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 The Creativity Behind the Computer

Female software engineers and developers rock as they showcase their creative coding and problem-solving skills.
Software - one might say - “governs” our lives both in business and in our personal endeavors. And today we thank the many women software engineers, programmers and developers for the software advancements and strides they’ve made in recent years, both personally and professionally.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software development continues - and increases - its moniker as an upcoming career in a variety of sectors. Predictions indicate that the job outlook in the software sector - through 2026 - is expected to strengthen by 24%, much faster than average.
And as the push for more gender diversity in tech continues, there’s a distinct opportunity for women technologists to make their mark on software, and apply and show off their creative coding and critical-thinking skills on software now, and in the future.
Read on to learn more about the future of software development and programming from a few of the creative coders working in this growing field: Jess Keeny, Stella Maria Joseph, Nina Kudryashova, Nita Rodriguez and Pooja Hitin Kotian. And see what they have to say about their fulfilling careers in the software sector and those considering careers within it.
Keeney’s Passion for Tech Culminates with Executive Engineering Role at Ultimate Software
For Jess Keeney, working with multiple companies and multiple technologies fostered her ability to solve technical problems. And it’s led her to her ascent to vice president of engineering at Ultimate Software, a Weston, FL-headquartered global cloud provider of cloud human capital management (HCM) solutions, where she’s been for four years.
“Built with a focus on people, Ultimate Software’s award-winning UltiPro delivers solutions for HR, payroll, talent and other services designed to improve employee experience,” explains Keeney.
The support of thousands of customers in diverse industries, management of millions of employees worldwide, and commitment to people has also earned Ultimate Software a multi-year ranking on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and Fortune’s Number One Best Workplace in Technology.
Equipped with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Juris Doctorate, Keeney practiced law for several years before switching careers and moving into product development. “Since then I’ve held every position on a product development team across product and engineering roles, culminating with joining Ultimate Software,” she notes.
Professing a personal love of technology - more than legal work - Keeney finds the software sector constantly changing and providing endless opportunities for re-invention and learning.
Highlighting Ultimate Software’s unique blend of culture, technology and focus on business execution, she adds: “When you wake up every day with excitement for what you do, and for the people you work with, there’s no reason to be elsewhere.”
Responsible for excellence in execution for all engineering personnel, and for ensuring the company’s product vision and value is realized for its more than 5,600 customers, Keeney works cross-functionally to manage inter-dependencies that result in technological improvement and innovation.
“I work to create an engineering culture that’s open to new concepts that can be adapted as needed,” she states, adding that she also enjoys maximizing existing capabilities to drive performance.
Of the belief that one should never stop working to improve oneself personally and professionally, Keeney praises past mentors with guiding her through periods of learning and working her way out of her comfort zone. But mentoring need not be part of a formal relationship, she contends.
“Mentoring can take shape by modeling behavior. Anyone who thinks differently can provide mentorship - and just as important - in that way you can serve as a mentor for others,” she states.
Keeney’s specialties include product development vision and execution, software product development, and collaborative leadership, to name just a few. And based on her experience she emphasizes that the changing nature of software engineering now pervades everyday life.
“The combination of artificial intelligence (AI), and the opportunities it’ll bring, is exciting for the future. Technology continues to be more accessible and, thereby, offers greater career choices because its various applications can create exciting new jobs,” she says.
At Ultimate Software, a variety of programs and opportunities for on-going learning are open to all employees. Highlighting just a few, Keeney mentions that thousands of courses are available for those who want to broaden their knowledge and skill sets. A year-long leadership development program is geared toward current managers and future leaders, and diverse Communities of Interest offer workshops, networking, community service and social opportunities. She’s most excited by Women in Tech (WIT), the newest Community of Interest, for which she serves as co-chair.
“Opportunities abound, including shadowing possibilities and a company-wide focus on diversity, inclusion, and equality. Ultimate Software truly lives up to its people-first commitment,” states Keeney.
For further information about Ultimate Software, visit ultimatesoftware.com, ultimatesoftware.com/careers, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Joseph Is Invigorated by the Intensity of Her Work at HNTB
Stella Maria Joseph touts an open attitude, willingness to learn and teamwork as critical for success.
“I love the challenge and intensity of my work. It requires me to be proactive by constantly proposing solutions and pushing projects to successful delivery and operation,” says Joseph, associate vice president and deputy director, national toll technology consulting practice at Kansas City, MO-headquartered HNTB Corporation.
Joseph is a 17-year veteran of this 105-year-old, employee-owned infrastructure firm. HNTB addresses complex technical, financial, and operational challenges, and delivers a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, program, and construction management. The firm is the number-one consultant to toll authorities, currently serving as the general engineering consultant to more toll agencies than any other firm.
