At a moment in history when we see Pittsburghers working to give girls solid access to STEM education and create more balanced hiring throughout the tech industry, it’s inspiring to talk with women who have already built a place for themselves in the competitive world of tech.
Who are the rock star women working in tech in Pittsburgh? We asked quite a few people in the tech field who they would name. Combing through their glowing recommendations, we’ve narrowed it down to the list of 10 you’ll see here.
You’ll find the CEO of a big company, a software game developer helping revolutionize education in Pittsburgh and many more. These busy women took time to offer advice to other women considering a career in tech and share what sparked their interest from an early age.
We will feature each women’s story in full in the next few weeks in NEXTpittsburgh and we’re asking for your help in identifying more great women in tech.
There are plenty of women out there making their mark and helping others to do the same (like Kelauni Cook of Black Tech Nation.) Got someone you would name? Let us know in the comments. And please share this with young students who are interested in a tech, STEM or STEAM career. If they can see it, they can be it.
Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon
Even when Lenore Blum was a little girl, mathematics sang to her.
“I remember being in a trigonometry class and thinking, ‘Oh how beautiful,’” says Blum, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and long-time pioneer of women’s rights in the worlds of math and computer science. “It was pure truth, independent of feelings. And for me that gave it huge value; I just loved it. I saw the beauty in it, in the fact that it didn’t care for anybody’s opinion, just the pure truth.”
Blum is today known for her work on Project Olympus, a CMU incubator which showcases local tech talent and has helped establish Pittsburgh as a national hi-tech hub.
Learn more about that, and about the fight for increased inclusion of women in the world of tech, in our story here.
Senior Vice President for CGI, former CEO of Summa Technologies
Audrey Dunning came to the world of tech from the sales and business development side, proving that careers in the tech industry do not always fit stereotypes: “It’s not all coding, she says, and it’s not all men.
“A lot of times people think about careers in tech and they have this image of the software engineer sitting in a basement writing code, who doesn’t see the light of day for long periods,” says Dunning, a Beaver County native who lives in Cranberry. “But digital is the way of the future and there are many different careers in science and tech (that) require important skills — soft skills that generally women excel at, including collaboration and communication.
Read more of our interview with Dunning and hear her advice here.
Courtney Williamson, PhD
President and Founder of AbiliLife
Courtney Williamson’s mother inspired her to form AbiliLife, a North Side tech firm that focuses on the sick and the elderly.
“My mom had Parkinson’s disease for 25 years, and my family and I were her caregivers,” says Williamson, 30, of Highland Park. “I was at Carnegie Mellon University studying for my Ph.D. in organizational behavior, and my mom’s disease was progressing. One thing I noticed was her posture was worsening. She would slump forward in a very protracted manner and it was difficult for her to function normally in terms of walking and sitting in chairs and eating. I called the National Parkinson’s Foundation to find a solution, and they said they didn’t have any products specifically dealing with this issue.”
Read more about how Williamson teamed up with an engineering class at CMU to change her mom’s life and founded AbiliLife in the process.
From the time she was a child, Jessica Trybus was drawn to computers.
“My favorite thing was when we would go to the library and use the computers in the first grade,” says Trybus, 40, of Highland Park. “And my father had a business that used computers, and I was like, ‘Wow, I want to use that thing.’ I got my first computer, an IBM PC for Christmas in 1986, and it was this amazing thing. I loved it. I loved tech, not just computers, but video games, too.”
Plenty of other kids feel the same way, and they’re probably very glad that Trybus founded Simcoach Games, which develops game-based learning software to help organizations train workforces.
Read more about Trybus, and hear how “Kids and Creativity” was born, in our interview with her here.
Lynsie Campbell is an avid cyclist and a self-described “serial entrepreneur.” She started LaneSpotter — which the website describes as “a mapping and navigation tool, created for cyclists by cyclists; with a focus on safety” — after a ride with her then one-year-old son, who was strapped into a seat on her bike.
“As well as I know the roads here, I was not confident making decisions about routes I would take with him,” says Campbell, 40, of Regent Square. “Then it hit me: The majority of people are like me with my son; there is a major fear factor of riding on the roads in Pittsburgh.”
Hear more about her work with LaneSpotter in our interview here.