Akaemi BarnettYears at BYU: 1998-2002
I decided in 7th grade that I wanted to become some kind of engineer, but when I got a full-ride scholarship to major in Computer Science, I thought I'd give it a shot. I had never really coded before, so I wasn't sure what I was getting into. Luckily, it was something I was pretty good at - not only that, but I actually enjoyed it! I love being able to build things, and I love being able to solve problems, so this is the best of both worlds.
I've been a Software Engineer for the last 16 years, working for the federal government and as a government contractor. I've done mostly Java, front end to back end, and my favorite place to work is in the middle doing the business logic. Security is very important in the work that I do - I spend a lot of time making sure things are authenticated properly, encrypted properly, and that passwords and encryption keys are managed properly.
I am growing as a Tech Lead on my project, and am excited at the prospect of helping others to grow their skills.
Men are more likely to bluff when they don't know something. Women are more likely to be hesitant, even when we are 99% sure of the answer. Don't let that intimidate you!Send A Message to Akaemi Barnett
Beth Crockett BallYears at BYU: 1978-1982
When I graduated from BYU, I accepted an offer to work for Bell Laboratories (AT&T) in Murray Hill, NJ. It was an exciting place to work in UNIX and be on a team to build their first ANSI C compiler. They sent me to graduate school at USC for my Master's Degree and also paid for my studies towards a PhD at night at New York University. I didn't finish the degree because Apple, Inc. offered me a position to be a lead engineer for building the first C++ compiler at Apple. One of my CS friends at BYU, clued me in on this amazing opportunity. (Keep in touch with your CS friends for career connections!) I worked for Bell Labs for almost 7 years and then for Apple in Cupertino, CA for another 7 years. During my time at Apple, I married and had children. After my sabbatical when I had my second child, I decided to leave and start my own consulting company working from home. It has been an amazing ride from 1994 when I started my company to now being a pioneer in the field of web programming. It is a constant path of learning and adapting as technology changes and everything you need to know to learn is out there on the Internet. My expertise in programming languages and knowing the front-end of compilers makes it very easy to pick up a new language. You could say that I am a "full-stack" programmer and I love it! Some of my clients have been eBay, Adobe, Intuit, medical non-profits, and many others. One of the best decisions I ever made was choosing Computer Science as my major. I was able to raise my three children and work as many hours as I want whenever I want. Sometimes I think now that since my kids are grown and gone that it would be fun to go work for a nearby Silicon Valley company, but I just love the freedom and I do very well income-wise with my company.
I never have said "I don't know how to do that" even when I didn't (yet) know how to do something. I took on hard projects from the beginning of my career bluffing that I knew how to do something. I always figured it out and did it well. I knew I would. So be confident in yourself! Also, while in college learn as many programming languages as you can. Being familiar with all the usual constructs will help you when a new language comes along. In college I learned Pascal, assembly language, and C. During all these years I have learned and programmed in so many languages. These days it's PHP, Python, mySQL, HTML and others. If a customer says "I need this in Ruby on Rails" and you don't know it (yet). No problem. It's all pretty much the same.
Emily FoleyYears at BYU: 2014-2016
I am a 3rd generation female computer programmer. My mom always worked from home as a software engineer as I was growing up and I took classes in high school and I really loved it in college. I got through college quickly so I could go to work while my husband pursues a degree in law. I work as an Android Engineer at Domo in American Fork Utah and I really love mobile development. I have a little toddler that really lights up my life.
I like to think of programming like solving puzzles which is why I love it. I love the problem solving aspect of it. Also don't worry too much about perfect grades. If you have decent grades and are a confident learner and willing to take on challenges you will do well at any company you want to.Send A Message to Emily Foley
Melanie GroverYears at BYU: 1987-1991
When I was a computer science major at BYU I almost quit the major because I did not see myself in my classmates; I loved programming but did not eat/sleep/drink it. Fortunately I found a part-time programming position that gave me confidence that I did not need to be consumed by computers to be good at programming them. I worked as a computer programmer for several different companies before changing careers and transitioning to a patent attorney. I found programming very flexable and was able to work at home part-time while raising my kids and during law school. I have now found another work-at-home position with a patent law firm and would be happy to talk about my experience as a programmer or a patent attorney and why I think that CS is an excellent career choice for women.
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Cecily HeinerYears at BYU: 1998-2003
I did my first programming in the second grade in elementary school; I wrote a program that drew my pet fish! I learned about binary numbers and a little bit about how computers worked, but I had lots of questions for a long time- so many questions that I eventually went to graduate school and became a professor and now I would like to try to transition to a role where I can do more research. Along the way, I did my Bachelor's degree at BYU in Provo and an internship at Microsoft in Speech Recognition, and I served a mission in Germany. I chose to go to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon because they had excellent programs in language technology, but while I was there I evolved there towards the learning sciences, and my PhD at the University of Utah was mostly a hybrid of those two things. I have almost always loved teaching, and I taught in a charter school for a couple of years before coming to SUU where I am now in my 8th year.
