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6 Women in Tech on Unexpected Career Trajectories & Getting Into the Industry

"I want other women to see there is room for them at the table and they don't have to shape-shift to fit into a seat"

Women in tech working
Photo courtesy of ThisisEngineering RAEng

This article is part of InHerSight's Career Trajectories series. Women's career paths vary significantly. Hear from women themselves about the pivotal career decisions that have shaped their growth and success.

One of my favorite people to talk to about women in tech is Lisa Smith, the director of the Raleigh/Durham chapter of Women Who Code who now works as an engineering manager at Netflix, because she really gets it—how women get into tech, why they stay, and why they leave. 

Before her engineering career, Smith was a librarian, and while that career seems wholly unrelated to coding, months ago when I last spoke to her, she connected the dots. Those communication and interpersonal skills she had from her librarian career, she said, made her a better manager—and a unique one in the tech industry. Many people can learn hard skills, but soft skills keep the machine oiled, if you will. Those transferable skills have the potential to elevate a good employee or job candidate to an essential one. 

That’s why it’s so important for women outside of tech to think like Smith did—to see the potential of their current skills adding value to a male-dominated industry they might be intimidated by at first. A bachelor’s degree in computer science isn’t the only path to success.

For our Career Trajectories series, InHerSight asked seven women who’ve transitioned from other careers and into tech to expand on their career changes and the important non-technical skills they bring to the table. Read on to learn more about the diverse paths that lead women to tech—and help them excel there.

6 women in tech on unexpected career trajectories and getting into the industry

Kim Mascarenhas

Technical Project Manager & Analytics Consultant at InfoTrust

What do you do?

As a technical project manager, my role is to manage high-tech projects from inception to completion, and ensure the project remains within scope, budget, and quality while ensuring both clients and team are satisfied. Identifying problems and working toward solutions amicably through communication and risk management is the backbone of steering projects to success.

How did you get where you are?

I began my career working as a molecular biology research scientist for two years. However, I returned home to address a personal/family crisis and volunteered as a social worker, before becoming a corporate banker and eventually joining the Marketing Research & Consumer Insights team. 

Four years later, I transitioned into a media analyst role and later web analytics consulting (two years), while learning on the job! After realizing the need for good project managers to take projects to success, I took my PMP and PMI-ACP and entered the world of technical project management a year ago. It's been no looking back since!

What has most surprised you about your career?

That careers aren't set in stone and that skillsets are transferable. I would have never thought that the persistence and determination one learns while doing wet lab research can be used to take technical projects to success. That what I learned while talking to customers during marketing research would help understand their struggles and make for better Web UI/UX design and analytics setup. That good companies hire for potential and not just education and skills. Realizing this allows you to move career paths confidently!

Faith Benson

Director, Growth Marketing at

What do you do?

I am the director of growth marketing, which means I find ways to grow the company by running small experiments across all teams: from marketing, to sales, to product and engineering. 

How did you get where you are?

I went to school for international relations and Middle Eastern studies and taught middle school for three years in under-resourced schools in Nashville. I was able to pitch myself as an excellent startup employee (despite having no experience in business) because teachers have to be sharp, data-driven, unfazed by chaos, and organized to a T. I’ve learned everything I know about business on-the-job. 

What has most surprised you about your career? 

I couldn't have conjured this career if I tried; I didn't even know that this field of work existed! I've been surprised by how accessible tech is. I work with developers and founders of technology companies every day, and I've learned that there's not just one archetype for someone who works in tech.  

Cam MacPhee 

Talent Brand Specialist at Nitro

What do you do?

I am the talent brand specialist at Nitro, and I work to raise brand awareness and attract talent to our company. Instead of selling the product to customers, I work to sell our company to candidates. 

How did you get where you are?

I've made the switch into tech from Canadian TV and music. My experience in that field has given me the ability to think of Nitro as a brand to be presented to our candidates, and to find the most interesting ways to showcase our amazing Nitronauts. 

What has most surprised you about your career?

That I’ve been given the opportunity in tech to use my skill set in a way that helps people find roles and companies they truly connect with.

Michelle Schnob 

Sales Enablement, Learning Specialist at Nitro

What do you do?

As a sales enablement learning specialist at Nitro, I enable sales teams (from rep to director) to be their best selves. Whether I am running a course on the nuances of our technology, helping people create a compelling presentation on our products, or helping people develop better interpersonal skills, my focus is always on coaching people to realize their true potential.

How did you get where you are?

I took the circuitous route, starting in call centers as an agent and working my way into training. Since leaving call centers, I have had the opportunity to work in a number of different fields, including medical, financial, and telecommunications before landing in tech.

What has most surprised you about your career?

That I have one, quite honestly! What went from a hope and a dream has turned into a 15+ year adventure in a career I adore. 

Jennifer Harris

Account Executive at DoorDash

What do you do?

I am responsible for calling into the restaurant industry and speaking with small business owners, understanding their challenges, and finding solutions for their business by utilizing DoorDash.

How did you get where you are?

My first 'real' job was as a leasing consultant for a luxury apartment community. Eventually, I was promoted to the role of assistant community manager so while I still had a hand in leasing, I was also learning how to run the community as well. I enjoyed the sales part of leasing the most and decided I wanted to focus more on sales in my career path, and SAAS/tech sales really interested me, so I went for it! 

What has most surprised you about your career?

I am still pinching myself that I was able to manifest a change in my career and am so fortunate to have ended up in the tech world. That being said, I wouldn't be where I am today without having amazing women in leadership roles. Not only did they take a chance on me to get my foot in the door of tech, but the mentorship I have received from these women has shaped not only my career path, but me as a person as well.

Angelica Ronga

Senior Risk and Insurance Analyst at DoorDash

What do you do?

My job is to help transfer and mitigate risks that the company might face through insurance products. As a risk manager, it is our job each day to create a method and plan to tackle the challenges the business might face. For example, cyber risk is one of the areas that the Risk & Insurance team focuses on in the event of a possible breach or attack. We work with our valued broker and carrier partners in the insurance industry to transfer that risk away from DoorDash.

How did you get where you are?

My career in insurance started at the School of Risk Management at St. John’s University, where I was awarded the Insurance Leader of the Year Fellowship to obtain my master’s in enterprise risk management. It was there that my love for risk management really came to life. I found my first job through a St. John’s board member and got a start to my career at Validus (now an AIG company) underwriting War & Terrorism Insurance.

What has most surprised you about your career?

Nothing is impossible. I knew being at a traditional insurance carrier would limit my ability to grow into a risk manager helping combat systemic risk at an organization. I took a leap of faith (with lots of love and support from my partner, Andrew) and applied for the Risk & Insurance position at DoorDash. I can happily say five months later that I am working in my dream job. I am living my dream at the age of 27. I remember sitting in classes during my master’s saying, ''I want to be a risk manager for a company by the age of 40.'' Do not let anyone tell you your dreams are impossible. You are possible.

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