We’re featuring a different woman in technology at Cimpress each month to share individual insights, thoughts, and opinions about what it means to be a woman working in technology today.
Why? There are many reasons, but this is the most important: as most technologists know, the best ideas we have would never have happened if not for the differing voices, opinions, and contributions of those around us. Our best work does not come from those who agree with us, but those who challenge us, who make us rethink everything and start again. In the same way that we want someone to review our code or test it out, we want people to push us to get the best out of our ideas.
We’re featuring Cimpress women technologists to help bring that often underrepresented voice back into the conversation and to hopefully get people to think about work, problem solving, and even women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines in a different way.
Our feature springs out of the Cimpress Women in Technology group. This growing group is concentrating on furthering awareness about its mission: to pull women together for the purpose of creating a community that supports new training and learning opportunities; networking both internally and with external companies and groups; and getting the younger generation interested in technology and technology-related careers. In that spirit, there are multiple efforts underway to connect with local high schools and colleges so that our group can be an advocate for young women looking at a career in technology.
Meet Samantha Boulay, our series author, curator, and technologist.
What is your position at Vistaprint and how long have you been here?
I have been working here around three and a half years. I started out as a Quality Engineer and now I’ve moved over into a more technical role expanding and maintaining our product offerings.
What are some of the initiatives you are working on?
Right now, my projects focus on launching new products or extending the offerings we already have. We recently launched the new phone cases, and now I’m focused on extending the substrates we offer on business cards, flyers, and polo shirts. At a larger level, I’m working with a larger group to try and figure out how the Vistaprint Business Unit and the Cimpress Mass Customization Platform work together in the context of new product introduction.
The work I’m doing around launching products—how we can do it faster, how we can become more efficient, and how we can work together across business units—is what I find truly exciting. Working cross-functionally with so many people to try to solve these complicated problems is truly motivating. These cross-functional challenges are the ones that are the hardest, and the ones where I feel I can learn and grow the most.
What attracted you to a career in technology?
I really found my way into technology by chance. It was my bad luck to graduate from college at the beginning of the worst economic downturn in recent history. After graduating with a degree in English, I was forced to expand my search into fields I hadn’t considered before that point. Since I enjoyed reading and writing, no one had ever encouraged me to look beyond the humanities before. I certainly hadn’t considered a job in a STEM field.
When I was given an opportunity to take a job that was a mix of quality engineering and copywriting, I had a lot of self-doubt. Could I even do this? Copywriting seemed right up my alley, but I didn’t know about the quality engineering portion of it. I didn’t know if I would be able to succeed—I had certainly never seen myself working in technology before.
It was difficult for me to admit that the worst thing that could happen was that I might fail completely. However, it was liberating to realize that wouldn’t leave me any worse off than I was at that moment. I’d still have my English degree and I’d still be jobless, but at least I would have tried. With that in mind, I took the job and haven’t looked back.
What attracted you to Vistaprint?
I worked at a smaller company before joining Vistaprint, one where I had a lot of learning opportunities over my years there. I didn’t have much work-life balance though, and my role was starting to feel stagnant. I had heard so much about Vistaprint from friends who worked here and I was really attracted to the transparent and balanced culture. Not many companies can have such a driven work force and maintain an emphasis on work-life balance at the same time.
What is the tech culture like here at Cimpress?
There is an astounding amount of incredibly smart people at Cimpress and through them, so much to learn. I’ve been able to grow technically and professionally by relying on my peers to help me when I need it. I’ve found so much support in learning new techniques and ways to solve problems. People genuinely want to help you achieve the goals you are trying to achieve. It has been an encouraging environment—and I think it has contributed to me moving over to a more technical role.
Why do you value the Women in Technology group?
Having a group of people facing similar struggles and life experiences is empowering. Outside of meeting a lot of women that I might not have had the opportunity to interact with before this group, it is a forum for a group that can often feel underrepresented and unheard to start to change that feeling. Listening to successful, strong women who have made it to valuable leadership positions talk through their experiences opens a dialog that is invaluable for all of us in the group. It makes me realize that even though I feel alone as the only women in a technical meeting, these are shared experiences that we all have. It’s so much easier to try and change those situations and impressions when you don’t think you’re doing it alone.
Do you think the technology field is changing for women? How?
It’s changing, but there’s so much we could do to change it faster. Technology is so much more integrated into daily life now. It feels like the bar to entry is much lower. What we need to do now is to provide positive role models for women, so that technology (just like rest of the sciences) isn’t something that you find your way by chance to, or something that you have to struggle to find acceptance in, but instead something as viable and encouraged for women as teaching and nursing historically has been. These are laudable and important careers, but women should feel as encouraged and praised for wanting to build software and solve technical problems as they are for wanting to teach children.
What one piece of advice would you give other women looking to get into a career in technology?
Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Trust in your own ability to learn and be comfortable with the fact that you won’t know all the answers right away.
Samantha Boulay is a Hofstra University graduate with an MA in English. After graduation, she discovered a passion for technology and moved over to an engineering role, which she has been doing ever since. A Massachusetts native and die-hard Celtics and Patriots fan, Samantha loves watching basketball and football.