While the number of women working in the field of technology remains low, Hodges University student Emily Arnold aspires to become one more woman who is breaking down the barrier and stigma associated with women in technology.
“I feel somewhat alone being a woman pursuing a degree in technology,” she said.
As a UPOWER™ student in Hodges’ Fisher School of Technology, Arnold’s focus has been to learn the basic concepts of computer systems, including database management, website design, networking, programming and more. However, her experience as a student in the UPOWER™ program is quite different from her peers.
“You have to be really self-motivated to be a UPOWER™ student,” she said. Just like being a woman in technology, she also admits the UPOWER™ program can “also feel somewhat isolating.” However, the opportunity to pursue her degree on her own time makes it a realistic choice for Arnold.
Her free time is limited as a mother of five children with ages ranging from five to 18. While working as an office manager at a local birth center and raising a family, Arnold saw few feasible options for returning to school and earning a degree.
After graduating high school in Naples, Arnold attended the University of Florida (UF) for two years. Pursuing a degree in engineering, one class and one unhelpful professor led her to change her major to nursing. Getting pregnant with her first child, she left UF after her sophomore year and returned to Naples.
“I was really interested in midwifery, so I was going to study that. I got a job at a birth center, which I have been working at for almost 17 years now,” she said, and while she enjoys her job, “I’m ready for a change—a chance to grow and learn.”
In fall 2015, Arnold began looking at different options for school, and through the recommendation of a friend, she found Hodges. Thinking about potential degree programs, her continued interest in engineering and technology led her to enroll in Hodges’ Associate in Science in computer information technology UPOWER™ program in November 2015.
“I spend a lot of my time organizing the business and finding efficient ways to get things done, which means bringing in a lot of technology. I was building databases, finding the newest and best software to make things easier for everyone,” she explained.
Enjoying the problem solving and logical aspects of technology, Arnold spends much of her time at home, on her computer working on modules and projects, reading and taking quizzes and exams, which does not allow for much interaction with her peers or professors. Corresponding with professors via email, she appreciates their commitment to helping her succeed, especially Associate Dean and Professor Tracey Lanham.
“Even though I’ve yet to meet her face to face, she’s been the professor for many of my classes, and even though we haven’t spoken much, she’s been the one who has really encouraged my progress,” she said. “She helped me get the internship where I’m working, and I do admire her involvement in facilitating opportunities for young women in technology.”
To add to her busy schedule of work, school and family, Arnold accepted an internship with Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (SWFRTP) in August 2017 with the help of Lanham. Working 20 hours per month, Arnold is helping to populate the website, www.jobs4techies.com, with information, as well as help fix design and functionality.
“I usually wake up at 5:30 in the morning and sit at the computer to do classwork before getting everyone up for school. Then I go to work, come home, and if I have time, I’ll sit down and do classwork, but for the most part, my weekends are spent at the computer working on school or my internship,” she explained.
My advice to other women is to not be afraid and don’t be intimidated. – Emily Arnold
Although the journey has not been easy for Arnold, she successfully completed her associate degree program at the end of October 2017, and not intending to end her educational journey at Hodges, she is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in software development UPOWER™ program.
Admitting she wants “to create something functional” and something people can use in their everyday life, she looks forward to the idea of being able to develop software that helps people take their minds off things in their life, such as games.
“I really want to start working in my degree field, and one of the best ways to learn things is to just get in there and get your hands dirty,” she said. While she doesn’t expect to finish her degree for two more years, she remains optimistic about the opportunities that await her as a woman entering the technology field.
“My advice to other women is to not be afraid and don’t be intimidated. I, like many people, suffer from imposter syndrome, but if you can identify that, then you can move past it to realize you are just as capable as anyone, and that is pretty important for women and girls.”