My Road to Tech

by Karen Kauffman

posted on 09-21-2017

If you had asked me three years ago what my plans for the future were, I never would’ve said computer science. But a lot has changed since then! I’m currently wrapping up my second summer as an Adobe intern, on the Web Engineering team. My team works on the learning and support section of Adobe’s website to make sure customers have all the tools and help they need to learn how to use the products. I’ve worked with quality engineers this summer, writing automated tests to ensure our features are functioning properly at all times. So how did I get here?

I was actually always passionate about basketball and once imagined playing in college. But in high school, my interests were starting to expand beyond sports when I got an email from my school’s college and career center. A program called Girls Who Code was accepting applications for their summer immersion program. My parents and brother all encouraged me to apply. They felt that being able to code would be an essential skill, not just for me, but for my whole generation. So, I decided to spend that summer with Girls Who Code, and that’s where it all began.

I was in the program at eBay with 20 other high school girls, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the atmosphere of working in tech. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, and they told us time and time again that programming would allow us to build the technology that shapes our society. I began to really imagine myself in a tech career, and I decided to enroll in AP computer science my final year of high school.

When it came time to choose a college, I knew Cal Poly was the place for me. I was really impressed by the computer science department’s dedication to increasing the number of female software engineers, encouraging women to enter and stay in technical fields. (And the beautiful campus didn’t hurt, either!) I’m now an incoming third-year computer science major there, with two Adobe internships in the books.

I was actually hired at Adobe through the Girls Who Code Hire Me portal, where alumni of the program can submit their resumes for partner companies to browse. Adobe found my resume and reached out, which was so exciting as a freshman in college. I loved my internship experience the first summer, and I knew I wanted to return. I actually didn’t even interview anywhere else this year. There are a lot of reasons for this, but a big part of that decision was the culture and the relationships I’ve developed here. It’s important to find a place where you feel like you fit in and can grow both personally and professionally.

During both internships, I’ve felt fully integrated into the company, and I’ve been encouraged to socialize and network with peers. My manager and team are always introducing me to new technologies and tools, and there have been so many opportunities to join groups that allow me to explore my passions outside of work. I’m especially interested in corporate responsibility, so I’ve attended lunch sessions this summer to learn what Adobe is doing in the sustainability realm. It’s great knowing that I’m part of a company that is actively working toward bettering our communities through social impact. And, during both of my Adobe summers, I’ve been able to serve as a mentor for their Girls Who Code program, meeting with the high school girls who are currently in the program. Girls Who Code was such a big part of how I got started in tech, so I love that I’ve been able to use my position at Adobe to reach out to other young women and encourage them to get involved, too.

My path to tech was a little unexpected, but I’m so glad it brought me to where I am today. When people ask me what advice I’d give to other young women considering this path, I like to share a quote from Sheryl Sandberg: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It seems so simple, but it’s really important. Never be afraid to reach out to a more experienced person, or to embrace a new opportunity, regardless of how uncomfortable it seems or what other people think. I encourage women to consider a career in computer science because software has the power to influence so many other industries and change them for the better. Technical skills open up a lot of opportunities, so don’t be afraid of the challenge! I know that if I can do it, you can, too.

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Topics: Adobe Culture, Diversity & Inclusion, Sustainability, Digital Transformation