Women of PDX: A Sit Down with Natalie White, Senior Developer
Some people find their true calling later in life. Natalie White, Senior Developer at PDX, has known at a young age that she wanted to pursue a career in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math. Natalie has been a part of the PDX family for 4 years and in the STEM industry for over 14 years. In this interview, she talks about how she got her start in the industry, women in computer science careers, and gives advice to young girls interested in pursuing a career in STEM.
When did you first show an interest in STEM?
NW: “My mom is a 5th grade teacher and saw that I had a natural talent for math and science in elementary school. She applied to have me evaluated for the Science and Engineering Magnet programs at Dunbar Middle and High Schools in east Fort Worth, and I was accepted. I was introduced to programming and higher-level math through middle and high school, and I found that I really enjoyed the Computer Science classes that were offered. By the time I graduated, I knew I was going to double major in Math and Computer Science.”
How did you end up at PDX?
NW: “I graduated from Texas Christian University (TCU) with Bachelor’s degrees in Math and Computer Science in 2005 and hired on full time at Motorola following a previous summer internship. After a few years at Motorola, I moved to Fidelity Investments in their Health and Welfare business, and then worked for CyberSource (a VISA company) on custom e-commerce payment gateways. When the group at CyberSource went into sunset mode, I had heard that PDX had a family friendly culture, the office was a short drive from my house west of Fort Worth, and I knew two other developers there (Audrey Ward from my Motorola days and Jovanka Sosroportono from my Fidelity days) so I submitted my resume. A few months later when a position became available, I was called for an interview and the rest is history!”
What do you enjoy most about working at PDX?
NW: “The people! There are some really great people that work at PDX and they are very passionate about learning new technologies and providing value to our customers. In Central Services, often our customers include our internal EPS and Support Teams so it’s fun to implement things we know they’ll use on a regular basis.”
Do you think diversity and inclusion is important in the workplace? Why?
NW: “Genuine diversity and inclusion in the workplace (not just checking a box or filling a quota) is very important. Having worked at 4 different companies, each with their own diversity stats and cultures, I can unequivocally say that the more diverse groups had a better culture and a have more cohesive team work than those that didn’t. Having diverse backgrounds, cultures, and ideas makes a team better, and the team creates better products.”
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?
NW: “This is a very complex question, and one that I’ve been asked many times in my work with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as well as a member of the Computer Science Industry Advisory Board at TCU (my alma mater). After all, when computers were mainframe giants that filled entire rooms or buildings in the 1940’s and 1950’s, programming was viewed as clerical work and was done almost exclusively (and very successfully!) by women. Even now decades later, as the ratios of women to men steadily increase in other engineering disciplines, computer science ratios are either stagnant or declining on average. Companies like Fidelity and PDX (which both had ratios close to 50%) are breaking the mold by recognizing that those of us who survive being the only woman in our Computer Science degree programs are usually some of the best in the business, and that flexible work schedules and family-friendly policies and cultures are necessary to make sure women join – and more importantly stay in – engineering roles, and move up the ranks into leadership.”
What is your hope for the future of women in STEM?
NW: “My hope for the future of women in STEM is the same as for men in STEM – that we will innovate and build amazing products that solve hard problems and make our world a better place to live in. Connecting that altruistic goal to code is one of the biggest gaps I try to fill when I participate in STEM outreach events for K-12 students through SWE, because choosing a career in STEM can not only make the industry better, but it can fundamentally change a student’s future and family tree.”
Any advice to the young girls that want to pursue a career in STEM?
NW: “Even when it’s hard, do it anyway. The opportunities for flourishing careers in STEM via online resources, in K-12 schools and colleges, and in industry are only getting better as time passes, so be a part of it! Find a mentor who’s doing what you think you may want to do and ask her about it. Join SWE and find other talented women to help guide you along the way.”