Female students headed for college STEM degrees recall the impact of male-dominated tech classes in high school, their dreams for the future, and the people who inspired them most. These amazing ITWomen scholarship winners are committed to empowering younger girls to discover the excitement and opportunities in technology and engineering.
After joining Ryder in 2015, I was introduced to ITWomen through a key vendor who is also a member of the ITWomen Board – Jen Boyer. She discussed the exciting opportunities that ITWomen was offering through their professional development events, robotics camps, field trips, internships and scholarships to advance STEM engagement in young women in underprivileged areas of South Florida. At that time, my only exposure to ITWomen was through attendance at their events and networking throughout the organization. However, over the past year, I have been more engaged than ever. In April, Ryder hosted ITWomen for a professional development event entitled, “Agile Transformation in the Enterprise.” I spoke together with industry peers and top-rated Agile coaches, giving insights into Ryder’s journey and lessons learned during our transformation.
In May, I was one of three ITWomen Scholarship Selection Committee members, helping ITWomen select their 2018 scholarship recipients. The application, evaluation, and award process were all very thorough, ensuring that every applicant was thoughtfully reviewed and considered throughout the evaluation. Once we arrived at the in-person interview rounds, I was encouraged to see how many applicants had previously participated in an ITWomen program. Personally, it was exciting to see the impact made by the ITWomen Robotics and Coding summer camps, internships and corporate tours. Young women who typically would not have access to these programs are able to get exposure to new concepts that have ultimately influenced their future interests and potential careers. In fact, several of the participants identified their ITWomen experience as the motivator to pursuing careers in IT and engineering.
Evaluating the applicants and meeting the scholarship finalists in person was an eye-opener. In addition to the high academic standards required for the award, each finalist had personally overcome challenging circumstances, while continuing to demonstrated social leadership, engage in community service, and genuinely demonstrate a selfless generosity remarkable for girls their age. As a mother of three who strives to provide an infrastructure of support for my own children, I was inspired to see how ITWomen can help provide that type of support to girls who might otherwise have none.
In June, I was able to meet the scholarship award recipients once again, together with their families at the ITWomen Scholarship Awards Dinner. The girls and their supportive family members were treated to an evening dinner and celebration where they were awarded with additional gifts and donations to help them in their college journeys. The smiles on the faces of these amazing young women and their proud parents and relatives were truly touching. It was extremely gratifying be a part of the process that helped these young women get one step closer to their higher education, careers and dreams.
In September, I will participate again as a panelist in the 2018 ITWomen Leadership Summit. In addition to supporting ITWomen’s youth programs, I believe it is critical to share our personal stories and knowledge with local women and industry peers to help us all continue to grow in our careers. I hope my story will encourage others to get more involved as volunteers with ITWomen. I can tell you from experience; it has been very fulfilling and rewarding.
I attended an ITWomen field trip to World Fuel Services last year. World Fuel prepared an entire day of presentations from a multitude of roles within the company, even including a kickoff from their CIO. I was fascinated to see such a multicultural mix of women speakers who assured me I had a place in IT and technology.
The women prepared STEM-related activities for us and each speaker shared her journey. Some arrived in IT and their varied careers in completely unconventional ways. Some backgrounds were wildly different to mine, some were eerily similar, even culturally, and it encouraged me to continue to pursue my interest in computer science.
In the spring of 2018, I applied for and was awarded the ITWomen scholarship. I will be studying Computer Engineering this fall at the University of Florida and look forward to connecting with other ITWomen scholars at the school and my assigned mentor for guidance throughout my college experience.
I have been involved with ITWomen for the past 5 years and have had the opportunity to see their direct impact through my involvement with their scholarship program. I have assisted over the years during video shoots of the scholars, and as I listened to the girls' stories, it made me reflect on my own experiences of getting into the field of IT. As they spoke, I kept thinking, “I wish the IT Women organization was around when I went to school.”
When I graduated high school, I hadn’t decided what I wanted to study in college, so I entered with a proposed major in general studies and took a different course elective each semester. I dabbled in family law, chemistry, and photography to name a few. But it wasn’t until I attended an intro to programming course that I really knew what I wanted to do. The concept seemed to come naturally to me and I excelled in the class. After that class, I changed my major to Information Technology. If I’d had an organization like IT Women, I may have figured out my passion sooner.
However, being the only woman in most of my classes, school was tough. I always felt like I had to work harder than my classmates to be noticed by my professors. Perhaps if I’d found ITWomen or its equivalent during my educational journey, I might have had a great community of mentors to help guide and support me along the way.
Now that I am an IT professional and a member of ITWomen, I take advantage of the professional development events and networking opportunities they offer to continue to enhance and advance my career in IT.
In the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, I attended the ITWomen Robotics and Coding Summer Camp at Northeast High School. Before attending this camp, I wasn't sure what I might like to study after high school. I approached the camp with a fair amount of skepticism, not expecting I’d have any aptitude for either robotics or coding.
I was introduced to basic coding by an ITWomen scholarship recipient who was teaching the class. We created basic programs and even simple video games in just a few days. Much to my surprise, I was really good at the logic behind coding and found it very easy. I was inspired by the ITWomen scholar who taught the coding portion; she explained everything so well and made it look so easy and fun. I spoke with her endlessly throughout the course and probed her about her college classes and career choice. And that was that: I was hooked.
In the months after the camp, I taught myself Python and strengthened my interest in a career in IT. As a result of attending the ITWomen Summer Robotics and Coding Camp, I am now pursuing a degree in Computer Science at the University of Central Florida and am a proud 2018 ITWomen scholarship recipient!