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A night with women leaders: be encouraged

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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Senior Software Development Manager Jennifer Parker shares her experiences at the recent Women Leaders in Technology event in Austin, Texas where she was a panelist in a discussion on women in technology. They covered the gamut from investment in STEM education, to workplace culture, to mentorship, and discussed ways to help overcome obstacles that women face in technology careers. Parker also shares some encouraging words of wisdom based on her own recent experiences.

The Women Leaders in Technology event organized by Amazon sets the tone for building a positive and energetic community around the greater Austin area. Together, organizers and partners are building a conglomerate of knowledgeable trailblazers who create self-awareness and mentorship opportunities for women in technologies at all levels. On the warm evening of September 18 in the Commons Conference Center at the University of Texas JJ Pickle Research campus, hundreds gathered to share their experiences. I was honored to take the stage with seven other women (Misty Nodine, Chelsea Howe, Ritika Khandeparkar, Nalini Belaramani, Tory Brunker, Kelly Dowdy, and Vidya Ramarathnam) to discuss some relevant topics that affect women in technology.

The truth is STEM is often not the first career choice for women. According to research cited, women made up about 20% of tech jobs in 2018. Not only do we desire to see this number grow, we are accountable. As leaders it is our actions that can thrust this culture forward…one conversation at a time. One focus of the evening, was mentors and advocates who help guide you along the way.  While I have been personally blessed to have had several mentors throughout my life, I chose tonight to reflect on my good friend and colleague, Mr. David Hatten. David has been a great mentor over the years and it is no secret how thankful I am to have him as my advocate/cheerleader today. Next we discussed barriers like “imposter syndrome": the voice that tells you that role is way over your head and renders you powerless and incapable of reaching your full potential…well that voice is a liar. In chorus, the panel reminded attendees, you got this!

We kicked off the evening with an inspiring video on Margaret Hamilton. Hamilton was the Software Engineer responsible for putting Apollo 11 on the moon, but not without some challenges. Following the film, we discussed the nitty gritty of obstacles, failures, rejection and promotion. It was at that time moderator Jess Smith called on me to share some good news of my recent promotion here at Forcepoint. Before celebrating that, I wanted to give my listeners some context. At the beginning of my transition from individual contributor(IC) to manager, I was overlooked for an opportunity I felt certain I would obtain through natural progression. Even though I experienced some disappointment, my patience and determination kept me focused, and within three months I had become manager of our global support team.    

You see I am grateful for my journey. I want everyone I encounter to hear me when I say: Please do not be discouraged when plans deviate, it just means there is something greater to be gained. Be patient, raise your hand towards opportunity and do not be afraid to try something new. 

What a warm and inspirational evening. I hope you will join me at the next event. Until then, be encouraged!

About the Author

Jennifer Parker

Jennifer Parker is enthusiastically leading a team of engineers as a Senior Software Development  Manager at Forcepoint. Jennifer graduated from Northeastern University in 2005 with a specialization in Electrical Engineering. She began her professional journey in telecommunications working with...