Companies walk the talk on hiring women in CS and software
Women in computer science don�t want to be singled out as women; they want to be recognized for the work they do
�Many bright female students miss out on opportunities because of a lack of confidence.� � Sreeparna Mukherjee, Cisco Systems
By Dan Margherita
Senior Contributing Editor
'Technology is the underpinning of everything we do today. Nearly all companies need computer scientists, and the best companies want a significant percentage of their computer scientists to be women,� says Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI, Palo Alto, CA).
Currently, 18 percent of computer science graduates nationally are women, Whitney notes. Many attend schools where there aren�t many women in their majors.
�One of the things I find interesting is that they don�t want to be singled out as women,� Whitney says. �They want to be recognized for the work they do.�
Whitney received a BS in computer science in 1978 from the University of Utah (Salt Lake City), and in 1985 earned her PhD from the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena).
�Sometimes women face unconscious biases when they start working, and suddenly all the things they discounted in school start impacting their careers. Some companies are better than others at providing an inclusive environment where both men and women can thrive,� explains Whitney.
�After five years on a job, women tend to leave at a faster rate than men. Many of the companies ABI works with are looking seriously at how they retain and advance women in their organizations.�
Diversity is an investment
Many companies in the tech-heavy financial sector are making serious efforts to build an inclusive workplace culture that welcomes women and other diverse employees.
U.S. Bankcorp (Minneapolis, MN) reports that women make up more than half its workforce and hold leadership positions across the organization. �At U.S. Bank, we celebrate the spirit of inclusion by creating an environment where all of us can easily find a place to fit into our company�s big picture,� says Stephanie D. Franklin, senior human resources partner.
�Our leaders understand that diversity and inclusion is much deeper than being simply interested. It is one of our biggest and most important investments.�
Sreeparna Mukherjee: software engineer for Cisco
Cisco Systems, Inc (San Jose, CA) provides intelligent networks and technology architectures built on integrated products, services and software platforms. Sreeparna Mukherjee is a software engineer in Cisco�s Internet of Things business unit.
�I work on the software that�s on the field area router and industrial Ethernet switches,� she says. �The Internet of Things is something Cisco is very excited about. We already have several visionary projects under way.�
The Internet of Things concept started with the notion that there eventually will be more devices than people connected to the Internet, Mukherjee explains. �Everything we use in our daily lives will be connected to the Internet via sensors on the energy grid, in healthcare facilities, transportation systems, manufacturing floors and more.�
Mukherjee is part of a nine-person team responsible for platform and software development for field area network routers.
�When we think of a new product, we collaborate with other teams to decide what is possible and what isn�t,� she says. �Everyone from management to developers comes together to pitch new ideas.�
Helping women find their voice
Mukherjee�s older brother introduced her to technology. �He taught me how to program when I was nine years old,� she remembers. �We didn�t have much in the way of computer science in our school, so it was my strong personal interest that made me want to continue studying it.�
She attended the West Bengal University of Technology (Kolkata, India) and earned a BS in computer science engineering in 2009. She recalls there were very few women in her classes and very little support. �Many bright female students missed out on good opportunities because of a lack of confidence,� she says.
So Mukherjee founded an undergraduate women-in-computing organization. �We started working on projects together and interacting with other colleges. It helped foster personal development and confidence.�
Mukherjee came to the United States in 2010 for her grad study. She chose the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) and earned a 2012 masters degree in computer science. She worked as a research associate in the computer science department at UCSD.
Her husband, also a UCSD student, received a job offer in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Cisco is located, so she focused her job search in that location.
Mukherjee had heard good things about Cisco. �I had friends who worked there and they told me what a wonderful place it was,� she says. �The work/life balance is great and there are many opportunities for professional development.�
Mukherjee belongs to the Connected Women group at Cisco and also participates in university recruiting. Outside Cisco, she participates in many ABI activities.
�In the near future, I plan to start a blog to share the resources I have benefitted from with women all over the world,� she says.
Mukherjee�s efforts mesh well with the value that Cisco places on gender diversity. On International Women�s Day last year, CEO John T. Chambers exhorted his organization to do more.
