Meet Kim: Procheerleader-turned-I.T. specialist

Meet Kim, another of our fascinating pro cheerleader-turned-scientists, here shake up stereotypes and inspire young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Kim is an I.T. specialist who can trouble-shoot tech problems and design new applications with the best of ’em.
Come meet Kim in Washington, D.C. at the USA Science and Engineering Festival 10/23-10/24, where the Science Cheerleaders will perform science-themed routines and talk to festival-goers about…careers in science and engineering of course! Check it out!

S.C.: 
Hey Kim! Please tell me when/how you first became interested in computers.
Kim: One of my cousins was pursuing  a career in IT, and I thought my cousin was so cool. So, in high school I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a class in computer programming to be more like him! I realized that programming was fun and I was good at it!

S.C.: What degree have you earned?
Kim: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction, which is the study of how to design technology in a way that best suits the users.

S.C.: What is your work title? (What do you do?)
Kim: IT Application Analyst. I have spent the last five years developing mainframe software with a language called Cobol. Part of my job is to also maintain and enhance existing applications. Also, sometimes I am on call, which requires 24/7 support for any application that may fail. We have to analyze the failure and figure out how to get it processing again.

S.C.: Very cool! So, w
hich team did you cheer for and when?
Kim: I cheered for the Iowa Energy, which is the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns development team, 2007-2008 season. I also cheered for Iowa Barnstormers arena football team in 2008 and 2009.

S.C.: 

What experience turned you on to science?
Kim: While I was experimenting with computer programming in high school, I was given an assignment to write a program that let the user enter their weight. Then it would do a mathematical calculation and tell the user how much they would weigh on the moon!  It’s the sense of accomplishment and excitement I got when I created these programs that really turned me on to computer science.

S.C.: Which came first: your interest in cheerleading or your interest in science?
Kim: My interest in cheerleading and dancing came first. I started tumbling when I was 5 or 6 and my tumbling coaches were cheerleaders, so I always wanted to be a cheerleader and dancer growing up. I also spent some years doing competitive gymnastics so once I was in high school, dance team seemed like a natural fit.

S.C.: Do you feel you your work as a professional cheerleader helped or hindered your career? (please elaborate)
Kim: I think it has helped my career in an indirect way. Cheerleading has meant a lot in my life, it is my social time, my exercise time, and my creative time. Cheer and dance keeps me happy and healthy and because of that I’ve been able to thrive and gain success in my career.  Cheerleading can be intense and time-consuming, so you’re forced to be disciplined and manage your time wisely. Both of these traits have helped at work and school. However, I would also say it has hindered me in a way as well. Unfortunately, when you are a blonde cheerleader working in a male dominated career you really have to work hard to prove yourself just as capable as anybody else. Luckily, my company is full of people that believe in me, but I know there are those that form an opinion about my abilities or write me off based on the fact that I don’t fit the stereotype of a computer programmer. That’s a struggle.

S.C.: 
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream associated with beauty or physique (like cheerleading) and pursuing a science and engineering career usually associated with, well, geeks?
Kim: My advice is to follow both dreams, and never label yourself or your interests. It doesn’t matter what society’s stereotypes are. If you have an interest in something, break the mold and pursue your interests. You can overcome the stereotypes, and people will respect your for that. Don’t just pick one dream to follow, I never felt I had to choose between science and cheerleading and now I’m lucky enough to have both of these in my life.

S.C.: Is there advice you would give your former 10-12-year-old self, now that you have the benefit of hindsight?
Kim:  I think I would just tell myself work hard to meet your goals it will pay off in the end…and remember to make time for fun along the way!

S.C.: .

What would most people find surprising about your field of interest?
Kim: I think people would be surprised to know that computer programming is more than just sitting at a computer writing out code. Its problem solving, teamwork, and creative design!

S.C.: 
What are your plans for the future?
Kim: In the future I hope to still be working in IT, but less in the technical side and more on the design side. I’d like to focus more on user interface design and user experience by studying the user of the technology and coming up with the most effective design for them to interact with it.

S.C.: Good, maybe you can help me w/Science Cheerleader! Ok, your best cheerleading experience?
Kim: My best cheerleading experience was when I was a senior in high school. I tried out for the dance team where I would be starting college in the fall. I was so scared and intimidated, but I made the team!

S.C.: 
Favorite and least favorite courses you took to prepare for your work?
Kim: My favorite course was my web application development course. We got to experiment with so many cool programming languages. My least favorite course was calculus. I’ve never excelled at math, but it’s a big part of programming, so I worked hard and got through it.

S.C.: More exhilarating: positive experimental results or nailing a cheer move?
Kim: Positive experimental results, you put so much work into something and it’s a great feeling when it all comes together!