Usually when people visualize software engineers, images of the Dilbert comic or Milton from the movie Office Space come to mind. But today’s software engineers are far from those stereotypes. At NICE inContact, we take pride in the fact that innovation and technical prowess comes in all genders, ethnicities, religions, etc. And the diversity of our people, and the distinct viewpoints and experiences they bring to the workplace, is a key ingredient to becoming and remaining the world’s #1 cloud customer experience platform – a goal to which we are committed to as a company, and which takes the contribution of each unique individual employee.
In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8th, we are showcasing some of the accomplished women in technology at NICE inContact.
Senior Engineering Manager
Park City, Utah
As a Senior Engineering Manager in NICE inContact’s R&D organization, Meryl gets the opportunity to do what she loves best – working in software and leading people. In hearing Meryl’s story, you could almost say she was born for a career in technology.
A natural passion for technology
“My dad was an engineer, and I inherited the math science mindset,” she explains. “I always did well in calculus, chemistry, physics – all the sciences.” In junior high, when everyone else was buying their first color televisions at the electronics store, she remembers going to Radio Shack with her dad and buying a kit to build theirs themselves.
“I remember soldering all the pieces together - and everything worked great. We used that TV for years, and we even built a video game console with it. I loved spending that time with my dad,” Meryl recalls.
So, it was no surprise when she pursued the sciences as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech. “I started out as a chemistry major because computers weren’t really even a thing yet. But then I took intro to programming as an elective and absolutely loved it. It was then that I decided to focus on computer science.”
But being an undergraduate then – especially in the computer science field – looked very different from the experience of today’s student. “At that time there weren’t laptops, so you had to go to the computer lab to get your projects done. It wasn’t until senior year that I finally got a computer I could use from my dorm. It was a Commodore 64, which at the time was leading edge technology,” Meryl says.
The determination to rise through the ranks
In talking to Meryl, you sense an adventurous spirit, which explains why Meryl has always been on the cutting edge of technology. Over the next thirty years, she rose through the ranks within IT organizations at large corporations like Bell Atlantic, TD Ameritrade, Backcountry, and Overstock.
Accordingly, to Meryl, at that time, there weren’t really career paths for software engineers, and getting into management was the key to career growth. That fact, coupled with her natural propensity to lead others, prompted her to get a master’s in business administration early on in her career from the University of Maryland.
Across all of Meryl’s experiences there are a two common themes.
The first is a fearless perseverance in the face of big challenges, and the willingness to take on big projects – like the high-profile integration of two huge and disparate technology platforms during the merger of TD Waterhouse and Ameritrade.
The second is a natural tenacity to be in the driver’s seat of her own career. “While I was a software team engineering manager at Bell Atlantic, the internet was just being born. I became really interested in the potential of the internet, so I moved over to Bell Atlantic’s internet service division.” Meryl knew where the future was – the internet and software – and she didn’t wait for the future to find her, she sought it out herself.
That adventurous spirit is also what led her out to Park City, Utah where she lives today. “I thought I was ready to retire, so I moved out West so that I could ski more. But after about a year, I decided I wasn’t ready to retire.” And for that, NICE inContact is very thankful.
Life as a Woman in Technology
When asked about being one of only a handful of females in computer science at university, and throughout most of her early career, you get the vibe that it’s not something she ever really focused on. That’s just how it was. “I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys and was always surrounded by men. I was just used to it,” Meryl says.
Even though Meryl never dwelled on being the “lone-ranger” female, she does admit that over the years she has witnessed certain stereotypes about women in technology.
“Probably the biggest stereotype is that women aren’t as technical or capable as men. Society tends to steer girls from a young age towards being a teacher or nurse, and it’s the men who are the scientists, engineers, and inventors.”
Meryl shares that this stereotype causes a problem on many levels.
“First, it demeans women as inferior employees and limits their career opportunities. Second, it feeds imposter syndrome with women and impedes their confidence because they start to believe it themselves.”
While Meryl has never allowed these stereotypes to hold her back, she believes that these issues discourage more women from wanting to be in science and technology. “But with the shortage of qualified talent needed,” she explains,” we need a diverse talent pool. We all need to be encouraging more women to enter technology.”
Pearls of wisdom for other women
Because Meryl was on the first frontier of women in technology, there weren’t many females in the field she could look up to. But now, as a successful woman in technology, she can inspire other females around her. So, we asked her from pearls of wisdom for young ladies considering a future in technology.
- Forget the stereotypes – you’ve got this.
“Don’t worry about what other people think. You got this, you’re strong, smart, extremely capable. People respect you much more than you realize. Trust yourself and have confidence that you will succeed.”
- We all have setbacks – just don’t let them get you down.
“Don’t let setbacks negatively impact your confidence. When you fall, get back up and learn from your mistakes and move on.”
- The more success you have, the more confidence you will have.
“When I was younger, I was very shy. It took working hard, pushing it to the back of my mind, and knowing I could succeed by working hard at my job. The more success I had the more confidence I had. It wasn’t about male or female, it was more just overcoming imposter syndrome.”
Ready to join Meryl and other dedicated women and men at NICE inContact? Check out NICE inContact Careers for current open opportunities!