STEMinist Profile: Rachel Reese, Software Engineer/Math Geek

Rachel Reese

Software Engineer/Math Geek

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
First, my family. I was given lots of opportunities as a kid to go to Science Camps, and Girls in Engineering programs; my mother made sure we had a computer in the house in the 80s; and my great-grandfather’s engineering achievements were always lauded. I also had books of logic puzzles constantly around, and was just basically allowed to explore and play with STEM-focused games. I think moving into algebra and learning about “x” in junior high math cemented it for me. Math was quickly my favorite subject, and I was always at or near the top of my math class. I suppose I consider Math — Algebra, really; the Algebra of groups, rings, and fields, not of “x” — to be my first love, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. 🙂

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Early in ’09, I was chatting with a bunch of friends, and we happened upon the fact that 3 of us in that group had been laid off within the month. One of the guys mentioned that a couple folks up in San Francisco had run a LaidOffCamp — a wholly volunteer event for people to gain new job search skills, find a supportive community, and craft a more productive job search (from — and then casually suggested we have one in Phoenix. Off and on for the next several months, (and as time went on, mostly on, even after I was back at a full-time job), I spearheaded the event, gathering speakers, volunteers, and sponsors, as well as sorting out a venue, the schedule, and all those little things that go into an event. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

(After the first event, I handed over the reins to Susan Baier, who has grown the event tremendously. See link above.)

Role models and heroes:
Emmy Noether and Annie Oakley.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Because I love exploring, solving problems, and rising to a challenge!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Keep a list somewhere of some of the things you’re most proud of having done, or been involved in. Refer to it when things aren’t going well, and remind yourself what makes you unique. Find a mentor (or several) as soon as you can, and find supportive coworkers, or other folks at your level. I’ve always been pretty heavily involved in the dev community — I attend (and now speak at) conferences and user groups — and the folks I’ve met there have absolutely made the difference when I needed advice on a project, times were tough, or I was receiving conflicting information on career paths. Join a “Women in ” group, if there is one (or start one!), especially if you’re tiring of feeling like the only woman you know. Stay involved! Science is cool.

Favorite website or app:
Oof, this might be the toughest one. I’m going to go with Hulu, Audible, and Pandora. Those are in an entertainment equivalence class, and so they totally count as one, right? 😉

Twitter: @rachelreese


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