Joseph’s personal and professional growth began as one of six sisters growing up in India’s patriarchal world. “Fortunately my parents insisted on self-starting, taking chances, and recognizing the importance of education and the independence of women,” she elaborates.
Educated in India, she immigrated to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree, which she completed in electrical engineering, at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Of her first job as a systems engineer working for a complex and innovative tolling system in California, Joseph says: “This position provided a great opportunity for hands-on training. Rotating between job functions led to my in-depth understanding of various aspects of system design, development, testing and implementation. It also exposed me to hardware, software, and the intricacies of good software design, development, and integration - all critical to delivering a seamless project.”
It was during this time that Joseph’s “can-do” attitude led to her receipt of the company’s High-Flyer award and promotion to engineering manager within one year, and software manager within five.
“This was good experience for joining HNTB, where I now, as a consultant, provide advice and support to clients on planning, design, and implementing tolling systems such as E-Z Pass, SunPass, and FasTrak, in addition to complex back-office financial and payment systems that process trillions of transponder tractions across the country,” she remarks.
Finding the complex nature of toll systems challenging, fulfilling and rewarding, Joseph enjoys a dual role. As deputy director managing the systems engineering staff, she’s responsible for assuring her team members provide high levels of technical support, while assuring them the chance for individual professional growth.
And, as a senior manager on multiple projects, she enjoys overseeing roadway and back-office toll-system planning, implementation, and operations that set the course for successful delivery and on-going operations. She also stresses her enjoyment of working with a talented group, of which more than half are women.
An active mentor to female and male team members, Joseph is hailed for her subject-matter expertise and long-standing client-relationships - both important to her job satisfaction. She advises young professionals to get out of their comfort zones and take on challenges to understand the full range of the software and systems on which they work.
Additionally, Joseph affirms the value of continuing education, applauds HNTB’s on-going programs for the toll group geared toward education and training for professionals at all levels, and the company’s encouragement of community outreach and volunteerism, which includes supporting a variety of STEM programs.
For more information about HNTB, visit hntb.com, hntb.com/careers, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Kudryashova Manages Enterprise Integration at Alliance Data
Nina Kudryashova applauds software development as a booming industry, one of which she enjoys being part. And it was during a high-school computer science course that Kudryashova fell in love with programming.
“I found it to be a fascinating experience, and one that helped further my interest in pursuing a career in software development,” she recalls.
After earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in software engineering, and working as a programmer for 10 years, Kudryashova accepted a position at Columbus, OH-headquartered Alliance Data.
“That was nearly 22 years ago, and I’ve never regretted that decision,” the senior application development manager states, recalling that Alliance Data offered her a unique opportunity to develop a Windows-based graphic user interface (GUI) distributed application for their customer-care centers that processed card-holder calls. “Since I had the required technical skills, I could not pass up the opportunity.”
A segment of the Alliance Data enterprise - a Plano, TX-based, S&P 500, Fortune 500 and a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For - Alliance Data card services business develops market-leading, private-label, co-brand and business credit card programs for many of the world’s most recognizable credit card brands.
Now with 30 years of software development experience, a master’s degree in computer systems engineering, an MBA in information systems management, and numerous educational training and classes on programming languages under her belt, Kudryashova continues to find joy, accomplishment and satisfaction in overcoming the challenges of complex projects.
She further foresees an extremely bright and promising future as the demand for software development continues to grow and offer high salaries.
Charged with managing an enterprise integration team of talented, creative and technically versatile software developers that provide integration solutions and client services, Kudryashova says: “The software we support in effect serves as the connective tissue between our clients, vendors, and internal systems and applications.”
Her advice to others is simple, yet dynamic: embrace challenges and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
“Mistakes help us to grow and build programming experience,” she stresses. “Every software developer who’s reached success has faced challenges and learned from them.”
She also cautions those preparing to enter the software development field not to focus unduly on programming languages. “The most important part of programming is the logic, and that logic is the same for every language,” she contends.
Relating that Alliance Data has been named a Best Workplace for Diversity by Fortune, as well as a Great Place to Work, Kudryashova also highlights the company’s Grow Together programs for all associates who want to develop and grow at any stage in their careers.
“These programs provide opportunities to gain relevant knowledge and skills to enhance their effectiveness. The employee resource group, Women Connect, additionally fosters an educational and social environment that encourages and facilitates development and progress of diverse women at Alliance Data,” she adds.
For further information about Alliance Data, visit alliancedata.com, alliancedata.com/careers, knowmoresellmore.com, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Rodriguez Is Evolving Quality Assurance at Verint
Empowerment by female leadership is what drove Nita Rodriguez to become a woman in tech now. In fact, she’s now in a leadership role, serving as vice president of quality engineering at Verint, the customer engagement company headquartered in Melville, NY.