�We operate every day with gender stereotypes and biases, many of which we do not realize,� he pointed out. �While I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk. I think each of you, on reflection, will identify opportunities to operate at a new level with your women employees.�
�Right now, my realistic expectation is to continue working on challenging projects and stay on the cutting edge of technology,� Mukherjee says. �Working with the Internet of Things gives me an opportunity to be part of the next big revolution in technology.�
Angela Lewis: health IT analyst at Booz Allen Hamilton
Angela Lewis is a senior consultant and health IT analyst with Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA), where she works in the health account group, supporting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
CMS is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers Medicare and Medicaid, and, among other duties, oversees the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
�My project work is to help CMS plan, implement and manage the IT infrastructure for the federally facilitated health insurance marketplaces,� Lewis explains. �We also work with individual states and insurance companies to set up their own marketplaces. Booz Allen is one of many contractors working on this.�
Earning distinction with healthcare industry experience
Growing up in Youngstown, OH, Lewis knew she wanted to break the cycle of poverty that she saw around her. She had always been fascinated by the health field, influenced in part by the many members of her family who worked in hospitals. Early on, she wanted to be an anesthesiologist.
�I am a second-generation American and a first-generation college student in my family,� says Lewis, whose mother is from El Salvador. Lewis attended Georgetown University (Washington, DC) where she graduated cum laude with a BS in healthcare management and policy in 2010.
As an undergrad, she interned with a health advocacy group and was a congressional intern. She also interned as a policy analyst at Georgetown Hospital and worked as a government relations analyst with Care First BlueCross BlueShield DC.
In 2010, Lewis was asked by the Hispanic College Fund to attend a Great Minds in STEM conference, and it was there she met a Booz Allen recruiter.
�I went through several back-to-back interviews and wound up on a technology team,� she remembers. �I was the only one on the team with a health degree or background, so it was nice that I could distinguish myself that way.�
Within Booz Allen, Lewis belongs to the Women�s Forum. She also is a member of the Latin American Forum, where she is the professional development chair.
�The path I�m on marries my project management and general management skills with technical skills in the health field,� says Lewis. �I�m grateful for my time here so far. My managers have taken a keen interest in my development.�
Last December, Lewis was accepted into the management of IT masters program at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA).
Amanda Zacharski: technical professional analyst for Comerica Bank
Amanda Zacharski is working at her dream job.
She is a technical professional analyst in the service company development program of Comerica Bank. Comerica Incorporated (Dallas, TX) is a financial services company with three business units: a business bank, a retail bank and a wealth management unit.
Born and raised just north of Detroit, MI, Zacharski started college as a pharmacy major but switched to management information systems in her sophomore year.
�I was taking a required computer course and I had a wonderful professor who taught me Visual Basic,� she says. �That�s when I decided that I wanted to work with computers and be in the IT profession.�
Zacharski was unfazed by the small number of women in her class. �There were about thirty-five students graduating with this degree,� she says, �and only four of us were women. We all had classes together and learned that we could hold our own.� She earned her BS in MIS from Oakland University (Rochester, MI) in April 2013.
In the months before graduation, Comerica was one of many companies that visited the campus. Zacharski initially took a job in tech support for Complete Data Products (Troy, MI), a company that offered paperless solutions to credit unions. However, Comerica came back with a job offer two months later that was more in line with what she wanted to do.
Currently, Zacharski is in a two-year rotation program during which she will spend eight months in three business areas of information services: application development services, the enterprise program management office, and business relationship management. �I become fully immersed in all of their operations,� she explains. �Each area assigns a mentor to me.�
In her first rotation, she worked closely with a team of six people to develop an application. �I learned the responsibilities of the project manager and the QA tester,� she says.
At the end of each assignment, she meets with her manager for an assessment and participates in a presentation to the chief technology officer. After the two years are up, Zacharski will be placed in an area that she�s expressed interest in. �Most of the time, people get their preference,� she says.
Whitney Lai: software engineer, Electronic Arts
Whitney Lai is a software engineer at interactive entertainment software company Electronic Arts, Inc (EA, Redwood City, CA). EA delivers games, content and online services for Internet-connected consoles, personal computers, mobile phones and tablets.
�When people think of Electronic Arts, they tend to think of games like Mass Effect or FIFA,� says Lai, �but rather than work on a specific game, my team actually works on the internal and core technology that game teams use on the mobile side.�
Although EA has a large catalog of mobile games that offer a wide variety of game play experience, the games also share many similarities, Lai explains.
�For instance, most mobile games have a store where users can purchase items, like power-ups or virtual currency. Rather than having every game studio rewrite these same pieces of code, we provide a ready-to-go tool that the teams can integrate into their product. This helps save time and resources, and creates a better experience for the gamer.�
Electronic gaming: a perfect fit
Lai was born in Chicago, but her family moved to California when she was six years old, eventually settling in the Silicon Valley area.
