This article is featured courtesy of Jamie Holter, Communications Manager, Department of Information Technology
How did you get your start in IT? I spent a year after getting my Humanities B.A. working for AmeriCorps and at the end of my service I chose to use the education stipend I earned on computer classes at South Seattle College. At first it was just for fun but I was inspired by some great teachers and decided to go ahead and finish the Software Engineering program.
That led me to an internship for the college web team working on their main site online learning program. My supervisor there was a wonderful mentor and role model and she, and my former teachers, actively helped me in my job search for a full time position. I ended up at the University of Washington coding for a small research group. We had a team of three programmers, all women. The team lead quickly challenged me to move from asp classic to .NET. I learned a ton from her.
Do you bring a different perspective to IT? I’m not sure if my perspective is different, but my experience has been that collaboration is the key to success in IT. I would never have gotten this far or stayed in the field if I hadn’t been encouraged, found mentors, and been truly included in development teams. The myth of the lone coder is probably not productive for women or for men.
Do people treat you differently because you are a woman? I don’t think people intentionally treat me any differently. Sometimes I think women in IT can be underestimated. This can happen in assumptions about skill level and also what our role is on a team. I do think King County is ahead of most other organizations on encouraging diversity in hiring and in creating a respectful workplace culture. I feel lucky to work in a great group.
Do you have advice for young women considering a career in IT? Go for it! Don’t assume you have to have majored in a STEM field to go into programming. Don’t assume work-life balance will be impossible. Try out as many technologies as you can. Find a mentor. Don’t rule out IT as a career based on negative news reports about a few companies. There are a lot of different organizations out there and they’re all different. It’s about finding a good fit.
If you could go back in time, what do you wish you would have done? Worked for a startup in 1999- 2000 for the fun of it!