Intel® Software Innovators: Women in Tech – A Personal Perspective

It’s well known that women are a minority in the tech field, so last year we decided that we wanted to be a part of the International Women’s Day (IWD) movement and do our part to help celebrate women’s achievement worldwide. Through the support of Intel, along with dedicated and passionate women around the world we were able to host a number of events as an opportunity for women to get together and share their passion about technology. For 2017, we are once again promoting events in support of International Women’s Day and have events planned all month long.

We know that female tech inclusion is important and something that we need to constantly be pushing to change and expand and what better way to start than to learn more through real-life examples from women we work with. We recently reached out to several of our female Intel® Software Innovators and asked them to share personal experiences of being a woman in technology. Their wide range of experiences, challenges, and situations show that while there is a definite trend towards more inclusion, that there is also a long ways to go still.

Alexandria Porter, Intel® Software Innovator
Owner & COO, Underminer Studios
Austin, Texas

Our business is run from our home with the little pitter-patter of our 2 year old and our 6 month old surrounding our days. As the primary caregiver for our children I strive to stay involved with our business as the COO. Most of my work is done in the time during naps, after bedtime for the littles or when I can sneak in a moment during playtime. When we were invited to participate in the Intel® Software Innovator Summit part of our plans included arranging for childcare for our baby, I breastfeed and we needed to be close. The willingness of our community manager, Josh Bancroft, and the Innovator Lead, Wendy Boswell, to accommodate this was the only reason I was able to take advantage of this continued learning opportunity with so many great minds. Another prime example of this need being met is that at GDC 2017, they will offer onsite childcare. My opportunities, as a mother and a woman in tech, broaden with the consideration of family needs being met at events. Typically women are the caregivers in their families and allowing them the support to fully participate in both business and family is very important.

Peach Icaza Pellen, Intel® Software Innovator
Chief Technology Officer, Platino Inc.
Tempe, Arizona

It can be hard to talk about women in tech and how they’ve been included or led change. I think it's a bit of a circular problem - it's hard to find examples because there are still so few women in tech.

I was asked to speak to a class at an all-girls high school where not a single student in this particular class wanted to take computer studies. Several said their reason was "because that's for boys", which really surprised me as they were 15-16 years old, and this generation doesn't tend to have nearly as many attitudes like that as previous ones. The school was considering dropping the class from the next year’s curriculum. I talked to the girls about my work, answered quite a few questions about how it is for women in tech, talked about how little sexism I've personally experienced, etc. Almost half of this class ended up picking up the class the next semester. I was asked to speak to other classes, which I did, and the following year it had roughly the same attendance as any other optional course.

Having more women in tech is important. Women, by default, know more about 50% of a potential audience/customer than men do. They’ll come up with ideas that men couldn't think of just because they’re aware of various challenges that are unique to women. I'm currently working on a top-secret project that I hope to secure a patent for in the next few months. Although I can't talk about it publicly in any kind of detail, I can say that it is truly innovative, a product that for women simply doesn't exist right now. Everyone involved with it has been amazed by it because it seems so simple when you hear about it, but it took a woman to look at the male-focused products in the same space and see the female side was at least a decade behind.

While I've had very few occasions to work with other women in tech I hope that will change in the future.

Tamara Gagliardi, Intel® Software Innovator
System Engineer DNS passionate for IOT
Santa Monica, California

Last year, after seeing the positive effect that events such as #iamanengineer had on women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) I was motivated to share my struggles and glories with other women and men to promote inclusion. One of my goals was to participate in a tech conference where I could connect with others in the industry. I was a speaker at Wonder Women in Tech (WWT) conference in Long Beach, CA where the theme was pioneering women. WWT is an organization that celebrates women and diversity in STEM. As part of the "Latinas in STEAM: Women Paving The Road Ahead" we shared inspiring stories that helped bring awareness to women in tech while promoting inclusion. A member of the audience, who is a representative from local Los Angeles high school, later reached out to me to evaluate how I could help grow tech enthusiasm in the school.

Manisha Biswas, Intel® Software Innovator
Independent developer and Application Developer
Kolkata, India

Last year there was an opportunity with the International Women's Day events sponsored by Intel where we were to setup and showcase a demo in very little time. I was one of the central people responsible for the event at Makersloft Kolkata. I took charge and created the demo for Android and did a write-up on the demo at Intel Developer Zone and posted the project on Intel’s Developer Mesh. I felt the demo was liked by the people and was appreciated, and I was glad to be asked to be a part of the event.

