Being a female in the tech industry has never fazed 23-year-old User Experience Architect Krista Kinkade.
The fact that she is a minority demographic in a sometimes-hostile industry never really crossed Krista’s mind.
“It wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, but I’m also not somebody who cares if, ‘Oh, girls don’t do this, this isn’t a girl’s job.’ I hadn’t given it much thought,” she said about pursuing an education and career in computer science. Krista was simply following her passion for computers.
It’s that bold, fearless attitude mixed with her particular set of skills that helped Krista land a job at LaneTerralever in 2014.
She started her career as a Quality Assurance (QA) Analyst, designing and executing test plans for computer desktop and web applications, then transitioned to the User Experience (UX) team, where she designs information architecture, wireframes and prototypes for both desktop and mobile interfaces.
Krista took some time to talk about her career, her outlook on the industry, and advice for other women interested in tech.
How did you get started in this industry?
In high school, I wanted to get into computers, but wasn’t really sure how. I looked into marketing, then creative and design. It just so happened that where I wanted to go to college [Hawkeye Community College in Iowa] was offering a web design and development program.
Once I started learning HTML and CSS, it was challenging, but it wasn’t so challenging that I felt like I couldn’t do it. I feel like that really drove me to try harder and keep trying.
I just got lucky in that I found a program that was exactly my pace and what I wanted to do, and I was thrilled with it.
After graduating, you got a job at LaneTerralever as a quality assurance analyst, then transitioned to the user experience team. How did that transition happen?
That was a huge stepping stone. Being on the QA team, I got to see a lot of different pieces from start to finish for a web build, and that’s how I ended up in [user experience]... it’s kind of a hybrid of some of the design components and some of the development components.
What drew you to UX?
I love being challenged by things, but, more so, I like building things. UX is very much figuring out the “why,” like, why do things need to be laid out this way? What is a user’s thought process when they land on a page?
My passion lies in figuring out the “how.” How are we going to get the user where they need to go? How do we actually build this thing in that somebody can interact with?
You also enjoy front end development?
Front end development is very much, “I have a problem and I think I have a solution.” Then you try it, and you know instantly, with the refresh of your browser, if it worked and if you fixed the problem you’re trying to solve.
I really like having a challenge in front of me, being able to find a solution, and knowing whether or not it worked.
There’s a hundred different ways to do the same thing. Finding the best solution for the problem at hand, and being able to quickly say, “OK, I solved that problem,” is really rewarding.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career?
For UX... not getting to see whether a decision I made was right or wrong. It takes a long time to get the data back, and then you have to analyze.
You’re still, in some ways, only making a best guess at whether or not it was your solution to the problem that worked, or a different problem entirely.
As far as front-end dev, the biggest challenges are that things are constantly changing. I’ll be using a new CSS trick and think it’s so cool and cutting-edge. Then, the next project we do, that’s not the cutting-edge thing anymore. There’s a new, better way to do the same thing.
Compared with their presence in the overall US labor force overall, women are underrepresented in tech by 19 percent, according to data from the biggest tech firms. How have you handled being in the “minority”?
It’s definitely well-known that women are underrepresented in the tech industry. As much as it can be seen as a negative, it can also be used as an asset.
We are underrepresented, so if you can put in the work, and you can learn how to do it and you can do it well, then people may be more inclined to hire a female. You almost have an edge because people are going to want to bring diversity to a team.
How did you gain such a fearless perspective?
It was very interesting, my entire college program was run by one director, who is female. The teacher for all of my web courses was female.
From college, I was already seeing a female working in the industry and I learned everything I know from a female working in the industry. So that impacted my perspective.
Do you see changes on the horizon for women in the tech industry?
We may not have seen a lot of change yet, but I think it’s coming.
The entire program in my college was maybe ten students. It was a small college. Probably four of the ten were female, which was the most they had ever seen in that program, ever.
I think women are standing up for what they want to do now, and just because the change hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that it won’t. Just give it time.
What advice would you give a woman who wants to start a career in tech?
Can I be totally cliche? Don’t let yourself believe that you can’t do it because you’re female, and don’t let anyone else tell you can’t do it. That’s, for lack of a better word, the dumbest reason to not strive for something you really want to do.
If it’s something you’re interested in, you should definitely strive for it, regardless of how many men or women are in the industry.