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MALS Women in Tech

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Laurie Gyalog

Laurie Gyalog
MALS Alumna Laurie Gyalog

What is your educational and professional background? What led you to pursue a MALS degree?

I entered the project management field about 15 years ago with a small business start-up providing work-life balance benefits to large organizations in the Triangle. I spent the next eight years working in higher education at NC State University supporting online education and innovative teaching technologies. Recently, I joined Red Hat continuing my project management role in support of learning and development at Red Hat University. 

I took a non-traditional route to my undergraduate degree, balancing full-time employment and higher education studies. It took me many years to complete my Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration through evening and online classes. Throughout my career it was clear to me that higher education, objective and critical thinking, as well as interdisciplinary studies pay dividends in day to day business success as well as career advancement. I knew it was time for me to explore post-graduate studies and the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program seemed like the perfect opportunity to curate my educational experience at NC State specific to my interests and goals. 

How would you describe your experience in the MALS Program?  What was/is your MALS concentration, and what did you choose to do/what are you planning to do for your culminating project?

The MALS program empowered me to take ownership of my learning and graduate experience. Each faculty member, a subject matter expert in their own field, found a unique way to enable me as a learner to deepen my knowledge in their subject area, but also stretched me to think critically about the interconnectedness of that knowledge to other disciplines. I found a support system in MALS enabling me to be vulnerable in my studies, creative in my output, and passionate about my educational direction. 

Organizational behavior was declared as my concentration upon program entry, but over time it shifted to focus on Agile in Higher Education. My culminating project work focused on enabling organizational excellence through Agile project management in a higher education environment. During my time at NC State in the MALS program, I founded the NC State Project Management and Agile Community (PMAC) which grew to 125+ members with representation across the university. I also developed a light-weight, self-paced, online course through NC State’s Learning Management System, Moodle, to introduce Agile values, principles, frameworks and Agile’s unique application to higher education, open and free to anyone at NC State. 

Could you also describe your current work in tech, and the impact your MALS education has had on your career?

As a project manager in the technology field, I work to support the organizational and developmental value streams, enabling efficiency and effectiveness at a team, project and organizational level. I pull from a variety of project management and agile techniques to manage resource allocation, capacity planning, project scoping and management, stakeholder communications, risk management and facilitation, among other responsibilities. Responding to rapid change in the technology field is at the forefront of my day to day work. 

MALS equipped me to be a clear and concise communicator, cross-functional team member, and continuous learner. The program afforded me opportunities to flex my public speaking and self-organization as well as share exposure to a global perspective. Most valuable was the flexibility to curate a collection of courses that aligned with my interests and goals, enabling me to develop the necessary skills and toolkit to grow my resume and career opportunities. I frequently refer to research and work generated from my culminating project and feel the experience differentiates me from others in the job market. 

What factors made you want to work in/with technology?

I was interested in entering the technology field, because it is a fast-paced and an always changing environment. I find the work engaging and challenging as well as rewarding. The experts across the industry at my company bring a diverse set of skills, backgrounds and cultures that make the environment interesting and unique. There is a great deal of growth opportunity for me professionally in this field and I am always learning something new. 

What advice would you give to MALS students trying to break into technology fields?

If you are interested in entering the technology field, immerse yourself in learning and networking opportunities. Attend webinars, conferences and workshops provided by major technology companies to learn the language, the business trends, and the industry. Challenge yourself to attend and actively participate in networking opportunities and seek communities of practice in your areas of interest. Use LinkedIn to connect and learn. Use your time in the MALS program to stretch your skills in cross-functional collaboration, research projects and public speaking. 

In particular, what would you advise women interested in pursuing a career in tech?

My advice to women interested in pursuing a career in tech is “simple,” be confident in your skills and expertise, but vulnerable in your learning journey. The technology industry is full of jargon, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and research along the way. Focus on your strengths and seek a mentor to trust and learn from in the field.

Tia McLaurin

Tia McLaurin
MALS Alumna Tia McLaurin

What is your educational and professional background? What led you to pursue a MALS degree?

I’m a proud NC State alumna (twice over). I received my BA in Sociology then jumped into nonprofit work — much focused on STEM education. I then found a great opportunity with Google and now focus on national partnerships with organizations across the country that help people prepare for work, find jobs, or grow their businesses. I pursued my MALS degree because I was curious about how to better connect advanced analytics with nonprofits. 

How would you describe your experience in the MALS Program?  What was/is your MALS concentration, and what did you choose to do/what are you planning to do for your culminating project?

