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Cracking the Career Code
Software developers and programmers code everything digital we take for granted, so there’s no shortage of career possibilities.
Software engineering is one of the most needed and promising STEM careers, and one extremely well-suited to tech-savvy females.
Not only is software development and programming a field that draws upon the knowledge, education and passion of female engineers, it’s also one of the most challenging professions as we head farther and farther into the digital age.
According to recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers, software developers earn almost $50 an hour with a bachelor’s degree. They also have a faster than average job outlook through 2026 at 24% compared with other professions.
As the creative and keen coding minds behind computer programs, software developers and programmers provide the basis for the underlying systems that run the many devices and networks on which we rely in our professional and private lives. And they will be needed to respond to an ever-increasing demand for computer software across all industries.
Meet a few who have cracked the code for success in this field, and glean their career hacks that got them to where they are now.
Microsoft’s Leece Values Both Product Impact & Company Culture
For the past five years Gwynneth Leece has been employed by 126,000-employee Microsoft. A software engineer II, she holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Canada.
As part of her degree program at the university, Leece completed six internships at four distinctly different companies, she notes.
“My internships were a great complement to what I was learning in class. They gave me a chance to develop technical skills by working on real-world problems. Internships also afforded me the experience to work with a variety of different companies, which helped me learn what I liked (and didn’t like) when looking for a place to begin my career,” Leece says.
During her time with Microsoft, Leece worked at Microsoft locations in British Columbia and company headquarters in Redmond, WA. What prompted her interest in software programing - as early as middle school - was an intense interest in programming simple video games. That interest never left her.
Once Leece learned that positions at Microsoft encompassed her interests in programming, she accepted a job creating game prototypes for Microsoft HoloLens when it was offered, and did so without hesitancy.
Leece is currently tasked with developing the video editor included in the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10. She works with designers, artists and other engineers to prototype, test and ship new features - in particular, the new special effects feature added to the video editor last year.
Additionally, Leece is responsible for the Photos app experience on Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Firm in her opinion that software engineering is a fantastic field, she’s optimistic about the future. “There are a huge variety of jobs, and the need for software engineers is not going away any time soon,” states Leece, further commenting on the fact that software engineering lends itself to so many areas.
Mentioning medicine, art, entertainment and more, Leece feels the field should emphasize programming as a tool that can be used to accomplish amazing things.
She stresses that Microsoft is always looking to recruit and hire great talent, and expresses appreciation for her team. She also recognizes and values the impact of company culture, as well as that of product.
Leece hones in on the importance of employee evaluation based not only on the job individuals do, but how they do it. “[By] adopting this approach, [it] reflects the company’s support of employees spending time to mentor junior members, and participate in mentoring and recruiting programs,” she points out.
Already a member of a women’s engineering group that regularly organizes various networking and career advice seminars, Leece also recently started a small LGBTQ social group within her organization.
For Leece, that’s of particular importance. “It allows me to connect with many new people from my organization, and enables me to feel more connected to the community,” she relays.
For more information about Microsoft, visit microsoft.com and careers.microsoft.com, and social media sites including @MicrosoftJobs on Twitter and Facebook, and @microsoftlife on Instagram.
Tech Talk: Microsoft
Redmond, WA-headquartered Microsoft is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and as such, its mission is to empower every person and every organization to achieve more.
Booz Allen’s Goforth Leads Engineering & Science Toward Innovation
It was at an early age that Patricia Goforth learned two important lessons: work hard and treat people nicely. Throughout her 32-year professional career, she’s steadfastly followed that advice.
A graduate of the University of Virginia where she earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering in systems engineering, Goforth is now executive vice president, engineering and sciences leader, and the first female leader of the engineering business at Booz Allen Hamilton.
She additionally leads a command, control, computers, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) team skilled in developing complex technical solutions, as well as integrating cybersecurity into the land, air, sea and intelligence missions of the Department of Defense (DoD).
