Field of Study: 
Software Developer

My name is Pamela. I grew up in St. Paul, MN. In 2003, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information technology with concentrations in system administration and database administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

How did you get interested in computing?

Computing has interested me ever since I was in elementary school and used a VTech Learning toy. I learned how to program using BASIC. When my family got an IBM PCjr, I decided to read the manual for fun. I figured out how to change background color, and it was a thrill for me. I liked the idea of manipulating and modifying things on a computer. Growing up, I had exposure to many different computers. At elementary school, we used Macs. At home, we used PCs with DOS and Windows 3.1. I wrote my first essay using WordPerfect in middle school and learned how to write HTML in high school. I grew up with computers in my life and I feel at home with one.

How did you end up in your current position?

I completed two different internships while I was in college, one with a small consulting firm in White Bear Lake, MN for three months and one with IBM in Rochester, MN for six months. When I graduated from college, I had a job offer from IBM in Lenexa, KS as an Informix quality assurance (QA) tester.

I moved to Kansas and have been working for IBM ever since. As a QA tester, I tested a variety of products, including Enterprise Replication, Java Database connectivity, Informix Warehouse, and Informix Warehouse Accelerator. Meanwhile, I was taking online courses from RIT and graduated with a Masters of Science degree in software development and management.

A year ago, I moved to Netezza, an IBM company, to become a software developer working with storage systems. I develop utilities for users that are written in C, Perl, sh scripts, C++, and Python. The utilities allow the system run and keep it running, while predicting or reacting to problems as they arise. On a daily basis, I fix defects reported by users and work on new feature development.

Does your disability affect your career?

I have been profoundly deaf since birth. I use American Sign Language, and do not talk with my voice. I use both sign language interpreters and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) captioning at work, depending on the type of meeting I’m attending. I have also used both remotely (Video Remote Interpreting and Remote CART) especially if my meetings are conference calls. Having access to these services has been important to help me be successful. I also use instant messaging (IM) to talk with my colleagues. We sometimes have meetings conducted via IM, if the meetings are short and quick. It is very useful for me, since requesting an interpreter or a CART can take time.

What can I do while I’m in high school if I want to pursue a career in computing?

If you’re thinking about a career in computing, there are some things you can do now to get ready.

    1. As for any career, excel in all of your courses. Take computing-related courses if you can. If computing classes are not available, take math and science classes.
    2. Take some time to explore your interest in computing. Computing is a wide field. What interests you? Try out some projects at home or at school or join a computing-focused club.
    3. Develop your people skills by being more involved in team activities. Try out a club or a sport. Computing may not always mean sitting on your chair all day typing away. It requires teamwork and collaboration.

Why should I study computing?

Computing is a great field. Computers run everything! I do not think the computing industry will be running out of jobs anytime soon. Through my training, I’ve learned how to approach and analyze problems better. I hope I can make an impact in the world using that knowledge. I am a very curious person, and I love solving puzzles and challenges, or even finding multiple solutions to the same problem. I also am highly motivated. These traits can be important in computing careers.

You will never stop learning if you choose computing. There are always puzzles to be solved, and you will have the tools to solve them. It is a very good feeling to be able to solve problems and show what you can do.