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Finding your Passion

By: Julie Sparks

Hello fellow CoderChicks!

I am Julie Sparks and I went to Seminole High School (2016). I am a current junior at Rollins College majoring in Computer Science. However, when I started I was just a Business and History major I did not realize I had interest in tech until I got my first job at my university in my freshman year. From there on I got more invested until I eventually changed my major to Computer Science.

Within tech, my passion lies in working with IT and security rather than the traditional programming and engineering side of computers. However, I have experienced both sides by combining work experience and university coursework in languages such as Java and C.

Last summer I was able to intern in the Silicon Valley area with Palo Alto Networks. Palo Alto Networks is a company that builds firewalls and then uses the data from the firewalls to do threat intelligence and other security applications in real time. I specifically worked within their Information Security department to analyze application risk for products that the company used internally. The goal was to ensure sure they have specific security safeguards since they were deemed to contain personal data, a task now required by the General Data Protection Regulation from the European Union. Along with this, I helped around the office with other projects and events. My main objective going into the position was to learn and meet as many people as possible. When you start encountering problems within the field or looking for potential jobs, these connections are everything!

The thing about the Bay area is it is unlike any other environment I have ever been in. It truly is a tech bubble that you walk into (and some people never leave). This environment is amazing for the pure knowledge that the guy next to you in the grocery store has about artificial intelligence or network protocols; however, sometimes the people tend to drift from the reality of everything outside tech. While in the Bay area, I attended events like Women in Tech panels at Airbnb’s HQ, hikes with Women Who Code, local security meetups, and the Women in Cybersecurity 2018 conference. From there I was able to meet many amazing women who are pioneering roles in their fields and encouraging diversity. Silicon Valley has about a 7:1 man to woman ratio and you feel it constantly, which makes any work that they do to increase women in tech very vital.

Since tech is the one field which is constantly changing, I learned that learning never stops! One interview question that most tech companies ask is how do you stay current with the industry? Stay current so you are always a step ahead of everyone else. The best way that I try to keep learning and stay informed is through online videos or tutorials, local meetups, conferences, weekly news articles, and attending club meetings.

I recommend reaching for positions and experiences that put you slightly outside your comfort zone, whether that’s coding ability or the geographical location. Only in these places will you learn, develop yourself, and the meet others who are as passionate as you are.

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