STEMinist Profile: Izzy Johnston, Senior Engineer/Lead Developer

Izzy Johnston

Izzy Johnston

Senior Engineer/Lead Developer

I am responsible for all mobile app development (Android, iPhone and Blackberry), the backend structure and design, database management, and front end development. On an average day, I program in 5 different languages.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have been programming since I was 11 years old. I paid my way through college by developing websites, fixing hardware, and teaching programming courses. However, I didn’t consider a career in STEM until after I graduated college. I attended law school because I wanted a career that would be challenging but would give me constant opportunities to change lives. Although I did well in law school, the law environment was not for me.

I realized that I loved the intellectual challenge of programming and that love made me good at what I did. Most STEM careers can be likened to jigsaw puzzles. Each requires the ability to see how a lot of little pieces fit together to make the whole. When I realized I could use my love of programming to positively impact people’s lives, I quit law school and delved into the wild world of freelance and technology instruction.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The most rewarding project I have ever worked on is Girl Develop It. We are a group of women (and a couple men) who take time outside of our very busy work schedules to teach low-cost programming classes to women and anyone uncomfortable with the traditional world of computer science. We started in NYC in 2010 and have grown to six cities, internationally.

I am in charge of curriculum development and review and I also teach our PHP/MySQL, Android Development with Java and iPhone Development with Objective C courses here in New York. All of our courses are designed for people who have little to no programming experience. The best thing about being involved with Girl Develop It is the “aha!” moment that crosses students faces when they realize that they are capable of learning and understanding the concepts of programming. I strive to empower students with the ability to learn even after they leave my class.

Role models and heroes:
As a child, I was immersed in books and loved reading about historical figures, like Ada Lovelace, George Washington Carver, and Madame Curie.

What do you love about working in STEM?
The constantly changing challenges that arise with new hardware, software, and technological advances.

Advice for future STEMinists?
In my coworking space, there are 10 different startups but only 4 women in the entire space and I am the only female “nerd”. While the ratio of women to men in STEM careers is still surprisingly low for the 21st century, it should never be a deterrent. If the ratio bothers you, do something to change it. Get more involved, mentor teenagers, be an advocate. And on a lighter note, girls who can make good github puns are always a hit at parties.

Favorite website or app:
Well, if by favorite, you mean the ones I use the most–,, github and eventbrite.

Twitter: @izzy_johnston

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