in the first year of their career in tech. I was thrilled to be a part of it, but it also made me think, “SERIOUSLY? Why are we STILL having to encourage women and girls to consider technology careers? Why do we STILL have that ridiculous gender gap?” I don’t mean this as a slight to the strides that have been made for and by women in the tech industry over these last two decades at all. It’s a line of questioning that has made me ask myself, “Have I done enough to encourage women to get into this field? Have I shared the stories of fight, defeat, and victory in a way that inspires and lifts today’s women, particularly military spouses, and inspires them to continue to fight that good fight?” The answer I feel, sadly, is no.

In some ways, my new position at Microsoft will allow me to connect with women who are considering technology as a profession, but I’ve decided I want to do more. In addition to advocating for military spouses here, I want to advocate for women to consider careers in technology – not for equality’s sake but for QUALITY’S SAKE. Women make teams SMARTER as Wooley and Malone discovered in their research. So, weaved between the Top 5 Lists, Inspiring Quotes, and How-To videos in the works, I also plan to share a few of those personal stories from my life in technology for women considering (or even dismissing) it as a profession.

I’m a social scientist through and through, but technology is what I built my career with and on and I want to empower women to do the same – particularly female military spouses looking for work that is MEANINGFUL, rewarding, and profitable. I’m not here simply to say we need more women in tech. We need diversity of ideas, backgrounds, EQs, IQs, and experiences in the technical work force as we expand cloud architecture and make advances in AI, deep learning, and data analytics. For me that means, women, we need YOU.

If you’re a woman considering a career in technology, I’d love to speak with you! You can schedule a phone call on my calendar in just a few moments here: There is no ask on my part at all. I’m simply here to share my experiences and encourage you through yours.

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