Goforth - who holds a top secret-level security clearance - is committed to empowering her team to change the world for the better. She identifies three specific areas in which she’s been able to do just that.
First is tackling cyber warfare in defense of our nation by hosting hackathons focused on identifying vulnerabilities in the security systems of warships in partnership with Booz Allen’s longest-running federal client, the U.S. Navy.
Second is boosting air defense with better command control by working with the U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) and developing an operations facility that could control airspace over a combat area for both military operations and civilian flights.
And third is growing the next generation of engineers by working with partners like FIRST Robotics and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and inspiring creative solutions and developing opportunities for a diverse engineering team.
Always cognizant of the important work that inspires her every day, Goforth says: “As engineers, the impact of our work is vital to the well-being of all Americans. From defense solutions to energy and environment, we work to advance both the safety and security of our country and such quality-of-life issues as clean water, and the security of facilities and infrastructure.”
Assessing the future of the overall engineering process at Booz Allen - which is dubbed “digital engineering” based on model-based systems engineering - Goforth explains that the addition of analytics and other tools lead to better utilization of data for decision-making and design.
“We’re essentially taking systems engineering to the next level, while integrating secure engineering components gleaned from our cybersecurity work,” she states.
This approach, Goforth contends, greatly impacts challenges, including existing communication networks.
The charge under Goforth’s leadership is to go beyond traditional consulting by pursuing new areas to help Booz Allen clients in order to uncover untapped opportunities for them.
The same passion that drives Goforth’s work is also exhibited when she helps employees thrive in their careers. Fervent in her goal of promoting more women in STEM roles, she champions such initiatives as the iRelaunch STEM Re-Entry Task Force, of which Booz Allen is a founding member. It assists women re-starting their careers. Goforth also leads the firm’s engagement in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
Goforth also appreciates the mission and altruistic nature of the work ethic found at Booz Allen. It’s an atmosphere in which she thrives and is continuously challenged to strive for better.
For those who’d like to join her in such an innovative workplace, she outlines what Booz Allen seeks.
“As we hire for current engineering positions, we look for a variety of skill sets, as well as attributes that thrive, including those of dreamers, drivers and doers - people who are born problem-solvers, experts in their fields and those who dare to challenge status quo,” she details.
Goforth further stresses the firm’s support of risk-taking and cites innate ability as the ultimate qualifier for many of the firm’s work responsibilities.
More information about Booz Allen is available at boozallen.com/careers, and Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Tech Talk: Booz Allen Hamilton
McLean, VA-headquartered Booz Allen Hamilton has been at the forefront of strategy and technology for more than 100 years. Today the firm provides management and tech consulting and engineering services to leading Fortune 500 corporations, governments and non-profit organizations across the globe.
Symantec’s Bonorris Enjoys Solving ‘Puzzles’
Cynsa Bonorris may have embarked on her future career as an English literature major at Columbia College, but along the way she became enamored with computers.
“It was back in 1991 that I discovered the WELL (Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link) which sparked my passion for all that could be done via computer,” she shares.
By 1995, at the forefront of the dotcom boom, Bonorris was a Java programmer at a startup in San Francisco, CA. That’s when she further recognized the need for release engineers.
“I fell into that role and have been in release/configuration engineering ever since,” she states.
Currently a principal configuration management engineer, Bonorris, who’s been with Symantec for 14 years, recalls reading a significant amount of science fiction as a child.
“I believe doing so turned me on to the possibilities of what the internet could be. It was so tantalizing, so incredible to me that I felt the need to be a part of it,” she says, acknowledging that she remains a fan of the science fiction genre.
In her current position Bonorris creates scripts and systems, and combines tools to automate the compilation, packaging and virtualization of Symantec software prior to customer release.
“Configuration/release engineering is an esoteric position requiring shallow, but wide knowledge of a variety of tools. It also requires a particular personality, making CMs (configuration managers) an in-demand career track and growth arena,” she points out.
When asked what professional experiences best prepared her for her current position, she replies: “An exacting attention to detail and a deep need for control of process.”
