It’s not surprising that Lead Software Engineer Ann Wong wants to promote others’ success. In her career, she has benefitted from the encouragement of others: her father, a software engineer who inspired her to pursue a Computer Science major in college. University of Massachusetts Professor Robert Moll, whose mentorship led her to discover skills in programming and problem solving. And a women’s engineering group at Google, who gave her an idea she thought she could implement at Cimpress. A year later, she shares the Women in Technology (WIT) group’s beginnings, its successes and her goals for its future.
Why and how did you start the WIT?
When starting at Cimpress, I noticed the small number of women who were software developers. I had met three others who started the same year as me, but we all agreed we didn’t know any other women in the same field. In a way, we all wanted to network and support those who felt the same way.
In college I was a part of the Women in Computer Science group. On a field trip to Google’s Cambridge office, we met several Google Women in Engineering (GWE) members. Stacy Wong’s presentation on Imposter Syndrome (being unable to own your achievements) sparked my inspiration. It was eye opening how many women in the room shared that same feeling. I reached out to Stacy afterward. She inspired me to think about starting a new resource group for women at Cimpress.
With the support of my manager, Charles Dale, I started the Women in Technology (WIT) group with eight of my colleagues from both technical and non-technical backgrounds. They didn’t know each other because they worked in very different groups. However, I happen to be the link between them because as part of the Global Strategic Partnerships team in the Vistaprint brand, I collaborate with various groups among Cimpress to understand how to hook up our systems with our partner systems.
What are your activities?
The WIT group began to meet once a month over lunch, and we’d just talk about anything – just like friends. By word of mouth, awareness of our group grew, and so did our attendance. A committee was created in order to help run operations for the group. The casual lunches started to evolve to incorporate an event each month. The meetings consisted of both internal and external speakers discussing their career paths while offering advice, intern presentations at the end of the summer and potluck parties and lightning talks given by our very own members. Members have also participated in trainings and networking and teaching events, all suggested or run by the WIT group. With more variety, our group started to exponentially grow. We have a strong cohort of 103 members only one year after it started!
What are your hopes for the group?
What gets me excited is that this group is still very young. There is so much potential for it to grow in many ways. Everything is new to us, so there are no limits to what we can try. We are still challenging ourselves to expand our portfolio to include more events for our members to enjoy and to offer the opportunity to connect and encourage others to succeed.
Do you think the technology field is changing for women? How?
Even though there are still not enough women in the field, there are tremendous opportunities for women who want to enter it. Many companies are working hard to attract women in technology. Already, I see that there are more women in the management side than I imagined. This is a great step to show that women are being recognized for their achievements and leadership abilities in the technology industry.
What advice would you give to other women looking to get into a career in technology?
From studying Computer Science to working full-time, I’ve noticed a few things that could be beneficial to women starting out. For example, speak up and ask questions. It is OK if you don’t know the answer to everything. Problem solving is one of the key skills a person needs when striving for a career in technology. By asking questions, you can show that you can be depended on to tackle any task and that you can always learn something new.