Mary Childress was one of 10 mentors on hand back in February at a speed mentoring event hosted by Girl Develop It.
Childress is an army veteran. She’s also a senior telecom system engineer at Barclaycard US.
Let’s back up for a second, though. Do you remember WordPerfect? We do. Before Microsoft Word. Back when most computing involved launching software from the DOS prompt, we had WordPerfect, a killer piece of word processing tech. Sidebar: When was the last time you heard the phrase “word processor”?
WordPerfect software was first released in 1979, and its height of use was in the ’80s and ’90s. This was back with Windows 3.1, released in 1992. Childress remembers it, too, as her first contact with a computer keyboard.
“I had my first hands on a keyboard,” Childress told us, “when I was stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The very first thing I did? I typed up a letter in WordPerfect.”
Childress told us she taught herself COBOL, too. This programming language is still used, but mostly by aging legacy systems.
When Childress was honorably discharged, she started civilian life as a single mother with an interest in computers thanks to knowledge gained during her time in the service. “It forced me to use my G.I. Bill,” Childress explained, “to take programming courses and get my associate’s.” She used that degree to start her career as a computer engineer to support her family.
That history is part of why Childress is so ready to support groups like Girl Develop It. She told us that when she started at Barclay’s around 10 years ago, it was just changing over from Juniper Bank. She explained that she’s seen the firm grow in the industry. “I see how much women are now represented in technology at Barclay’s,” she told us, excited about the changes. Childress loves mentoring, and she loves seeing the opportunities women in tech have today.
“I really don’t think it’s an untouchable career,” she told us, referring to women getting into fintech. She referenced that Girl Develop It speed mentoring event, saying that she was really happy to give young, interested women something to strive towards, to hope for and to achieve.
Everything about our conversation with Childress revolved around that central notion of hard work. We asked her what she thought about schools like Zip Code as they stand to disrupt colleges through credentialing, and she said that she sees no issue with them. To Childress, though, young professionals need to be able to put in the work. They might have to work two jobs, “waiting tables to get where they need to be in their professional career,” she told us.
It’s easy to understand why Childress feels that way. Her service, her single mom status and her drive to get a degree while working and to, eventually, become a senior telecom system engineer at Barclaycard is admirable.
She wants to stay involved with the local scene, too. Childress told us that she hopes to do even more with Girl Develop It, saying that she thinks it’s a wonderful group. “Barclaycard is letting us volunteer in the local community,” she explained, “and I’d love to help Girl Develop It if they ask me back.” We think they will.