Women of PDX: A Sit Down with Trish Reilly, Design Architect
After joining the US Air Force and working in avionics, Trish Reilly, made the career change to quality assurance (QA) and development. With most of her career focusing on technology, Trish gives us her take on women in computer science careers and her hope for the future for the young women interested in STEM.
When did you first show an interest in STEM?
TR: “I took my first computer programming class in high school and was hooked. I joined the Air Force after graduating and performed avionics maintenance on cargo airplanes. I learned how to troubleshoot and problem solve avionics systems, which turns out to be very helpful in working in the application development world.”
How did you end up at PDX?
TR: “While working for a financial planning company for 16 years, I worked my way into the position of Team Leader of the Business Analysis team. The path to get there also took me through positions in QA and application development. After 16 years, I took a break from work to complete my Master’s degree. After I graduated, I returned to the workforce and did contract work for a few different companies prior to joining PDX. I lived close and was interested in working at PDX, so when the last contract ended and a recruiter contacted me about an opportunity for a full-time position, I sent him my resume and began the interview process. That was in August 2012 and I began working in September.”
What do you enjoy most about working at PDX?
TR: “This is hard to answer because it’s not just one thing. I really like the variety of work involved and all that I learn when I work in a ‘new to me’ area of pharmacy. I love working with our customers to help them with the design of new functionality they want to help with their pharmacies. I also really enjoy the opportunity to work so closely with the different departments like support, QA, and development – the teamwork to ensure we do what’s best and helps the customer is wonderful to be a part of.”
Do you think diversity and inclusion is important in the workplace? Why?
TR: “Absolutely! Each of us bring different backgrounds and experience to the table. There isn’t one ‘right’ way to design an application and bringing different people together to discuss the best solution for a customer allows us to consider what someone else has learned or experienced. Also, we grow as people when we learn from others who are not like us. It’s easy to have an opinion about a group, culture, or country when you’ve never met them. I think it changes you in a good way when you work with people who aren’t like you. It removes the differences and enhances the similarities. We are all people with likes and dislikes, families, hopes, dreams, etc.”
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?
TR: “This is a hard one. When I was younger, I would have thought it was related to the times – that women were just seeing these types of jobs open to them. But now, with so much opportunity open for women it’s a little puzzling. It might just need another generation of change before people see these careers as exceptional opportunities for women. I know from some conversations with people of my generation, they seem to think that encouraging women to pursue careers in law and medicine as more groundbreaking. So, maybe the reason is that there isn’t encouragement in the home to pursue areas in STEM?”
What is your hope for the future of women in STEM?
TR: “I hope that more girls in younger grades are exposed to these careers in a positive way so that they see them as opportunities to consider as a good fit for them. I hope younger girls don’t only see that showing they are as good and capable as doing what a man can do means they have to be lawyers or doctors – or even firemen and policemen. We need more movies and stories about how women in STEM contribute to the advances made that got us where we are today in STEM areas – show young girls that these women are heroes too.”
Any advice to the young girls that want to pursue a career in STEM?
TR: “Go for it! Explore different areas any time you get the opportunity. Find out what’s out there and don’t think you can’t do it. Find your area of strength and what excites you to do and pursue it!”