By Melissa Hart, Special Correspondent to Inspiring Success
In previous posts, we defined the term “technologist,” a label that applies to people working in companies of all shapes and sizes across the country along a broad spectrum of industries – not just those that write software and make hardware. We explained that, while technologists have diverse interests and multifaceted personalities, most share five traits:
- A technologist thinks strategy first.
- A technologist has a passion for solving problems and a general sense of curiosity.
- A technologist sees technology in a constructive context.
- A technologist believes tech is about humans, not hardware.
- A technologist values respect, cooperation and collaboration.
Joy Baer, CEO of ad tech software company Strata, knows first-and-foremost the importance of inspiring young women to pursue technology as early as possible in their education. She credits her own her experiences as a teen, exploring an Apple IIc computer while babysitting, after her charges had gone to sleep for the night.
Baer went on to major in computer science in college, which led to an interest in developing software for business applications. Today, she has more than 25 years of enterprise software experience, including software and management consulting expertise with Fortune 500 and national media companies. She embodies the five core qualities technologists share, and in her current role as Strata CEO she especially is proud to serve as a role model for young women and girls aspiring to be leaders and technologists.
In the spirit of encouraging the next generation of women tech leaders earlier this year, Baer hosted the first-ever Chicago-based workshop with TechGirlz, a nonprofit that aims to “inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers.” Baer discovered TechGirlz through Strata’s parent company Comcast, and the organization’s mission immediately struck a chord with her. (Creating IT Futures also is a TechGirlz partner through its NextUp initiative.).
“My exposure to computers in middle school a was a pivot point for me shifting to that field later in life,” Baer explained. “The importance of exposing girls at a formative age to technology in really positive ways is critical to getting them to think of technology as part of their own skill set, as opposed to thinking of it for someone else, like for the guys, for the geeks.”
Held at Strata headquarters, the workshop consisted of a group of 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade girls learning how to record, edit and develop podcasts. It was a fun-filled day and easy to implement, which Baer feels is evidence that the TechGirlz’ TechShopz in a Box concept could be integrated into classroom curricula across the country.
Baer believes early exposure can help turn the tide of societal pressures young girls face that can lead them to shy away from STEM education. Her own daughter didn’t take computer science class until senior year of high school. “That’s too late to learn that you’re really great at something, most of the time,” she said.
Her advice to tween and teen girls: “Don’t be afraid or discouraged to learn and immerse yourself in as much technology as you can. Boldly choose a high school program or college program, and realize that you will still be forging new ground in that space, there are gender biases still built in. Stay strong and go for it.”
Have you met an impressive technologist while on-site at an industry event?
Inspiring Success collects stories about technologists, and then shares them with people considering technology careers. Send your story to Contributing Editor R.C. Dirkes at email@example.com and inspire someone.