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#STEMStories: Nici, Lead UI Engineer, USA

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

I am a Lead UI Engineer at Amobee, the world's leading independent advertising platform based in Silicon Valley. I have 20 years of overall experience and have leveraged my full-stack software engineering career over a wide range of industries including Cyber Security, Health Tech, Online Dating, Social Media, Higher Ed, and Government. As a Coding Evangelist and the Founder of Gurl Code Academy, I believe that teaching Women to code helps them leverage the skill to enter the field of technology. I think it is a crucial component to filling the many coding based jobs that will open up now and into the future. More specifically, I focus on Black Women because achieving a tech career puts them on a path to help close the income and wealth gap experienced by the Black Community.

I’m currently pursuing my Master’s Degree in Computer Science with a Specialization in Artificial Intelligence at Georgia Tech.

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 was exposed to programming at an early age due to my Step-father being a Programmer-Analyst at Readers Digest in the 90s. Having Computers around the house was the norm and by the time I was a teenager I had gotten my first computer of my own and began to take it apart and inspect the operating system. My parents also enrolled me in Marist College’s CSTEP (Computer Science Technology and Enrichment Program) which I attended as a high school student. I also had picked up a few of my dad’s programming books and began teaching myself HTML and CSS. This spurred my interest in majoring in Computer Science in College.

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

Well, it’s easy to jump out of my bed in the morning these days because I work from home. But there are some days where I simply stay in bed and do what I love from the comfort of fluffy pillows. Those are the benefits of working remotely! But it wasn't always that way, when I worked in the office, solving complex and challenging problems were enough to get me to show up and show out!

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

To be completely transparent my cure for stress was therapy. Over my career, I found that office politics and pressure to perform sometimes got me down and I needed an outlet to release that tension to ensure that my mental health was good.

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

Even though she is in a totally separate field, Oprah is my role model. Simply for the fact that she made her own lane, called her own shots, and built a legacy that she can stand on for generations, and did so unapologetically.

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

If there was one piece of advice I could give myself, it would be to look inward for your value.

Do not define yourself by other people’s standards and perspectives. What other people think about you is none of your business!

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

  1. Find a way to work on your own independent projects and build a portfolio before you graduate from college and enter the job market.
  2. Never let your curiosity die and become a lifelong learner
  3. Don’t let your work, amongst other things, define you. Figure out who you are without the education, without the degree, without the career, etc.

8. How do you measure your success?

I measure my success by how fulfilled and happy I am. There is no job and no amount of money that can keep me if I’m not fulfilled. I have to be walking in my purpose and feel like I am on vison and on a mission.

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

You can visit me at http://www.blackgurl.tech or you can watch me talk about my experiences as a Black Woman in Tech on my YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/c/blackgurltech

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

Instagram: @blackgurltech
Twitter: @blackgurltech
Facebook: @blackgurltech
Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/toniciakelly