WCC event supports women in ‘IT’: These women know how to code

Amanda Desy

Amanda Desy, a cyber threat intelligence analyst and Ford Motor company, speaks to a crowd at the recent Women in IT event on March 26. The event encouraged women to explore career paths in the technology field and highlighted various ways they could get involved. Myisha Kinberg | Washtenaw Voice

By MYISHA KINBERG
Staff Writer

 

The U.S. began its journey into technology a long time ago. However with the invention of the Internet, popularity of smartphones and exceptional growth in the field of Information Technology (IT), the job market in the IT field is constantly expanding at an ever-greater rate.

Washtenaw Community College’s Student Resource and Women’s Center partnered with Career Services and a few of WCC’s faculty members in hosting the “Women In IT” event on March 26. The event was designed to share information with women about opportunities in IT and the many different career paths offered in the field. The event featured presentations from professionals in three very different specialties within IT.

Keynote speaker Sue Schade, chief information officer at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, shared job descriptions and stories of her many female staff members. Some of the various jobs she discussed include being a project manager, programmer, and data architect as well as a data analyst. During her presentation, Schade shared personal experience about being the only women in many of her past offices.

“IT is a male culture. However, women make up 50 percent of the population. So we should also make up 50 percent of the IT field,” Schade said. “Women are discouraged from pursuing careers in numerous fields, but the world is changing and it will continue to change for the better.

“Surround yourself with support,” Schade said. “It’s also key to find a mentor and focus on your skills because IT powers so much of what we do. Just think about what things could be different if there were more women in technology and try to imagine yourself as a part of that difference.”

Speaker Amanda Desy, a cyber threat intelligence analyst at Ford Motor company, works to keep and protect information from the potential threats of viruses. According to Desy, around 50,000 new viruses are created every day.

Desy started out as a computer science major, but changed her specialty and then graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in computer network and administration.

While in college at Michigan Technological University (MTU), Desy encountered what she believed to be a discouraging, but somewhat good learning experience.

“At MTU, my program required me to stay with the same group of students till I had completed the program,” Desy said. “From 2009-12 I was the only woman in a class of 36. One time I had a professor ask me if I was in the right class. Initially, proving my self was difficult, but once the guys learned I was serious, I gained more respect and I’m still friends with some of the men from my classes.”

Amanda Desy and Wendy Chaperon-DeWolf

Amanda Desy, left, and Wendy Chaperon-DeWolf speak to a crowd at the recent Women in IT event on March 26. The event encouraged women to explore career paths in the technology field and highlighted ways they could get involved. Myisha Kinberg | Washtenaw Voice

Desy goes back to MTU every year to recruit for Ford and this year she went back to a pleasant surprise.

“At the beginning of the semester of 2015 I went back and saw one of my old professors and noticed that there were five women in the program,” Desy said. “Even though it’s not enough, I believe that we are on the right path. Hopefully these women will be interested in jobs at Ford because right now there are only four women in a department of 30.”

The last speaker of the day was Jennifer Marsman, a principal developer evangelist working in Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Group. An evangelist is a person who gets new technology from the company they work for and then shares it with developers through presentation, blog, email or any other information sharing system.

“I’m constantly around new technology,” Marsman said. “When there’s a new system update, new apps in the Windows app store or changes in Windows phones, I’m given that new technology to learn how to use it. Then I educate developers and give frequent presentations on the new material.”

Marsman didn’t address any specific bad experiences she has had being a woman in the IT field. Her primary focus in the presentation was to encourage women who love to code and don’t mind speaking in front of groups to explore a career as an evangelist.

“Evangelists aren’t a well-known position, but we play a crucial part in companies,” Marsman said. “When I took my first coding class back in high school, I immediately fell in love with coding. It’s fascinating to be able to understand the language and be able to tell the computer what to do and how to solve problems.”

The speakers ended their presentations by talking about how many opportunities there are in the IT field and how taking a few classes and learning the basics of computers or coding can open many doors for women interested in IT.

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