This editorial article is a part of a part of Resilient Tech Careers Month of Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.
Kaitlin Conway’s path to a contingent role with Booz Allen Hamilton after commencement at Towson University began well before her current anticipation of a polygraph test for her top-secret security clearance and her ongoing study abroad experience at the University of Kent in England.
The college senior’s years-long journey on that path can offer lessons to other young women pursuing tech careers, too — and those who seek to support them.
Conway attributes her passion for computer science to her exposure to STEM-related classes at Century High School in Sykesville, Maryland, and her involvement in biomedical coursework through Project Lead The Way at Carroll County’s Career and Technology Center.
Realizing her strengths in math and problem solving prompted a pivot toward computer science and technology, as did learning about the expanding career opportunities within the industry in the region. She told Technical.ly her older sister and a past instructor, Project Lead the Way’s Brendan Gallagher, were another inspiration for her pivot.
“Since we were juniors and seniors in high school, he really helped us explore, even if we didn’t like biomed, to look into tech or look into other STEM careers,” Conway said. “He brought in people from different areas and different colleges to speak with us and he was really supportive. So he definitely had a big impact on my decision to stay in STEM.”
Recognized for his aim to make the intricacies of biology more accessible, Gallagher earned the title of Carroll County Public School’s Teacher of the Year in 2016.
Conway, a Carroll County native whose interests lie in science and math, has never been entirely certain about her career path, and still holds some uncertainty today. However, she offers a reassuring message to aspiring technologists, drawing from her experiences in undergrad and as a data science and cybersecurity intern at Booz Allen over two summers: “It’s OK to not know what you want to do, because there’s so many different opportunities and jobs that we don’t even know of yet.”
At Booz Allen, for instance, she’s found opportunities to shift foci and work on different projects.
“They’re more than happy to work with you to put you on a different contract,” she said, “so there’s just always room to try new things. Never settle if you’re unhappy, and eventually you’ll find something you love, even if it takes a little bit of time.”
The Towson senior said she’s excited to venture beyond her comfort zone and welcome fresh opportunities. While acknowledging that being in computer science could be “very daunting” and may pose challenges, especially for women in STEM industries, Conway attests to having received support, particularly from fellow women in the industry.
“Sitting in a room full of men, and like, being the only female is very intimidating, especially for someone more shy and introverted like me,” she said. “So it feels kind of hard sometimes to be taken seriously or to stand up for myself if I need to, or to have my voice be heard. So being a woman in STEM definitely takes persistence and a constant reminder to myself that I’m worthy of being where I am.”
She also encouraged fellow women technologists to support each other and underscored the value of unity. Joining programs like the Hill-Lopes Scholar Program and receiving guidance from Towson staff members such as Kristin Pinkowski and Dr. Jinjuan Heidi Feng, a faculty mentor appointed to her by Hill-Lopes, have reinforced the idea that she is not alone in their journey.
Conway was also a member of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Women in STEM organization within the company, an initiative from her summer internship that connected her with an industry mentor and other women employees. Emphasizing the need to adapt to various situations, she told Technical.ly she anticipates engaging in whichever project she might be assigned at the consulting firm post-graduation.
Knowledge is power!
Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.