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#STEMStories: Kristen, Product Owner and Software Developer, USA

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

I consider myself a Jill of all trades, so I tend to lead with a quick intro: I’m a product-owning, design-thinking, code-writing, people person. Even quicker? I’m a Product Owner and Software Developer.

As for my career, I spent nearly a decade coding for various companies, freelance projects, agencies, etc. before dabbling in the Design Thinking framework as a full-time position. That eventually led me to a technical product owner role, which leverages all of these skills on top of my people-oriented personality.

On a personal level, I am a high-energy, extroverted, deeply-curious person that fell in love with tech at a young age. I was hooked on the concept of the internet from the first days that I had access (I can hear those AOL dialup sounds from here) and I continue to believe it is the societal glue of our present day and future. When I’m not fixated on some device, I’m burning excess energy playing various sports, boating with my husband, razzing my dog, eating lots of ice cream, gaming, or finding new places to hang in my local city with pals.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I knew I had to do something with computers and the internet, but the “what” took me a while to find. My mom was an art teacher and school principal, so I had this innate interest in creative outlets, but was also very good at math. As a result, I had the wonderful luck of having a high school math teacher that put me on the path towards programming. She suggested that I try the only class that was offered and I did -- I was hooked! Programming brought together the creativity of assembling the UI with the logic of setting patterns and rules behind the functionality. From that point on, I knew I wanted to continue to build software and I did just that.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

Knowing that I am a member of a few teams full of talented individuals that want to create software and products that ultimately help our users. I get a buzz when I see unified teams and feel as though anything can be accomplished together.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

I tend to fixate on things and my passion can get the best of me, so I do my best to redirect my energy to other areas that I can positively impact. An example is how I started to teach people how to code at a point in my career when I wasn’t satisfied with my job. So anytime you’re hitting walls or feel like you’re in a dead end, try to redirect yourself towards something that lets you run or channel your passions in new ways. I’m always amazed by the new connections and outcomes that are formed in those side endeavors.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

My mom and I have a lot of differences, but I ultimately look up to her energy and devotion to helping other people in this world. Aside from her, my role models vary throughout the years and align to the themes in my curated Twitter following list. I generally adore any individual that is analyzing status quo and saying, “We can do better than this.” I believe in better and anyone that is pushing the needle is after my own heart.

Oh, I also have a ton of Rosie the Riveter garb, decorations, posters, etc. Pretty sure she counts!

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Stop trying to assimilate. I’ll never know the true impact, but I do believe I spent too much time trying to blend in as “one of the guys” early in my tech career. Yes, I was raised with four brothers and I tend to fit right in, but I put aside a lot of my social/networking skills to fit the mold of a “get things done” developer. I see, now, how many tech companies struggle with the lack of communication and networking skills amongst developers so I kick myself for not embracing my natural gravitation towards people.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Embrace and apply your unique experience and individuality. Tech is so often built in homogeneous spaces and we desperately need more representation and diversity in the mix to cover more vantage points.
  2. Find a mentor you trust and/or ask tons of questions! The internet has a ton of information on it and you can burn that curiosity in a number of ways. Just keep asking and digging! Build up that strong sense of curiosity.
  3. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Too often we’re put under the impression that we need to be perfect or know everything. Impossible! Instead, stay humble and acknowledge when you don’t know something, but offer that you can try to figure it out. A good attitude and honest input goes a long way.

8. How do you measure your success?

Success is being able to juggle or balance all my passion points ranging from my career to my home life. I have a ton of interests and subsequently take on a lot of side projects, but I’m most happy when they’re all moving forward or gaining traction that positively impacts people.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

My work is either proprietary, protected by NDA, or behind a login, but I might someday revamp my former Stack Dog Solutions home with more writing and shared stories:

I am currently ramping up a chapter of We Pivot in Rochester and you can learn more about the cause at:

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

EXTREMELY social :) You’ve been warned!

Twitter - @KR1573N
LinkedIn -