NCSA to send 5 women to 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

09.28.17 -

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is the world's largest gathering of women in tech. It's happening October 4-6 in Orlando, and NCSA is sponsoring five female team members to contribute to this year's event. Each of them comes equipped with a different set of skills and experiences that they're bringing to the conference and different ideas of what they're hoping to bring back to NCSA after.

Meet NCSA's GHC representatives, all of whom will be attending for the first time, and learn what inspired them to pursue a career in technology, why they're excited for GHC, and what they hope to gain from their attendance.

Kalina Borkiewicz, Visualization Programmer for NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

One thing that drew me to computer science was the limitless possibilities. I didn't like the idea of having to choose a major in college at the age of 18, and then having to be stuck with that career for the rest of my life. Computer science left the door of possibilities open, because programming is a skill that can be applied to projects ranging from robotics, to music, to medicine, to art, to security, to… anything, really! I love doing scientific visualization at NCSA and see myself doing this for the foreseeable future. The job I had before this one involved writing medical software, and it's nice to know that, in 30 years, if I decide I want to do something completely different again, that shouldn't be too difficult.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

I don't think I have ever been in a technical meeting with more than two other women, so honestly, just the idea of being surrounded by thousands of women in tech is very exciting! I am very passionate about getting and keeping underrepresented minorities and women in STEM fields. I am one of the women that started Women@NCSA, and I have spent some time volunteering to talk to underprivileged middle and high school kids about computer science. I am excited to learn about more ways that I can be active both at NCSA and in my community to inspire girls and women to be in tech.

Shannon Bradley, Associate Project Manager, Innovative Software and Data Analysis

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

My stepfather got a TRS-80 computer for his insurance agency and I was fascinated. You loaded and saved your programs on cassette tape. He let me help program the device and run the word processing, spreadsheet and accounting programs. Then at school we were given a lab of RadioShack computers by the local RadioShack store. These computers had actual floppy drives. They told us in class about Grace Hopper and how she was the one who wrote the first computer language that was not just a bunch of numbers. I was hooked. I wrote my first programs in TRSDOS Basic on 8-inch floppy disks. I was confident if you could figure out the logic, anything could be programmed and I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be a programmer. Later as I gained experience, I became a Project Manager and helped other programmers be successful programmers.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

This will be the largest conference I have ever participated in. I believe they are anticipating over 18,000 women! Being a female in this profession is difficult and has unique challenges like no other. I plan to attend the Mid-Career and Senior/Executive training sessions so I can network and enhance my skillset and knowledge of tools which can enable me to utilize my 25 years of managerial experience and 20 years of project management experience to its fullest potential here at NCSA.

Back in the 80s, the number of women majoring in computer science was close to 40 percent but unfortunately now it is down around 17 percent. I would love to be part of the force that helps to close the gender gap in computer science and I fully agree with the current evaluation this is a problem that can be solved within the next 10 years.

Amy Schuele, Assistant Director of Operations, Integrated Cyberinfrastructure

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

My Mom was my high school math teacher, so of course I was going to be a high school math teacher as well. One of the requirements was to take a programming class….that's when it hit me, I loved programming—and note, this was FORTRAN :-) I have been at NCSA since 1991 in a variety of roles, including networking, databases and web programming. I am now the Assistant Director of Operations. I'm so thankful for that one required programming class!

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

I first heard about this conference from a friend who attended 4 years ago and said it was "life changing," those were the actual words that she used. I'm hopeful I can have a similar experience. The two tracks that are of the most interest to me are the Career Development and Organization Transformation. The Friday keynote "Where Women Belong" is also on my must-see list. I hope to bring a host of new and innovative ideas back to NCSA to ensure that NCSA continues to be a place where everyone can thrive!

Kandace Turner, Director's Office Project Manager

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

I did not intentionally pursue a career in tech. My first job as a project manager was with a local publishing company where I worked on projects for our website and online course platform. After a while, the work became less challenging and I started to explore other project management opportunities. I saw an opening at NCSA and applied immediately. Oddly enough, I never considered the tech part of the job and instead was focused on advancing my career as a project manager by working on more complex projects—that happen to be in tech. Here I am 4 years later and what I have discovered is that I enjoy working in tech and have a strong interest in data science and analytics in particular.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

While I am looking forward to meeting, networking with, and learning from other women in the tech area, I am especially excited to interact with more women who look like me. It is a well-known fact that the tech field lacks diversity when you consider the male to female ratio. When you add race to that, the numbers are even lower. As a result I don't have many opportunities to interact professionally with other black women, or men for that matter, and my hope is that attending Grace Hopper will start filling that gap.

Kristin Williamson, Senior Assistant Director, Marketing and Facilities

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

I have always been a bit of a daydreamer. Those daydreams often center around my need to create—convincing stories, memorable experiences, need-filling products and services, etc. I have a soft spot for other day dreamers and creators and there's no shortage of those in the technology and science industries. My first job out of college was doing PR for a software company on the verge of launching a highly-anticipated product. The development team's passion was so inspiring that I always wanted to deliver my best work and felt genuinely excited about the projects I got to help communicate. After that experience, I knew the tech arena was where I could best apply my talents in marketing and public affairs, and experience and share creation. My job is to make sure that the right people, be it consumers or funding agencies or researchers, are aware of these dreamer's creations and the impact they have on science, technology, and the world around us.

Why are you excited to attend GHC and what do you hope to gain from attending?

Thanks to NCSA's focus on developing a diverse technical workforce, I have the opportunity to attend GHC for the first time. I'm most looking forward to the Organization Transformation and Interactive Media tracks, but they've also got some great career sessions lined up that I'm excited to explore, including one on overcoming your unconscious bias to advance your career, and one for women in leadership roles in the technical workplaces.

Over the last year, I've been involved with NCSA's diversity and inclusion initiatives and exploring new ways to share science with the public. This year's GHC programming offers a variety of workshops and training that will be valuable to our future efforts.