Vui Nguyen, Intel® Software Innovator
Mobile Developer, Software Engineer, IoT Enthusiast
Denver, Colorado

You’ve probably read all the grim statistics about women being under-represented in technology, so I won’t bore you with more. But as I was on my quest to change my career from freelancer to a full-time gig, I definitely felt like I was facing an unconscious bias in my interviews even though I’ve been a mobile developer and software engineer for many years and have considerable transferrable skills and experience. I’ve been a member of my local Women Who Code (WWC) meetup for years, and in 2016 I decided to become more involved – a decision that turned my life around in several ways:

  1. Women Who Code provided scholarships for me to attend conferences that allowed me to learn as well as provided me with great opportunities to network and meet some amazing people
  2. I met my mentor at a WWC Meetup. From first meeting him I knew right away that he was an ally for women in technology and I asked how I could help. Before I knew it I was presenting at his next meetup and he even referred me for an iOS developer position that I’m about to start – the full-time job I’ve been wanting!
  3. A WWC hardware hackathon got me started on the Internet of Things. My team and I built a light sensor project and from then on I was bit by the “IoT bug”. So, when the Intel Roadshow came to Denver I competed in that hackathon with my team taking 1st place.
  4. Since we did so well at the Roadshow we entered the project for a chance to compete in the China-US Young Maker Competition and my team was selected as one of the finalists and Intel sponsored us to attend the final round of competition in Beijing. I was the team lead and software architect and led us to an 11th place finish out of 64 teams.
  5. Outside of the competitions, I began giving presentations of my winning “Save the Water Pipes!” project and some of my own personal IoT projects at local meetups. From my work in IoT and promoting Intel® technologies, Intel recognized my expertise by making me an Intel® Software Innovator, which is a volunteer technology evangelist.

All of this started from me attending and becoming more involved with my local WWC chapter! Because of the incredible opportunities I’ve experienced as a result of WWC, I started giving back. In addition to presenting my work at my local meetup, I signed up to mentor a college woman studying for a STEM career through the NEXT Scholars Program which gives me another opportunity to “be the change” and help promote gender diversity in tech. Because of WWC and organizations like it, I will never feel alone again in my career.

Suelen Goularte Carvalho, Intel® Software Innovator
Agile Coach & Tech Lead at Moip
Sao Paulo, Brazil

I have found it helpful to attend events such as Women Tech Makers, a Google event for women in technology. Also, a lot of events have implemented invite-only, private Slack groups prior to the event so that women can share their experience, knowledge, network, and get to know each other prior to arriving at an event. This private channel allows the event coordinators to learn more about their female attendees to find out what they want or need to be comfortable and feel included at events as well as builds a community among the women that goes much further than just the event itself.

Lilli Szafranski, Intel® Software Innovator
Artist, Engineer
Portland, Oregon

I've been writing software since I was 14. I have a degree in Computer Science, and I've worked as a Software Engineer at several large companies and a few start-ups. I got into LED art and LED wearables in 2010, and have developed a few things in collaboration with my business partner and hardware guy, Jesse Banks.

At the end of 2015, I began working on my largest installation, Stoicheia [ELEMENTS] a four-foot diameter, 2,200 LED "digital stained-glass" dodecahedron. I was the lead artist on a team of around 20 amazing contributors, where we took my vision and turned it into a reality!

Teaching myself CAD, I produced all of the artwork and wrote all of the software. Thousands of lines of code, driving the LEDs with an algorithm that I call "curated randomness", never repeating. Jesse was responsible for the hardware and construction. We have several people on our crew, volunteering their time to help build and support the installation.

We have shown it at What the Festival, Portland Mini Maker Faire, and the Portland Winter Lights Festival. We will be featured on an upcoming episode of Oregon Art Beat. For the month of March, we will be showing it at the Beaverton School District's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy's Performing Arts Center, with a reception on March 9th for International Women's Day and Teen Tech Week. We plan on taking it to many more places in the coming months so that more people can enjoy it!

In the meantime, we are working on our second series of Stoicheia [ELEMENTS], flat-panel hexagonal pieces that can hang on a wall. While there are several awesome art installations in the LED universe, very few crews are led by a woman, and I'm really proud that I can be a pioneer in that space. I hope my work can help inspire more girls and women to consider a career in STEM. It can be very creative and rewarding!

Pooja Baraskar, Intel® Software Innovator
Software Developer, Microsoft MVP
Betul, Madhya Pradesh, India

I started writing code in 2011 and soon I realized that this field is for me. I am from a small town and programming helped me to get connected to this world. I can work from any part of the world, it doesn’t matter where I am, if I am a girl or a boy, if I have a team or not. I can learn and do things on my own pace.

You don’t need to go to big universities to be a pro, all you need is just a computer and an internet connection. I started learning programming on my own with the help of books and online communities like Microsoft* Virtual Academy and this was a life changing phase. After that I created few apps, website and games. My mind is always full of ideas and with the help of programming I am able to apply them and turn it into reality.

Being from a small town, and a girl, I could now learn things and create awesome stuff from my home. Soon I got expertise in many subjects and started sharing my knowledge with others through online and offline events. We women need exposure and technology is the best medium which can provide us a platform to show our talent. We already have artistic qualities and technology is all about that.

I presented at Walmart TechnopreneuHER Conference and was happily surprised to see all the talented ladies talking about their achievement and success. If we look around we will find many female role models. Technology is for makers and we are the real “Makers”.

Tell us in the comments about your experiences of female inclusion in technology – whether it is a personal story of your own, something you did to make a female team member feel more welcome, accommodations you or your team made to have a more diverse team and environment and the successes or challenges that went with it. We would love to hear about it!

Want to learn more about the Intel® Software Innovator Program?

You can read about our innovator updates, get the full program overview, meet the innovators and learn more about innovator benefits. We also encourage you to check out Developer Mesh to learn more about the various projects that our community of innovators are working on.

Interested in more information? Contact Wendy Boswell on Twitter with the URL of your Mesh project!

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