Women of PDX: A Sit Down with Brandi Sherrill, VP of Design and QA
From an education in neuroscience to joining the Peace Corps, Brandi Sherrill, Vice President of Design and QA at PDX, Inc., had a unique journey to a career in Computer Science. In this interview she talks about getting to where she is today, the possible reason why there is a low percentage of women in Computer Science careers, and what she hopes for the future of women in STEM.
When did you first have interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field?
BS: “I have always been interested in science and healthcare. During my undergrad studies at Abilene Christian University, I attended a class on experimental psychology that encouraged me to think outside of the box. After that, my interest in how the brain worked was sparked.”
How do you think your education in neuroscience has helped you in your design career?
BS: “I think that it has helped me be a bit more methodical than I might have been otherwise. I understand the importance of having the details worked out. Had I not studied neuroscience, I might not be as detail-oriented as I am now.”
How did you go from neuroscience to pharmacy/healthcare technology at PDX?
BS: “While I enjoyed learning about the brain and how behavior is affected, I did not enjoy working in the lab as much. After college, I joined the health sector of the Peace Corps, where my role was to travel to different villages and assess what their primary health issues were. Upon my return from West Africa, I had the opportunity to join PDX. I was initially brought on as a consultant and trainer for PDX and participated in rolling out a lot of the PDX Classic stores. Shortly after, I got involved with the onboarding process of Kaiser Permanente. I moved departments and became a designer and worked my way up to a lead position, then manager, director, and now VP.”
Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace?
BS: “It’s very important to have diversity in the workplace. I find that by surrounding yourself with people from different backgrounds and with different ideas it helps you grow as a person.”
What is your opinion on the low number of women compared to men in computer science careers? Do you think there will be a change in the future?
BS: “When I was a kid, a lot of doors for women in the workplace had already been opened. However, there were still limitations on what I could daydream about, as far as what I wanted to be when I got older. My dreams of what I wanted to be, usually consisted of more traditional professions for women at the time, like a nurse or secretary. We didn’t have cell phones or even home computers. I think a lot of women around my age experienced something similar. We weren’t exposed to it, so it’s natural that most women chose careers outside of technology.
I think things will change with the upcoming generations not having the same gender limitations I had growing up. With the large exposure to technology, they will likely find the value in it.”
What is your hope for the future of women in STEM?
BS: “I just want women to follow their dreams, whether that is something in STEM or not. I want them to feel free to go after what they want in life and not feel bound by outdated ideals about what women should or should not do.”