�Both my parents worked long hours, so I found myself at home in front of the computer most nights sneaking in as many hours of video games as I could before my parents came home and made me do homework,� says Lai. �I realized that video games were my calling.�
Lai�s parents are her biggest inspiration. �Through their hard work, they made sure I�d never really want for anything. If they hadn�t done that, I wouldn�t be where I am today.�
Lai attended the University of California-Berkeley. She had taken classes there as far back as middle school. She earned her BS in electrical engineering and computer science in 2013.
During her college years, Lai interned at several companies, including GoodData (San Francisco, CA), a small startup data analytics and visualization company, and Microsoft (Redmond, WA). Then, unexpectedly, she received an e-mail from EA.
�They had seen my online application and were interested in interviewing me for an internship. I knew it was a perfect fit.�
After her Electronic Arts experience, Lai did a co-op at another game provider, Zynga (San Francisco, CA), before returning to EA to work full time.
�When I describe my team to my friends, I often compare us to a family. We work hard together, but play hard together too. Our culture is very open and none of us is ever afraid to ask for help if we need it.�
Eventually, Lai would like to get a graduate degree, either an MBA or an MSCS.
�Electronic Arts is committed to driving diversity across the broader industry and marketplace to mirror the growth of our consumer base,� declares Andre Chambers, director of talent acquisition and leader of EA�s diversity and inclusion team. �By fostering an inclusive working environment, we can ensure that different ideas and diverse creativity come to life, resulting in amazing experiences for our players around the world. Gender diversity is a business imperative for EA.�
Krista Miller: applications system analyst for Ingersoll Rand
Although Krista Miller was always interested in math when she was growing up in Rice Lake, WI, she was lukewarm about it by the time she got to college.
�I started at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) as a math major, but wasn�t that excited about it,� she admits. �My husband was a computer science major and he encouraged me to take an introductory computer science course. I absolutely loved it. I declared myself a CS major right after that class.�
She earned her BS in computer science with a minor in mathematics in May 2013 and expects to have her MS in software engineering, also from UW-L, this year.
Miller is an applications system analyst at Trane (La Crosse, WI), one of four strategic brands of Ingersoll Rand (Dublin, Ireland). Trane makes domestic and industrial heating and cooling equipment, home automation systems and a variety of other environmental control and security products.
From nervous intern to fulltime professional
Miller began interning with Trane when she was a junior in college. �I really wasn�t looking for an internship,� Miller says, �but another student had interned at Trane and e-mailed the entire CS department about what a great company it was and how much he had learned. I had the requirements they were looking for, so I applied and was chosen.�
Four weeks later, she began at Trane as a business tools software intern. Miller was intimidated at first. �Fortunately, there was another intern there in the same position and he was my mentor for the first couple of months.�
The industry experience was nothing like classwork, Miller notes. �In school, they teach you about programming languages and software engineering, but they don�t teach you how to use them in a job setting. Once I got the hang of it, though, it went really well.�
When Miller�s internship ended in December 2013, she was offered a fulltime position that she started immediately. Her current project is the Trane Official Product Selection System (TOPSS), a software package that helps customers determine which Trane equipment best meets their heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs.
The TOPSS team is made up of ten people. �We all have computer science backgrounds,� Miller says. �Four of us are recently out of school and the others have been here a while. They know everything there is to know.�
Miller is excited about working at Trane. �I know everybody here and I feel like I fit in,� she says. �I�ve been assigned a mentor so there is always someone I can go to and they�re always willing to help. It gives me the small-town feeling that I was brought up with.�
Kristen Schindler: lead incident manager for JPMorgan Chase
�I like to drive my own future rather than wait for things to come to me,� asserts Kristen Schindler.
Schindler is lead incident manager working in production assurance at JPMorgan Chase and Company (Wilmington, DE), a role she assumed not long after joining the institution in 2011. JPMorgan Chase is a global financial services firm with assets of $2.4 trillion and operations worldwide.
