Amidst the exciting technology news and innovations, it’s important to talk to the inspiring women who make this all happen.
In this first ‘Inspiring Women in Tech’ interview, we spoke with Lilac Mohr. She leads the Flow engineering group at Pluralsight, a tech workforce development company that helps teams build products.
Mohr has a passion for helping individual contributors and teams use data to frame the human stories behind their engineering work. She has 25 years of experience in the tech industry and holds a B.S. degree in Computer Information Systems and an M.S. degree in Statistics. Mohr is also the author of two middle-grade math adventure novels that encourage girls to pursue STEM fields.
What drew you to engineering/STEM and how did you get started?
I took my first programming class in 9th grade, and I was the only girl in the room. While my classmates jumped right into the DOS prompt and started hacking away, I struggled with finding the right keys on the keyboard since I’d never worked on a PC before. The boys sitting behind me were placing bets on how long it would be before I dropped out of the class. Despite a rough start, I fell in love with coding. By the end of the year, I had written a functioning Tetris game in GW Basic and had earned the respect of my peers.
What roadblocks have you encountered in your pursuit of a career in tech?
Finding tech jobs was never challenging for me, but the male-dominated tech industry didn’t cultivate a healthy sense of belonging. I felt that as a woman I had to work harder to prove my worth. This often led to loneliness and burnout.
What do you think are the benefits of early exposure to STEM education and careers in STEM?
At its core, every company is a tech company. Technology drives everything, and how humans become part of that transformation looks very different from what ‘tech work’ looked like in the past. By starting STEM education at an early age, we’re providing children with a foundation that will open up new opportunities for the careers of the future.
There is a lack of diversity in STEM, from early education to the workforce, why is it important to have diversity in STEM?
Technology has shown that diverse teams are teams that produce better outcomes. When we create environments where people with different backgrounds, experiences, and problem-solving approaches come together… amazing things happen!
What advice would you give to a kid or young adult considering going into STEM? How does that advice change as they get older – from primary/elementary school, through university/college and even into the workforce?
Children have a natural curiosity and a learner’s mindset. They’re not afraid to ask questions. They’re not afraid to attempt the impossible. As we get older and more self-conscious, a lot of those qualities fade. My advice to children and adults, alike, is to never lose that sense of wonder. The best engineers are not the ones who write perfect code – they are the ones who try new things and ask lots and lots of questions.
If you missed the previous fintech-themed interviews, then check out the latest one with Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at Blend Network.
There are also fintech-related interviews with Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, Founder and CEO of Akoni Hub; Carmen Vicelich, Founder and CEO of Valocity; and Karen Rudich, CEO and Co-Founder of ELEMENTARY.