My MALS experience was phenomenal. It was a quintessential experience of “thinking and doing”. I became fast friends with many of the people in the program and still keep in touch today. The flexibility proved to be exactly what I needed.  My culminating project focused on predictive analytics for nonprofits. I worked with a team of data scientists to build a tool to help nonprofits leverage data to  better predict behaviors of donors. 

Could you also describe your current work in tech, and the impact your MALS education has had on your career?

I have the pleasure of working at Google as a Marketing Manager. As you know, Google’s  mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. We are always inspired to see what people do when they have access to technology. We know that people are changing the world through their own creativity and passion and that sometimes technology lends a hand. So we wanted to do our part to make sure that technology brings opportunity to everyone. That is why we created Grow with Google. In today’s economy, Americans need digital skills to land the jobs they want, advance their careers, and grow their businesses. Grow with Google aims to help by providing free training, tools and expertise. We believe that technology has the power to unlock new opportunities for growth. When those opportunities are available to everyone, communities across the country can achieve their full potential.

My MALS degree was an essential next step into my journey at Google. My degree provided me with key skills on how to bring data science and community engagement together to serve those who need it most.

What factors made you want to work in/with technology?

I’ve always had an interest in STEM. My MALS degree offered the preparation that I needed for the right opportunity. 

What advice would you give to MALS students trying to break into technology fields?

Extend your network far and wide. If you’re interested in working in a technology field, attend events, request informal interviews, build genuine relationships with people that work in those fields! 

In particular, what would you advise women interested in pursuing a career in tech?

Say yes. Take the leap. Impostor’s syndrome is real — remind yourself that you have the skills. More importantly, technology companies need  your talent.

Victoria Vojnovich

Victoria Vojnovich
MALS Student Victoria Vojnovich

What is your educational and professional background? What led you to pursue a MALS degree?

I hold a B.S. dual degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Pennsylvania State University. I chose to pursue a MALS degree because I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to focus specifically on work that was of interest to me without taking courses that did not align to my goals and aspirations. MALS allowed me to do that.

How would you describe your experience in the MALS Program?  What was/is your MALS concentration, and what did you choose to do/what are you planning to do for your culminating project?

I have had a wonderful MALS experience. I wish that there was a similar doctoral program! Every semester I find another MALS seminar that I would love to take. Because of my experience in MALS, I have felt the call to pursue a doctoral program, something that I had never suspected I would do. My concentration is Women and Gender Studies in the workplace. My culminating project is focused around working mothers who leave the workforce and then return to the workforce and how companies must evolve to provide true career growth and family friendly policies that support women in not being taxed so heavily for choosing to take time to raise children. I am wavering between creating a podcast or some other virtual learning project or creating a whitepaper for corporate HR departments. This work is of particular importance in technology, where women are still significantly under-represented, encompassing approximately 22% of the workforce.

Could you also describe your current work in tech, and the impact your MALS education has had on your career?

I currently work at Cisco Systems as a Global Community Leader in Cisco’s Customer Experience Organization. My job is to create virtual communities of practice for the primary customer facing roles in Customer Experience. We have a learning platform, an internal social media lens and news/events to support career development and role proficiency. It is important that when customers work with various people in the same roles that they have a common experience. It is important for Cisco that employees have the opportunity to develop their skills, become more proficient in their roles, and advance their careers while remaining at Cisco. 

What factors made you want to work in/with technology?

I started my career as a software developer, so I was into tech from the moment I graduated with my B.S. The value that I bring to the table in my current role is that I have a technical background, so I can speak the language of the people I am working to develop. I understand their challenges, their aspirations and can see the world from their lens. 

What advice would you give to MALS students trying to break into technology fields?

When I started my career, women had to have a B.S. in computer science or engineering to break into technology. Today, there is great value to have a working knowledge of technology from a user perspective, while also taking advantage of the social sciences. Many companies will fill in the gaps if you are enthusiastic and show a passion for learning. Some of our most influential engineers in Cisco have degrees in Economics, History and even Psychology. They possessed an interest in technology, and were willing to work hard to learn and demonstrate the skills. As someone who has had multiple careers in my life, I believe that passion and energy are the highest indicators of potential success.

In particular, what would you advise women interested in pursuing a career in tech?

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to find a mentor. Someone who can walk the journey with you. I am grateful for all the mentors I have had in my career. I would also remind women that even though tech is still heavily male dominated, you still get to be a woman in the field. Don’t try to match what men do. The greatest news for women pursuing tech careers is that there are more and more men willing to sponsor and mentor women in the field; something that was essentially absent when I started my career.