�I work with Chase Card Services, our credit card business,� she says. �My job is very fast-paced. I work with our businesses to solve technical problems that affect customer service. I work with our online and mobile platforms, as well as our automated voice response system.�
It�s a high-stress position because it�s time-critical, Schindler admits. �Our goal is to fix issues as quickly as possible so that the customer is not negatively affected. But it�s also very rewarding. When I leave the office, I really feel that I accomplished something.�
Schindler is a native of Delaware. She earned her BA in management information systems from the University of Delaware (UD, Newark) in 2011. �My dad was in technology,� she says, �and I think some of those things tend to rub off on you, nature versus nurture.�
She was always interested in design, and after interning with a photographer during her senior year of high school, Schindler founded her own graphic design company, Surreal Designs (Newark, DE). She ran the company during her entire time in college.
�I wanted to understand how to build this vision I had in my head,� she says. �That�s when I decided to shift my focus to both technology and business.�
She met JPMorgan Chase representatives during her last year at UD, and interned in the company�s Global Enterprise Technology extended internship program as a business system analyst. She worked on applications related to JPMC facilities.
When she graduated, Schindler joined the organization full time and was selected for its technology analyst development program, which offers three six-month rotations in operations, application development and project execution.
�Our business is obviously about finance, but we are also a technology company,� she explains. �We don�t offer just enough support for the business to function; we�re here to innovate for our customers.�
Schindler is a member of the company�s women�s interactive networking group and has female mentors. She notes that women working in technology need to connect with women in senior positions to learn who they are, how they function, and how they got to where they are.
�My next mile marker is to move into a management leadership position,� Schindler says. �I want to lead my own team and be the trendsetter.�
�At JPMorgan Chase, diversity is not just a word but a key component to our success for our shareholders, customers and employees,� says Patricia David, head of diversity. �When we think about all the facets of diversity, we recognize that a clear focus on women is an important part of that success.�
Dana Gorodetsky: data scientist for McGraw Hill Financial�s S&P; Capital IQ
Until March 2018, Dana Gorodetsky was a data scientist at McGraw Hill Financial�s S&P; Capital IQ (New York, NY). McGraw Hill Financial is a financial intelligence company that provides independent benchmarks, credit ratings, portfolio and enterprise risk solutions, and analytics for global capital and commodity markets. McGraw Hill Financial acquired Capital IQ, a provider of information solutions to the global investment and financial services communities, in 2004, and created S&P; Capital IQ.
Gorodetsky was born in the former Soviet Union and grew up in Massachusetts. She was always interested in technology. �I took advanced computer programming, math and science courses at local colleges on my own while I was in high school,� she says. �I�ve always liked to learn and reimagine what�s possible. I think that�s why technology suits me well.�
She graduated from MIT (Cambridge, MA) in 2008 with a BS in comparative media studies, which focused on the evolution of media in technology, industry and the arts. �They were talking about things that we�re just starting to see now. It gave me a great understanding of how technology relates to society and culture as a whole,� she says.
As an undergrad, Gorodetsky interned at a digital marketing agency, and worked there full time for a semester. After graduation, she worked at an international law firm while studying for her Law School Admission Test. �I thought I might work on intellectual property for new media and technology, but I decided law wasn�t my calling,� she says.
Next Gorodetsky moved to a late-stage e-commerce startup. In 2011, she decided to try going more deeply into analytics, which brought her to S&P; Capital IQ.
�I responded to an online ad for a traditional analyst job, but then we started talking about the data science team and what they do. It was exactly what I�d been looking for. I felt like this was being handed to me on a golden platter! I didn�t know that this kind of opportunity existed.�
Gorodetsky was the first external hire on the data science team. �We provided data-driven products and features for our internal clients, including our sales team, and for external customers who work in the financial space. The team also builds processing systems to collect, analyze and visualize large amounts of data in unique ways to make a seamless, efficient and enjoyable user experience.�
Other team projects included developing a fraud development tool to understand when users may be sharing user names and passwords. Another was to create a recommendation engine to provide interesting and relevant, but previously invisible, content to end users of the platform.
Gorodetsky was a member of the company�s women�s initiative for networking and success (WINS) resource group.
In March, Gorodetsky left McGraw Hill Financial to work in advertising technology, which is also very data-driven.
�Behind all great technology,� she says, �we usually find that art and science have come together in some wonderfully interesting proportions.�
Michelle Bisson: associate architect for the Hartford
When Michelle Bisson was growing up in Keene, NH, her career interests changed frequently. �I didn�t really have any particular direction and IT wasn�t on my radar,� she admits.
