May 22, 2015 |

Philly Women in Tech Summit:Two Student Perspectives

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Last month, women in the technology field from all over Philadelphia gathered for the Philly Women in Tech Summit. Led by a keynote speech from Kelly Hoey, named one of five women changing the venture capitalism world by Forbes, the conference focused on helping women develop the skills they would need to succeed in the tech world in Philadelphia.Workshops ranging from cyber security and career development to scalable vector graphics and supporting other women in tech were presented by some of the top women in tech in Philadelphia. Campus Philly gave away tickets to the Summit to two students, and we caught up with them afterward to hear about their experiences at the conference and as women in technology in Philadelphia.

Robin Zheng, a student at the Tyler School of Art at Temple studying graphic and interactive design, knows that even though she will most likely not be working directly with software and programming, it is important that she understand the nitty-gritty of the tech world.

“I expect to be working pretty closely with developers, programmers, software developers, so it was really important to me to go to the conference to understand where they’re coming from and the way they think and the tools they’re using and what they’re concerned about to be able to collaborate with them.”

Going into the conference, Robin wanted to “get to know the women in tech community” and, once at the conference, she “felt very comfortable and at ease. I’ve been to a few other professional events like these, and it wasn’t as natural to speak to people.”

When asked about her experiences as a woman in tech, whether in the classroom or a professional setting, Robin said that “it’s intimidating when I go for an internship interview and I see that almost all of the team members that I’m going to be working with are male.” This is a fairly common experience for many women in tech, unfortunately, as only 26% of computing professionals today are women, according to the American Association of University Women.

But she feels “pretty optimistic, because I think that with my generation, things seem to be getting better with women in technology, although there’s still a lot to overcome.”

Lori Becker came into the tech world from a entirely different path — after working as an English teacher, she made the decision to go back for her master’s degree in computer science.

“I was an English teacher before I got into tech, but I was always very technical. I surrounded myself with a bunch of people who were computer science majors in college and I always got along with them because I liked how their minds worked.”

She explains that her husband always told her that she would be a good fit for tech, and “he found out through a coworker that Penn has the Master of Computer and Information Technology program, which is for people who have a degree in something else and want to break into computer science. I felt that this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Lori’s experience with being a woman in technology at the University of Pennsylvania has been an overall good one, as “Penn does a really wonderful job of trying to recruit more women into STEM fields and computer science. I’d say my MCIT program is 30-40% women.”

In terms of the actual conference, Lori particularly enjoyed “one talk on mapping and how to use data and plug it into Google Docs and export it out to CartoDB. The women giving the talk gave a wonderful hands-on demonstration in which they showed you how to import data from the city, and what we did was import data about stolen bikes in the city to find out where the most bikes are stolen in Philadelphia.”

After graduating from her master’s program, Lori hopes to work in the field of educational software, drawing on her experiences in both teaching and computer science. When asked what advice she would give to female students interested in the tech field, she emphasized that “getting out of your comfort zone is really important, and exciting.”

Interested in other resources beyond the Philly Women in Tech Summit for women in technology? Be sure to check out Girl Develop It, TechGirlz, She Tech Philly, or any of the many women in technology meetups in the Philly area.

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