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Highlights from Undergrad
  • Launched Dukes Inspiring Girls Into Tech Across Limits (DIGITAL) in 2012
  • Attended Grace Hopper Conference (2012, Baltimore)
  • Attended NCWIT Conference (2013, Arizona)
  • Attended CAPWIC (2014, VCU)
  • Winner of the JMU Woman of Distinction Award (2014)
  • Winner of the CS Anita Borg Award for Outreach (2014)
What are you doing in your current position?

I’m a Solutions Architect for Arc XP, a division of The Washington Post. Arc XP was originally developed by The Washington Post as a SaaS-based content management system for media organizations. Today, Arc XP has grown into a full end-to-end digital experience platform used by enterprise companies and retail brands as well as media organizations. In my role, I work with clients pre- and post-sales to understand their pain points and needs in relation to their legacy systems. I then take that knowledge to design their Arc XP instance, solve those pain points, and meet their content management and digital experience needs.

It’s my dream job that I didn’t know existed! I think that’s fairly common: many undergraduate students don’t know of all the roles that actually exist in the tech industry. You typically think of dev roles, but there are several additional roles where you need that strong technical background but you’re not writing code all the time – you’re working with people and solving problems.

Before I joined The Washington Post, I was doing software development (mostly front-end engineering). I will always love writing code, but as a Solutions Architect, I get to think about the bigger picture on how we can use technology to solve problems.

What were some of your formative experiences in the JMU CS program?

I loved doing outreach with the CS department! We were in this remote-ish area that – at the time at least – didn’t have many technical resources in the local schools. Having faced discrimination in high school for being a girl interested in tech,I was really invested in finding ways we could bring tech and coding to younger girls. Studies show that the middle school age group is when most girls decide to not pursue tech. I was trying to figure out what we could do, and I was so lucky that Dr. Simmons supported it and we were able to get funding from NCWIT to launch a new program: DIGITAL.

I can so clearly remember the planning process to get the first event up and running: we were all sitting in room 240 and coming up with the name of this event – we wanted something that was clever and would attract people. We got to DIGIT fairly easily, but then had to figure out how to get to DIGITAL. To this day, I’m still so proud of that acronym - Dukes Inspiring Girls Into Technology Across Limits. We were figuring out what the sessions would be, where we would host it, how we would feed all the participants. All those planning aspects have come in handy for future projects. It made a huge impact on me, and I hope it made a great impact on all of the girls who have attended DIGITAL over the years. 

I think it is so important for girls to see successful women in tech. If I hadn’t found NCWIT in high school and hadn’t met Dr. Simmons and Dr. Nancy Harris at JMU, I probably would have left the field. And I really loved the hands-on nature of the program, taught by full professors - not grad students. I wanted that in my education.I loved how willing the professors were to work with you – and just to talk with you and give career advice. They always have their doors open. Even now, I feel like I could reach out to any of them (and I have!). It was so clear that the faculty truly cared about us as young adults and they were always there to help. 

I have so many great memories from my time at JMU. From representing CS at CHOICES and Open Houses to late nights in the computer lab to going to conferences with the faculty to all of Dr. Bernstein’s jokes to discussing the future of CS education in K-12 with Dr. Mayfield to creating embedded systems with Kirkpams/Dr. Kirkpatrick to watching WarGames in my first CS class to promising myself I’d never write a line of Assembly code ever again. I wouldn’t be where I am today without JMU CS!

What advice do you have for current JMU CS students?

Never stop learning! Explore all the opportunities that come to you! Ask questions! I have now worked in the tech industry for 7 years, and the role I’m in now I never knew existed when I graduated.

When you hear “computer scientist” you think of being a developer and writing code. Most people don’t think of all the extra roles around it: Product Owner, Scrum Master, Project Manager, support engineers, architects, engineering managers – all the people that are needed for the developers to be successful. There isn’t a major for Product Owners. Students often don’t have exposure to these roles until they’re in the industry.

Technology changes so fast. What you’re learning in the classroom now likely won’t be what you do in your job 2 years from now. I work in web development, which wasn’t a big area of focus in the CS curriculum during my time. Because of that, I have learned a lot on the job. I always knew I didn’t want to write code all day long, but having the technical background that I got in the CS department has been invaluable for what I’m doing now - especially all of the project-based work we did to develop my communication and teamwork skills. Trust me, those projects will help you in your career!

So my advice to current students: even if you don’t love coding, there are so many opportunities in tech!

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