By Katelyn Roberts
When Cindy Dooling began her career at Pima Community College’s Computer Sciences department more than 30 years ago, the same number of women occupied her department as men.
Over the years, however, the numbers changed. “Soon, all faculty were men,” Dooling said.
“I was concerned that we were not attracting women into technology positions and believed that if women are not engaging in entry-level positions, there would be a significant lack of women in leadership positions,” she added.
Dooling was eventually promoted to assistant vice chancellor for information technology. As her retirement grew closer, Dooling organized a professional development workshop for women in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
The vision of the workshop, “to provide networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities to support women in all stages of technology careers,” would become Women in Technology’s mission statement.
There’s no ‘I’ in STEM
IT Principal Analyst Aleksandra Knezevic formed Pima’s Women in Technology organization a year and a half ago with help from Dooling, Keith McKintosh and Steve Chang.
Dooling retired and, with her husband, funded a Women in Technology scholarship.
“My husband and I funded the first of what we hope will be many scholarship opportunities for women,” she said.
Knezevic continues to oversee WIT. The group is relatively new, but its members are anything but inexperienced.
Knezevic has studied math and computer programming since her high school days in Sarajevo in former Yugoslavia. She took C programming, math and business intelligence courses in college.
The first of many scholarships
Scholarship recipient Rosalyn Norman served in the United States Marine Corps and has a background in meteorology. She plans to use her $500 scholarship for school supplies and books.
Norman is a math tutor at PCC and a member of Pima’s Engineering Club. That involvement lead her to opportunities at Xerocraft Hackerspace and Women in Technology, along with NASA-funded student projects NASA ASCEND! And the NASA RockOn workshop.
She now works at TECAccessories, an online distributor for inventions and techy gadgets.
Taking a different path
Freshman Lydia Stinchfield’s story of success within the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields is a little different.
Stinchfield isn’t the caricature of an administrative networking major. She isn’t a poster child for hackers and she’s definitely not trying to be a female role model in the world of technology.
Stinchfield wakes every morning at 5:30 to pull on a pair of muddy rubber boots and feed llamas, goats, chickens, roosters, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, quail, pigs, dogs and sheep on the multi-acre ranch where she lives and works.
Receiving a Women in Technology scholarship was a “sweet surprise.”
Graduating without debt by using federal aid and earning scholarships has been Stinchfied’s plan since she decided to go back to school.
She previously tried to make ends meet by working as a freelance pastry chef and for a general contractor.
Growing up as her household’s personal IT kid, her interest in computers started at age 10.
“I’m fascinated not only with the intricacies of how things work in the digital world, but also in the physical world,” she said.
Ranching by day, cybersecurity by night
Stinchfield plans to transfer to the University of Arizona to specialize in cybersecurity.
“We’re the people who build protection for you, whether it’s your online banking, taxes or online profile,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are there to protect you, but there are also a lot of people who try to counteract that protection.”
Stinchfeld maintains her own VPN, or Virtual Private Network, setup in her two-bedroom home on the ranch. She spends most of her time there because all of her IT classes are online.
Books on cybersecurity and coding stack up next to her bed.
Down the hall, four computer monitors powered by her laptop sit atop a large desk next to a bearded dragon lizard’s tank. A cage occupied by two sugar gliders, a type of gliding possum, stands caddy-corner to her desk.
Tiny spotted eggs fill a yellow plastic container plugged into the wall next to her laptop. The container serves as an incubator that simulates a mother quail sitting on the eggs.
She’s documenting the features of her fertilized quail eggs in an Excel document.
Maintaining a balance
Stinchfield finds ways to incorporate technology into her life on the ranch for projects she is excited about, such as her quail research. However, she’s not as high-tech as you might assume.
“I have like 90,000 books and I only watch VHS tapes,” she said. “The ranch and my love for the outdoors are the reasons I can say I’ll be successful in network security because I have this balance.”
Stinchfield may look like she lives two lives: one as a technologically inclined computer coder and the other as strong and hard-working ranch hand, but she’s got it figured out.
Her favorite part of her major is that she can live the life she wants. “I can be in the cabin, stuck in the middle of the woods, and work remotely,” she said.
Paula Borchardt has been an online instructional web designer at Pima for the past 12 years, and currently works at the Center for Learning Technology. She joined WIT earlier this year.
“Women shouldn’t be shy or hesitant to join male-dominated fields,” Borchardt said. “Connecting with other women through networking groups like WIT is a great way to feel more comfortable in tech fields.”
Students or faculty members in STEM, those pursuing a career in technology or anyone interested in learning more about Women in Technology can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.