Have a good Plan A, but also prepare for Plan B and Plan C, and really study the doctrines and the scriptures and learn to communicate with God about what the best plan for you as an individual is. Most of the time I was at BYU, I thought I would be just like my parents and find a spouse and fall in love and get married and have a zillion kids(I am the oldest of 6, and I think I thought I wanted at least 4, and maybe 8 or 12!). That was Plan A, which hasn't exactly worked out the way I thought it would. When I was making decisions for the PhD, I felt very strongly that a) I needed to do one(my answer was something like a combo of verse 3 of Hymn 85 and President Hinckley's talk in 2004 General Conference, "Stay on the High Road", speaking specifically to the young women, and specifically saying "you must get all of the education that you possibly can"- at the time this was his most recent conference address to the Young Women, and b) I was supposed to go to the U- even some of my advisors were a little surprised that I didn't end up going somewhere more competitive or landing more funding. As my life has unfolded, it has become clear that it was EXACTLY where God intended me to be- even if they were the rival of the Y, and in many ways, not having to deal with the competitive funding simplified my life and maybe even made it easier to accomplish some of my goals. In reflecting on my life over the last 10-15 years, I can also see that I have evolved in lots of different ways- I have developed talents that I was not sure i had when I was an undergrad, and I have developed academic interests that far exceeded my expectations when I was an undergrad. I do remember being satisfied through my second year to realize I would probably never have to have a cleaning or food service job if I didn't want it, and I also remember being elated when I landed my technical internship. I wish I had more seriously considered preparing for graduate school, and I wish I had made more of an effort to network with the research community beyond BYU when I was an undergrad- I maybe could have done an REU at another school and been more involved with programs and conferences that could have helped me grow my network. I also wish I had applied for more grants earlier- I maybe could have gotten paid to do work that I would have found to be more interesting and flexible and that would have helped me more with building my CV.Send A Message to Cecily Heiner
Amanda HughesYears at BYU: 1996-2000
After graduating BYU with a BS in Computer Science, I worked as a software developer for several years. I later returned to graduate school to earn a Master's and PhD degree in Computer Science from the University of Colorado Boulder. For the past 5 years, I have been an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Utah State University where I study Human-Computer Interaction. My research focuses on the ways that social media are changing crisis communications and allowing for increased public engagement in crisis response. Through my research I have taught local emergency responders about social media, informed official policy on social media use during crisis, and built several systems designed to help improve crisis communications. I have also made a difference by mentoring many incredible students and helping them to find careers that challenge and excite them. Most recently, I have returned to BYU to join the Information Technology Program as an Assistant Professor.
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Angela JonesYears at BYU: 1992-1995,1997-1999
Right out of school, I worked for a small company in Salt Lake. It was perfect for me because my husband was finishing school at the U of U. I worked there for a few years, and then we moved to Provo. I then taught a couple of classes as an adjunct professor. I really enjoyed the experience of teaching CS concepts. Then I had twins, I decided to stay home with them but was always bringing them along to help others around me with their computers. Later, I had another daughter. We enjoy lots of family time. Lately I've been involved in PTA, teaching coding to kids, helping companies teach coding in schools, and helping run a girls coding camp.
I would suggest that current students to reach out, make a friend or a group of friends. CS is so much more fun when you have others around you to work with.Send A Message to Angela Jones
Denna LawrenceYears at BYU: 2009-2013
Growing up, I loved using computers to write music and create digital art. I also loved math, so I thought someday I might study computers. However, when I got to college, I was very intimidated to sign up for a CS course. I hadn’t programmed at all before and I didn’t want to look stupid, especially being one of the only girls. But eventually I gave it a try, and I’m so glad I did!
Since graduating in computer science, I’ve worked for 5 years as a software engineer at a nearby startup, MX. I’m now a lead engineer there developing mobile apps to help people achieve financial health. I use computer science outside of work, too, and usually have some personal project going on — a mobile game for young kids, a program to trade stocks, an application to help with small farm planning… Something I love about computer science is that it can open doors in any field. 🙂
Since graduating from college, I’ve also had two kids, currently 4 years old and 1 year old. Being a “working mom” is not something I imagined for myself when I was little, but it is the perfect setup for my family and it's very rewarding. At first I found it challenging to navigate maternity leave and returning to work after having a baby because I didn’t have any examples to look to. But now I can be a resource for other women going through that, and that makes me happy.
If you want to someday work full time while raising a family, know that you *can* do it! My advice would be to reach out for help; there is a small but very supportive community out there. Also, speak up for yourself! The tech industry is often very accommodating for its employees right now, so say what you need and be your own advocate.
Also, something I’ve noticed about this career is that it doesn’t just require programming. There is also a huge need for people who can talk to others, foster community within a team, communicate clearly, help resolve conflicts, and mentor others. My advice would be.. when learning computer science, realize you are gaining a very valuable skill, but don’t forget about all the other valuable skills you have that you can share and develop!
Rebecca MorganYears at BYU: 1992-1995
When I graduated from BYU, I worked for a software company in Provo for a few years while my husband finished up his law degree. When he graduated, we were ready to move back home to Kansas City so I asked my employer if I could keep my job and work remotely from home. This was well before working from home was popular, but my employer agreed to let me do it. At that time, I had 2 small children and I chose to work part time so I could balance working and motherhood. I continued to work part time as we added 3 more children to our family. I would wake up early in the morning and get in a few hours of work before the kids woke up and then again at nap time. As my youngest son was getting ready to go to Kindergarten, I was able to bump up to full time and pursue more advancement in my career. I am now Sr. Director of Product Management at Mitchell International where I lead a team of software product managers. Mitchell is located in San Diego, but I continue to work from home as I balance my family and professional lives. Just 2 years ago, my oldest daughter Emily followed in my footsteps and also graduated with her BS in CS from BYU. She now works as an Android app developer in American Fork. My CS education from BYU has been a tremendous blessing in my life and has equally blessed my family.
When I was at BYU, the ratio of women to men in Computer Science was about 1:10. I don't think it's changed much since I graduated. I can still remember the feeling of being out of place in my classes. I always felt like I didn't quite measure up. With the benefit of experience, I have a lot more confidence now than I did back then. Having worked professionally now for 23 years, I have been able to prove that I do measure up. But more than that, I bring certain unique gifts and talents to the table that others don't. That uniqueness as a woman has served me very well throughout my career.Send A Message to Rebecca Morgan