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4 women describe their non-traditional journeys to tech

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 1, 2016
At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, four women shared how alternative education paths brought them to a career in technology.

"I discovered Girl Develop It and starting picking up skills: JavaScript, CSS, HTML, while I was figuring out what I was going to do. From there I did a full-time immersive boot camp with TechTalent South while I was working full-time," Capolongo says.

Then, one day, a colleague asked Capolongo what she'd been up to, and the conversation segued into tech. It was that conversation, along with support from the friends she made in boot camp courses, that led her to get into QA. While she's overjoyed with her choice, she believes her background as a customer service representative is invaluable, she notes.

"In QA, we're supposed to make sure that the software works correctly and that it does what it should for customers. And I'll have engineers push back on me for things that they don't think need to be fixed, and I want to tell them, 'You go man the customer service phones for an hour and actually talk to the customers -- that's who you're working for, that's why we have to make sure this is done right,'" Capolongo says.

Paula Paul, architect, AmWINS group

Paula Paul has been in technology and engineering most of her life. She was born in western Pennsylvania, and attended Penn State University, where she tutored electrical engineering majors in addition to her own coursework. One day, Paul says, she happened to be walking past a few of her tutees coming out of a conference room, and asked what they were doing.

"It turns out that these guys I'd been tutoring were interviewing with IBM for potential internships. Well, I marched right in there and sat down with the IBM interviewer and said, 'Look, I'm the one who's tutoring them in engineering. You need to be talking to me!'" she says. Needless to say, Paul landed that internship.

From there, Paul and her husband moved to Boston, where she joined Microsoft consulting and transitioned from writing assembly code for mainframes to PC coding. From there, she went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to work for "a corporate IT shop, which is where I really hit a wall. It turns out that corporate folks in Charlotte don't like a direct woman who'll come in and tell them when and how they're wrong," Paul says.

While it was tempting to leave the tech industry altogether, Paul says, she channeled her energy into helping other women navigate their own careers and transitions to tech.

"I was honestly about to lose it. You know the term 'flipping the table?' Yeah. I was about to flip the table. And then, I went and joined a boot camp. And I volunteer with Code.org. I want to help other women manage these situations and their own transitions, because I've had plenty of them, and I hope they can be learning experiences," Paul says.

 

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