She additionally mentions the somewhat unusual fact that throughout her career almost all of the supervisors and directors of engineering she worked for were women.
The skills Bonorris finds most necessary in her line of work include a deep love of solving puzzles, a desire to learn new tools, a commitment to process, the ability to hold the line in the face of others who want to throw code “over the wall,” and the capacity to see the implications of code or process changes and their impact down the road.
The more CMs there are, the better the tool development will be, and the more fixes and patches will be offered to the community at large, contends Bonorris, noting that CM is still a largely unstandardized area with no academic tracks or concentrations.
“This is a great time to jump in and be part of it. It’s a fun job,” encourages Bonorris, who’s also a mentor for Women in STEM and a volunteer for Color of Change.
For additional information about Symantec, go to symantec.com and symantec.com/about/careers, and social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Google+.
Tech Talk: Symantec
Symantec Corporation of Mountain View, CA is a global cybersecurity company dedicated to helping organizations, governments and people secure their most important data, wherever that data is stored.
NetApp’s Nassif Sees a Need for More Women in Engineering
Nayla Nassif may recognize a tendency by some women to shy away from computer architecture, but she’s definitely not among them.
With a Master of Science in electrical and computer engineering, and a Ph.D. in computer engineering she earned from the University of California, Irvine, she finds her background in computer architecture a must-have for a career in systems engineering.
Nassif brought with her a wealth of prior experience when she joined NetApp 10 years ago. “Once I started working in the computer systems performance arena, I realized that doing so was a rare, specialized skill that would allow me to write my own ticket and choose the companies I wanted to work for,” she says, referring to her career progression - from one technical domain to another - as glued together by concepts that apply across technologies.
As senior R&D engineering manager, system performance, Nassif leads high-tech engineering to define, design and optimize the system performance of next-generation data storage products, including, among others, requirement definition, performance estimation, prototype design and regression root cause analysis.
She also partners with stakeholders to guide new product launch and positioning through performance estimates and benchmarks.
“Storage is very exciting now,” says Nassif. “There are many new and stimulating opportunities and innovations to learn from, contribute to and grow with. The field is evolving tremendously rapidly. It’s a great place to be in technology.”
Hopeful that more women will consider the field of computer architecture, Nassif advises seeking mentors, talking to accomplished engineers currently in the field and identifying alumni working in their particular areas of interest.
She further advises women to experience various engineering roles, roles that could lead to rewarding opportunities not initially anticipated.
“Education and training can set you up with needed technical skills, but it’s the soft skills that will allow you to stand out and be successful,” she asserts. “Developing the ability to extract what’s important, as well as knowing how to identify the goal and eliminate distractions is among important soft skills.”
Today there’s an absolute need for more women in engineering, according to Nassif, who also emphasizes the importance of diversity on a project. The more diversity there is, the more successful a project will be, she contends.
Of the opinion that effective professional leaders are those who see to it that all ideas and questions are heard, valued and addressed, she cites the many women with great ideas who don’t feel comfortable sharing them in work environments that are not receptive to openness and inclusivity.
“Helping women feel empowered to speak up will help them be more confident and successful, and in the end that benefits everyone,” she states.
As site leader for women in technology at NetApp Sunnyvale (CA), Nassif enjoys guiding and empowering women.
“But I'm true to the vision of expanding programs and initiatives that help the entire NetApp community acquire the skills needed for success,” says Nassif, who’s energized by solving challenges on a daily basis, and finds it rewarding to lead a team able to tackle challenges and initiate innovative solutions that positively impact business results.
For additional information about NetApp, go to netapp.com/us/careers, and social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Tech Talk: NetApp
Throughout the world, leading organizations count on Sunnyvale, CA-headquartered NetApp for software, systems and services to store, manage, protect and retain one of their most precious assets - their data. Today NetApp offers a portfolio of different products and services that satisfy a broad range of customer workloads across different data types and deployment models.
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