EVERYDAY SUPERSTARS

Celebrating women who have a passion for technology and digital, inspiring the next generation to dream bigger.

Imaginify was a ... Software Development Engineer

Dawn has worked for Alaska Airlines for 29 years. She founded the Alaska Airlines Women in Tech network to help with issues faced by women at work.

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FACTFILE

1

I've only worked at one company, Alaska Airlines, for my entire adult life (started at age 18).

2

I'm a Gwitch'in Athabascan - Alaska Native born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.

3

I was on the team that invented electronic tickets for Alaska Airlines in the 90s. This enabled us to have the first online checkin, domestically in the US.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I create custom applications that our call centre agents use to help our customers.  In the past, I have written custom applications for our airport customer service agents to use to process customers faster.  Also, I am the founder of Alaska Airlines Women in Tech network and am the co-chair.

What made you decide to do this?

I have worked for Alaska Airlines since I was 18 years old. I started as a call centre employee, spent seven years as an airport customer service employee and then got into tech.  I love to code because I can help my friends and newer agents do their jobs more efficiently.  I founded the Alaska Airlines Women in Tech network because I saw a need.  Over the years I had experienced cases of unconscious bias and the like and felt like it was the time to step up and make a change

How long have you been doing it?

29 years

Do you have a mentor or anyone who supports you?

I have had many mentors in my life.  They are not necessarily "official" but I find that one of my super powers is being able to ask the right questions of the right people.  Over the years I've had co-workers and supervisors who have recognized my talents and helped me achieve more for the company and for myself.  I credit several very strong women in my life for helping me to become who I am today.

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

Hillary Clinton 

In my mind, Hillary is a great example of a strong woman who has spent her life helping others.  I grew up in a culture of giving and was taught that my life is not just for me, it's to help make other people's lives better.  Hillary has faced a lot over the years and shows me that women can make a difference, even though it may be hard. 

What do you wish you'd known 10 years ago? What difference would knowing that have made?

I wish I had known that there was a term and a solution to "impostor syndrome."  I don't have a computer science degree but came into software development during the dot com years.  I decided I wanted to be a developer and set about doing that.  For many, many years, I didn't consider myself to be a "real developer."  I think that held me back in several ways. Now in my 19th year as a developer I am absolutely certain that I am "real."  A piece of paper such as a computer science degree doesn't define who I am.  I let my work do that for me.  I am confident in my abilities and don't doubt myself any longer. 

What are the best things about being a woman in an industry dominated by men?

You know, when I started software engineering in the mid-90s I wasn’t in and industry dominated by men.  I never really thought about gender inequality until about the last ten years or so.  I tend to think of my accomplishments and my work not so much in terms of gender so my answer may be sort of general here.  I love being a software engineer because I can make a difference daily to our customers.  It gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the users of the software that I write can do a better job because of me.  Maybe I'm a bit conceited, but I love to walk through one of our airports and point out to my family all the software that I have written.  As far as being a woman, I do now feel the gender gap more and more.  Currently I'm on a team with me and three men.  Because of the imbalance of gender, I must have a stronger voice in bringing up the female perspective.  I enjoy knowing that my ideas count and are heard (thankfully I have a very strong personality).  Also, I love being the founder/co-chair of our Women in Tech group.  I love helping women to be strong and helping them advance their careers in the same way women in my past did for me.  It's always great to pay it forward!

What advice do you have for girls or women considering a tech role?

I think the best advice is to know you are going to have to stick up for yourself and your ideas.  Never let anyone, regardless of gender, bring you down.  The gender gap is real so accept it, get a thick skin, and enjoy the best career ever!

What is your favourite quote?

"Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives."  - Michelle Obama