Welcome to Women In Technology week at SQL University! This is a great blog project put together by Jorge Segarra (Twitter | Blog), and contributed to by many SQL professionals. If you aren’t a student yet, head over to the website and get started!

This week, you get to meet a fantastic group of women, all of whom work with SQL Server and are involved in the community. These women are smart, talented, driven and amazing. We’re going to talk about how we got involved in technology, how we encourage children to think about tech as a career path, and what you can do to help! You’ll get to meet Audrey Hammonds (Twitter | Blog), Julie Smith (Twitter | Blog), Jen McCown (Twitter | Blog) and Wendy Pastrick (Twitter | Blog). And then, there’s me….

How this Grrl Became A Geek

Hi. My name is Jes. I’m five feet tall. I love coffee. My favorite band is the Dropkick Murphys. My favorite place is Yellowstone National Park. And I’m a Woman In Technology. How did I get here?

I’m the second of five kids (three sisters, one brother). My parents weren’t scientists or engineers or teachers – my stepdad worked for Fire & Safety Equipment, and I had a stay-at-home mom. They didn’t go to college, and they didn’t push me towards academics or college.

But when I was in middle school, I got accepted into the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP). We met once a week. We got to play on computers and solve logic problems and hold science fairs. I was in love. Our advisor was Mrs. Mattice. She was brilliant, encouraging, and never told us something was impossible.

By high school, I was in the advanced math, science and English classes. I was on the Math Team and in Science Club. I got to take Trig and Physics with two of my best friends, Kristen and Amanda. I was pushed to my intellectual limits by Mr. Reese, my Trig and Calculus teacher; Mrs. Hudziak, my Physics teacher, who was smart, funny, and led us to solve problems, not just give us answers; and my counselor, Mrs. Dugenske, who carefully watched my progress, helped me attend workshops, and gave me extra volunteering and teaching opportunities. But, what I really wanted to be was a high school English teacher.

Secret: I didn’t go to college right after high school (that’s a long story). I withdrew from technical college, I joined and got a medical discharge from the Army, I ran around in the punk scene and crashed on random couches and in friend’s basements for a while.

One day, when I was starting to get my life together, my friend Frank told me that the ISP he worked for was hiring, and I should put in my resume because I had the right personality for it. I applied, I got the job, and my life changed. I spent two years learning networking, Unix, and how to blow the boys up in Unreal Tournament. I owe Frank, Brad, Bill and Jay a lifetime of gratitude. They always answered my questions, even the simplest ones; they never treated me differently because I was a woman; and they always encouraged me to learn new things.

Fast-forward eight years, and after working my way through help desk jobs, programming, training and report writing, I’m now a full-time SQL Server DBA. I am a blogger, a speaker, and a woman in technology. And I love it.

Lesson Learned

The path to IT isn’t a straight line for most people. You don’t have to be a script kiddie in high school and get your bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and get a job right after as a programmer to succeed. Some of my closest friends in the field were going to be musicians, never went to college, or have degrees in things like marine biology. What’s crucial is problem-solving skills, dedication, and most of all, passion.

What sticks with me most through this: I remember all of my teacher’s and mentor’s names. They are the ones that encouraged me, prompted me, and believed in me. Support your local teachers. Help your kid’s teachers. Volunteer at a school. Kids will remember it.

A Question, and An Answer

At SQL Saturday 50 East Iowa, after my WIT lunch session, a woman asked me, “If you had a daughter, would you really encourage her to get into IT?” My answer, in less than a heartbeat, was, “Yes, if she loved it.”

I don’t have kids, but I actively encourage my nephew and nieces to work on their math and science homework as much as their reading and their art. They all know that I work with computers, and that I love it. If they show an interest in it as they get older, I’ll be more than happy to mentor them and support them.

How can you make a difference?

Mentor, teach and lead!

I am an active member of the JCI Oshkosh Jaycees. One of our programs is to partner with an elementary school, providing volunteer and other support. We have a mentor program set up, where Jaycees go to the school one day a week and have lunch with their student. This has been a huge success, leading to better attendance, better grades, and happier kids.

I’m also involved with our local FIRST LEGO League – lego robot competitions. (Lego robots are killer cool.) The kids are learning math, science, geometry, electronics, robotics and programming. They are also exposed to a broad range of adults, from engineers and architects to doctors and database administrators. This is an excellent program, and I love it.

The simple fact is that one person can change a life. One kind word, one little bit of encouragement, one offer to help with a science fair project or math problem or robot build can make a world of difference. You can be that difference. Be that difference.


I’d like you to write a blog post or leave a comment about the teacher that inspired you the most, particularly in the math, science or tech fields. Who was the difference in your life?

Don’t forget to attend tomorrow’s class with Julie Smith!