Today, she is an associate architect at the Hartford (Hartford, CT). She entered a three-year rotational leadership program at the insurance giant, but took her current, permanent role in January, six months early. �The associate architect position is a pretty new role in the company,� she explains. �They created it about a year ago to bring younger employees into the commercial architecture area.�
Bisson considers herself to be an analytical person, so when choosing a college major, she knew that computer technology would probably suit her interests. Bisson attended Bentley University, a business school in Waltham, MA, where she earned a 2011 BS in computer information systems with a minor in management.
She did two internships in consecutive summers at C&S; Wholesale Grocers (Keene, NH) in both IT and marketing. �I was undecided about what I wanted to do, so the internships gave me a good opportunity to try out different things,� she explains. Bisson also spent a summer interning at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Washington, DC). The department had just created a technology leadership intern program.
She met a representative from the Hartford at a career fair during her senior year. �The technical leadership development program attracted me,� she recalls. �The rotations appealed to me because even within technology, there are so many career options. It was hard to decide without trying things out first.�
Bisson was one of thirty-six employees to begin rotations on the same day. �We selected our assignments with some guidance from the leaders of the program,� she says. �My first rotation was as a business analyst in information management, the second was as a data analyst in our IT transformation department, and my final rotation was in enterprise architecture, where I ended up staying.�
Bisson is currently working on a large core system replacement initiative. This will keep the company�s technology current and provide up-to-date, simplified technology for users, primarily underwriters and underwriting assistants.
She is a member of three employee resource groups: the young professionals group, the military community network, and the professional women�s network.
�At this point in my career, I want to immerse myself in the architecture practice and learn as much as I can about it,� Bisson says. �In the long term, I�d like to move into a leadership position. I really like working with people and helping others be successful.�
First lieutenant Amanda Chivers of the U.S. Air Force
Amanda Chivers was born in South Carolina and lived in a variety of East Coast cities. She always loved airplanes and wanted to be a pilot, but today first lieutenant Chivers is a cyberspace operations officer in the U.S. Air Force, assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MI.
Chivers is a graduate of Clemson University (Clemson, SC). �I really enjoyed the spirit of the campus,� she says. Chivers participated in the Junior Reserve Officers� Training Corps in high school and received a scholarship from the Air Force for college.
In 2010, Chivers graduated with a BS in parks, recreation and tourism management. She knew that she would be coming to Keesler for some sort of cyber school program but did not know what that would entail. �As I met the instructors, I remember telling them what my major was and they all chuckled because they had really technical backgrounds,� she says.
�They warned me that it would be a hard course because I would not only learn about the Air Force but also about networks, including switching, routing and cybersecurity,� Chivers says. �I worked hard and got through the course. In fact, I did pretty well in it.�
By the end of her six-month undergraduate cyber training (UCT) course in 2010, Chivers had her cyber wings and was basic mission qualified. Her first assignment out of tech school was combat communications at Tinker Air Force Base (Oklahoma City, OK). She started in January 2011.
�Most of my responsibility was managing processes,� she says. �It kept both my airman and my technical skills fresh. We always had some kind of problem, so troubleshooting was a lot of fun.�
Her next job was as an executive officer working directly for the group commander. �This was strictly an administrative capacity,� she says. �There were no hands-on technical responsibilities.�
But Chivers wanted to learn more about cyber so in 2013, she enrolled in Intermediate Network Warfare Training (INWT) at Hurlburt Field, FL. INWT, taught by the 39th Information Operations Squadron, is the Air Force�s premier cyber and information operations training course.
�This is a very technical course,� Chivers reports, �and very hands-on. The focus moves from building the network to defending it. We studied forensics and how to handle incidents. We also did a lot of packet analysis.�
INWT opened up the entire field, says Chivers. She is now on a career track that emphasizes defending the network and working with intelligence. �It�s a part of the cyber career field that requires more sensitive training,� she explains.
Also in 2013, Chivers earned an MS in telecommunications management from Oklahoma State University (Stillwater). �To get promoted in the Air Force, they like you to have an advanced degree,� she notes. �I chose this major because I wanted something that would apply to the job I�m doing.�
Now Chivers is back at Keesler AFB but this time as a UCT instructor. �I like teaching because the students always challenge me and I like to challenge them.� She is the only female officer instructor and notes that the gender ratio in her class is 8:1 male. But Chivers doesn�t see this as an issue.
�I think that the type of woman who joins the military is already pretty determined and isn�t going to be intimidated by the lifestyle.�
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