A global leader in solutions that focus on customer engagement, security intelligence, as well as fraud, risk, and compliance, the company has customers in more than 10,000 organizations. Operating in 180-plus countries, it represents more than 90% of Fortune 100 companies.
Initially planning on a career in accounting, it was not long before Rodriguez transferred to IT. Deemed a much better fit, her first job after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems was webmaster with MARTA - Atlanta, GA’s rapid transit system. Next along her career path, were positions at two dotcoms before joining Verint 17 years ago.
Today her job includes ensuring that Verint software is released in a high-quality and timely manner. Currently engaged in transitioning from traditional quality assurance to a new holistic testing model - whereby engineers are involved in the entire process from design to coding to testing - she explains that this new model helps testers evolve into test architects able to guide engineers as they apply real-life scenarios to the product features they develop.
Her job functions further include mentoring engineers and testers as they adapt to newer models, in addition to focusing on automating test cases - considered a number-one priority.
Noting that traditional quality assurance is evolving to modernize quality engineering by transitioning from traditional, less flexible waterfall development - which is a sequential, rigid, linear process of project management - she says: “It’s up to me to help engineers make that transition, while taking into account the growing role for agility and innovation in the engineering process.”
What she particularly enjoys is driving the new and bold transformation, acknowledging, with a smile that, “at times it can be like pushing a boulder up a mountain.”
According to Rodriguez, the best career advice she received came some years ago from a coworker. When asked to take on a significantly large project for the first time, she recounts that coworker absorbing her facial expression of concern and telling her to “just embrace it.”
Rodriguez did, and ever since she embraced all challenges that came her way. “The fact that I was recently promoted to vice president shows there’s always something to learn in every opportunity, and I’m humbled and incredibly appreciative of my experiences,” she states.
As a participant in numerous recruiting events at Verint, Rodriguez was active in last year’s recruitment of the WomenHack group, which supports women in technology. Having proved to be a highly successful networking event, this venue has now morphed into an on-going program to involve women in quality engineering.
Pleased with the impending changes being brought about in this male-dominated field, Rodriguez says: “Verint is now one of the more progressive companies in this arena, and one that hails workplace diversity.”
To that she adds, “I’m so grateful for the support and mentoring that I received from both male and female members of the Verint executive team.”
For further information about Verint, visit verint.com, verint.com/careers, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube.
Kotian Builds & Maintains Data Pipelines FireEye
Pooja Hitin Kotian finds software fast-paced and a sector where things are made to happen and ideas are converted to reality.
Involved in her work as a software development engineer at intelligence-led security company, FireEye, Kotian enjoys working in the seamless, scalable extension environment of customer-security operations. Headquartered in Milpitas, CA, FireEye offers a single platform that blends innovation security technologies, nation-state-grade intelligence and world-renowned Mandiant consulting.
“With this approach FireEye eliminates the complexity and burden of cybersecurity for organizations struggling to prevent and respond to cyberattacks,” Kotian explains.
The company’s base totals more than 6,300 customers across 67 countries, and includes more than 40% of Forbes Global 2000 designees.
Prior to joining FireEye nearly two years ago, Kotian worked, for three years, as a software engineer exploring various technology domains and working in different roles. She holds a master’s degree in information systems from Santa Clara University and a bachelor’s degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering from Mumbai University.
“It was a rotational program that helped me the most by allowing me to investigate different roles and improve my skill sets. Pursuing a master’s degree further helped me both academically, and by opening doors to the minds of many in the business,” she says.
“Interning at FireEye presented additional opportunities to mesh all of my learning while pulling me into the software side working for telecom clients.”
Currently involved in building and maintaining data pipelines necessary for managing data collection based on current and future requirements, Kotian finds analytics a major part of her job.
“Algorithms and model debugging are studied in terms of customer behavior and usage patterns, which I present as resulting reports to management. These provide insights into customer behavior and feature adoption out in the field,” she details.
What Kotain loves most about the software field is having the freedom to express ideas and innovate. “There’s no glass ceiling and the sky’s the limit,” she emphasizes.
Her advice to those starting out in the software arena is to always look for the bigger picture: “Be open to learning, but at the same time understand that coding is not the sole essence in the software industry - rather it’s working together as a whole in order to achieve the end goal. Working with the great minds around me is what I enjoy. So, too, is working in a space where colleagues learn and grow together toward one goal in a collaborative environment.”
She’s an active participant in the company’s Lean In Circle, where different topics are discussed and explored, and experiences are shared.
“This group offers a safe space for women to share and learn from the experiences of others. The learning and development department is additionally helpful by providing training in new technologies,” she states.
For more information about FireEye, visit fireeye.com, fireeye.com/company/jobs.html, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Apple Podcasts.
Double-Digit Growth
Predictions indicate that job growth in the software sector - through 2026 - is expected to rise by 24%, much faster than average.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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