ACT-W & ChickTech Portland: Making a Difference for Women in Tech
The ACT-W Portland Conference, presented by ChickTech Portland, is an annual 2-day conference that brings together talented women and allies to build their skills and network in order to advance their careers in technology fields. While the conference’s main focus is on accelerating the careers of women who have already entered the workforce, Cloudability also recognizes that the path to creating an equitable industry begins by encouraging career exploration at the K-12 level.
Knowing the value early career education and immersion can have, Cloudability’s Talent Acquisition Partner, Marcus Carter, in partnership with ChickTech’s Portland Program Manager, Janel Hull, proposed the initiative to bring a group of high school ladies to the conference. This “group” turned into 68 young women from 35 high schools and 3 different countries! The sponsorship was made possible by 12 companies from TechTown Portland – a collective of companies who have pledged to advance diversity and inclusivity in Portland and in the tech community.
Cloudability is honored to have teamed up with ChickTech and ACT-W for this event, as are our employees who took part. Tracy Thomas, our Director of Program Management, led a conference session on Career Search Strategies. Loren Saunders, Account Executive, spoke on TechTown’s “Women’s Journeys in Tech” panel and Ayde Alvarado, Finance Intern, and Tracy both joined in for the lunch portion, where we sponsored a table for the gals.
When I sat down with the three women from Cloudability to ask them about their experience at the conference, one thing became clear — opportunities like this are not the norm. Women in tech are struggling. Without the support of the greater tech population, equality in this industry will fail.
Ayde – Finance Intern
Now in college and looking to begin her career, Ayde admits that the decision on whether or not to attend college left her feeling lost. She urged that the chance to attend a conference like ACT-W as a young adult, and network with ambitious female role models, may serve as a pivotal moment in determining young women’s career goals. As part of her career search, Ayde regularly inquires with companies about their charitable contributions to the community, and is often disappointed in their answers. She added that her experience as an intern at Cloudability has allowed her to see that the investments being made to support the community, by the company and by individuals, are often much more than financial, and that the donations of time can have a profound impact.
Loren – Account Executive
As a working mom and women’s rights advocate, Loren goes out of her way to provide mentorship not only to her own daughter, but to young women throughout her community. This includes sharing her personal story and journey to success in the tech field with the women at the ACT-W conference. She feels it’s important to highlight the fact that not all careers in tech are technical. Some of the most successful people in tech may work in Sales, HR or Operations, and they may not hold a college degree. Loren was very excited when she discovered that the TechTown panel represented women from all departments and experience levels, because the diversity in career opportunities is so important to portray.
Tracy – Director of Program Management
Tracy is a perfect example of how exposing underrepresented groups to science and technology early on in life can make a profound impact. In college, Tracy was given the opportunity to conduct a National Science Foundation project with a physics professor. At the time, she was ready to give up on physics and the idea of a PhD. But during the project, she discovered there were people out there who supported her goals, and their willingness to grant such an amazing opportunity made all the difference for her. She felt like she had a purpose. And although she still considers herself a student, she is now in a place where she feels it is necessary and invaluable to share her experience in support of the next generation of women in science and technology.
Having an encouraging role model can make a profound impact on the future of young adults. Many of us at Cloudability can credit a specific mentor or teacher for providing the guidance to pursue our passions. Organizations like ChickTech, ACT-W, and TechTown Portland are providing an avenue to inspire and empower the next generation of women in tech. Here at Cloudability we are just getting started, our community IS our brand and we will relentlessly continue to support it.