How I Got Into Tech With No Experience, As A Girl In Milwaukee

Jasmine Mendez, Technical Support Analyst Intern

Jul 22, 2021

When I started high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. Although I worked hard to make good grades, volunteer and play sports, I still didn’t know which major to choose for college. During my junior year, a teacher encouraged me to try tech classes, and I fell in love with it. Northwestern Mutual sponsored a year-long Girls in Tech program at my high school, and this is what opened my eyes to all the opportunities in Milwaukee. 

During the Girls in Tech program, women in tech would visit our high school once a month to talk to us about their experiences getting into the field. One of my mentors, Dana Hart, a senior director of software engineering at Northwestern Mutual, talked to us about different career paths, programming languages and experiences that called for teamwork and collaboration. We also visited the Northwestern Mutual campus a few times, including Cream City Labs. I got to see first-hand what it’s like working in a calm and welcoming office next to Lake Michigan. These speaking events gave me a better idea of what coding languages were most often used, and the field trips allowed me to see myself working in tech next to people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

I knew tech was the right path for me and could lead to so many opportunities. During my senior year of high school, I applied to All-In Milwaukee. It's a very competitive scholarship that helps with tuition and continued mentorship, and with good grades and hard work, I was accepted. I received a college scholarship, laptop and additional mentorship from Ann Yeung, senior VP of engineering at Northwestern Mutual. Ann helped me understand different ways to manage my time on new projects, and she helped me overcome perfectionism with curiosity. She gave me professional advice that I still use today. She said: “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough.” I still think about this whenever a solution calls for experimentation. 

Tech can seem daunting at first, but it’s actually quite fun once you understand there are thousands of ways to answer one question. I would not have arrived at that understanding so quickly without the help of my mentors. I was lucky to have two women in tech as my mentors. Hearing about their experiences allowed me to see myself “at the table,” as they liked to say. Before I met Dana Hart, I had never met a woman in tech. I quickly realized people can be recognized for their work in this field, regardless of gender. The professional advice I received throughout my mentorships, especially from Ann Yeung, was so helpful. Ann reviewed my resume, gave me advice on how to improve it and taught me how to prepare for interviews.

After taking tech classes in high school, meeting women in tech that held senior roles and receiving mentorship to further my understanding and improve my skills, I was ready to take on an internship. I chose Northwestern Mutual because I wanted to keep working with my mentors and work in downtown Milwaukee. Currently, I’m a tech support analyst intern while I complete my degree in Information Science & Technology. I’m getting hands-on experience and doing what I love. 

All of this wouldn't have happened if I didn’t try tech for the first time in high school. When you’re in high school, it’s helpful to have a mentor when you’re unsure of what to try and what’s available. I remember there were only a few other girls in my tech classes in high school, and the girls that did join these classes wouldn’t stay after the first year. This is exactly why this summer, I'll be mentoring a high school student as part of the hi, Tech summer minicamp. It’s my goal to help more young girls get into tech by showing them that it’s possible. My journey to tech is proof that getting involved in high school can connect young people to mentors and experiences that can change their view of where they can go and what they can achieve. 

I started out unsure of what I wanted to do in high school. Thankfully, with the help of Northwestern Mutual’s Girls in Tech program, All-In Milwaukee and my mentors, I was able to find the right career path for me. 

If you’re a student or parent interested in exploring options for STEM outreach, learn more about Northwestern Mutual’s hi, Tech program.

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