Meet Sarah, our fearless Society of Military Spouses in STEM Systems Manager volunteer and software engineer!
What’s your hometown?
Was there a special moment growing up that inspired you to pursue your STEM field?
No particular moment jumps out to me. I was just lucky enough to have several STEM and Computer Science role models who encouraged me on my journey. I graduated from the University of Alaska with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, so it’s natural I would end up a Software Engineer. I also love studying languages. I speak fluent German, and I started studying Mandarin Chinese with a tutor during the pandemic. It’s really fun.
I also don’t see where I am right or my field of employment now as a stopping point. I’m lucky enough to have work-life balance that allows me to explore my interests and adjust my goals as needed.
How does a typical day begin? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I get up and make green tea latte. I pet my cats, go to my desk, check emails and take care of morning meetings. Work offers me great flexibility so I can take care of work and life appointments. My schedule is four ten-hour shifts so when I’m done for the day I’ll log off and exercise and bike, play with the cats on the porch while they sunbathe. Then it’s wash, rinse, and repeat!
What’s nice about working in software engineering is that when I hit a roadblock and am burnt out I can rearrange my schedule. I can tackle hard projects on another day. That way I can come back to it with a fresh eye.
What is one professional achievement you’re most proud of?
Graduating was a big one for me and achieving the work from home “unicorn” situation. I get paid fairly for my work and have a predictable schedule, which has been wonderful. Working in computer science has given me that nice work-life balance. I’m grateful I have a good work situation that allows me to take time off when needed.
How do you think your experience as a military spouse has assisted you in your career?
The military spouse professional and software engineering networks are very supportive of their own. It’s very collaborative and positive community. I have mentors who have taken time out of their day over the course of weeks to help me prep for interviews and write resumes, and I haven’t met any of them in person. It’s comforting to know you have people who understand what you’re going through and are willing to help.
When the pandemic hit, many were adjusting to getting work done virtually. The military spouse software engineering community had been collaborating virtually for years due to people moving frequently, and it was almost no effort to ease into slack meetings and google breakout sessions happening across all time zones to practice interview questions, go over technologies, and collaborate on projects.
What advice would you give new spouses on entering or finding success in STEM career fields?
I would tell them don’t lose sight of your goals and career amidst all the chaos. Be sure to prioritize your dreams and the experiences you want to have and go after the things you’re interested in. When one partner is in the military, their career, deployments, and PCS moves can be overwhelming for all family members, and it’s so easy for a career or school for the spouse to take a back seat. In addition, a supportive partner was key to many of my career successes. In the same way I’ve made sacrifices for my partners PCS moves or extended time away, they have helped me prioritize my career through other means.
What inspired you to volunteer with SMSS?
I had time to give and I’m always one of those people looking for opportunities and ways to help. There was something for everyone, and I was able to contribute with skills I had learned from school and my career.
What is your volunteer role?
Systems Manager. It’s a role that covers quite a few different processes. I help the Society of Military Spouses in STEM with account setups and any web systems not working.
Do you have any go-to professional organizations, educational opportunities, job resources, or helping agencies that have supported your career growth?
I love Udemy for learning all kinds of things from coding language to systems management. You can learn anything online! MilSpouseCoders was also very supportive of my career goals.