William Shakespeare wrote that “the course of true love never did run smooth.” His proverb could also apply to the winding path toward a career in technology—at least for many of New Relic’s women technologists. This is something I learned when I asked fellow female Relics for their help in compiling a post on 7 Women in Tech Who Inspire Us in honor of Women’s History Month.
Along the way, however, I learned about their own fascinating, often unexpected journeys into the tech careers they have today. It turns out that many of my female colleagues come from very different professional backgrounds, from retail to the humanities to cinematography. Their stories were so compelling, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to share their tales of career passion and serendipity.
From mechanical engineering to software engineering
“Taking an Engineering 101 class that my best friend coerced me into showed me that engineering was about way more than building bridges. That led me to get a B.S. in mechanical engineering and business. During school I didn’t connect with the material like I thought I would, so after graduation I ended up at New Relic in a non-technical role. Seeing how happy, collaborative, and intellectually challenged the developers were, I went to a coding bootcamp over the summer and came back as a software engineer. Pretty great move in my opinion!” —Paige Bernier, Software Engineer
Building blocks, then building software
“As a teenager, I came home from school one day and said, ‘I want to build things, like bridges,’ and my father said, ‘Then you want to be an engineer.’” Not too long after that, a woman who was an engineer at the phone company spoke at my school about her career in engineering and that pretty much settled it. I majored in electrical engineering. My junior year, after having had three whole programming classes, I got a job for a small software company started by a family friend. There, I was part of the team that built a new real-time operating system—I wrote the memory management system. After graduation, I worked for a few years in electrical engineering, but soon I realized software was where I wanted to be, and here I am.” —Nadya Duke Boone, Product Manager, Predictive Analytics
When art meets science
“I enjoyed art as a kid, but I was also drawn to math and science. The two rarely collided when I was a child, something that combined the best of art and science. Once in college, though, I studied graphic design, which opened up the door to web development, product design and development, and so much more.” —Amie Guidry, Web Manager
A love of languages
“I started out thinking I wanted to do humanities! In college I studied history and French, and after I graduated I taught English in France for a year and then worked as a translator at a health research company. After about a year and a half of that I realized I wasn’t happy so I quit, moved back home with my parents, and enrolled in a programming boot camp. I was not happy at work because there were not many opportunities for advancement. When I heard about bootcamps, I realized that I wasn’t in love with working in translations, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ It was definitely scary, but one thing that appealed to me about software was the amount of opportunities out there and speed at which things change—there’s always something new to learn.” —Rebecca Holzschuh, Software Engineer
Work from anywhere
“I was interested in a career that was very flexible so I studied computer science in college. I liked the fact that you could work in virtually any industry and even for yourself with the skills of being a software engineer.” —Maryum Styles, Software Engineer
Following a passion
“My career in technology began with my calculus professor suggesting I take his programming class. This was back in the early 1980s when computers were not as common as they are today. I didn’t even know what programming was at the time. That said, I followed a professor I admired and fell in love with being a software engineer. This gentle pull by one person led to a long and fun career playing both technical and business roles in the tech industry with amazing companies such as Accenture, VMware, and now New Relic.” —Yvonne Wassenaar, CIO
The long and winding road
“It’s been a long and winding road. I majored in cinematography in college! My first job out of college was a media specialist at a school district. When 800 PCs arrived on the loading dock, it became my responsibility to install them and recommend software to teachers, so that’s how I learned computers. Then I became a sysadmin at the phone company and learned Unix. One of my favorite jobs was being a tech writer because of how important it was to be precise (I’ll admit that I was thrilled I was being paid, to be extremely precise). I worked for Sun Microsystems doing various jobs, always in the developer tools space (NetBeans IDE, anyone?). Then Sun was acquired by Oracle (that is a transition I will gladly discuss over adult beverages). I was the Java Community Manager, ‘managing’ 9 million developers around the globe—what an amazing group of people to work with! Now, I’m a developer advocate at New Relic, focusing on building the New Relic user community.
“I love high tech; I’m never bored because there is always something new to learn. My proudest moments are when I can mentor other women. Yes, it can be tough for women but I believe it’s worth it—for the knowledge, the fun, and the adventure of it all.” —Tori Wieldt, Developer Advocate