Sparq and Women Who Code are hosting a virtual hackathon on Thursday, November 10, so we’re introducing you to members of the planning committee. Meet Senior Consultant Vanessa Cooper, based in our Augusta Development Center.
Finding Her Passion for Tech
As a college student at Georgia Southern University, Vanessa had no interest in the tech industry. She wanted to work in fashion and start her label, a career path that her parents weren’t exactly sold on. “Based on my dad’s advice, I took a variety of classes trying to find a more ’stable’ career, but I didn’t really connect with anything.” In her third year, Vanessa decided on a physics and math double major. Coincidentally, one of the required, non-major courses was Introduction to Computer Science. On the first attempt, she failed. As a person who graduated high school as class salutatorian, this was an embarrassing yet enlightening experience. She was the only woman of color and one of three women in a class of over twenty, so she felt uncomfortable asking questions and didn’t want to stand out in a negative way. Vanessa actually enjoyed what she was learning, so accepting failure wasn’t an option. She ended up retaking the class with a female professor, which made her feel more comfortable asking questions and going to the professor’s office hours. She was amazed to see how easy it actually was to create computer programs. That sealed the deal for Vanessa and she changed her major to computer science with the goal of becoming a software engineer.
Figuring Out What’s Next
After getting her M.S. in Computer Science, Vanessa ended up moving to Metro Atlanta and teaching programming classes at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College. In the number of years that had passed since she took her first programming class, she had noticed a positive shift in the diversity of the classes she originally taught. She saw more female and BIPOC students and was very encouraged by this trend. During her pursuit of a PhD at the University of South Carolina, Vanessa decided to go into consulting because she realized that she wanted a salary that typically accompanies tech professionals working in the industry. However, she had started a family and a city life was no longer desirable. Luckily, she found a posting for a consulting position near her hometown of Millen, Georgia at Sparq in Augusta, GA. She applied and the rest is history.
Growing at Sparq
Working as a Senior Consultant in Sparq’s Java practice area, Vanessa has worked for a few clients in the logistics and transportation industries. She’s had the opportunity to work on challenging, rewarding projects while maintaining a work-life balance that allows her to prioritize her son. Vanessa has been at Sparq for three years and she attributes her continued time there to the diversity, the company’s commitment to the community and colleagues and the overall great culture that the company offers.
The Importance of Women Who Code
Vanessa recognizes the immense value of organizations like Women Who Code, who inspire women to excel in technology careers. “I think if I would’ve been exposed to the tech industry earlier and in a space where I saw more people who looked like me, then it would’ve been easier to grasp some of the concepts that I struggled with in that first programming class. Plus, Women Who Code helps show people how rewarding a career in tech can be, which is exactly what my experience has been like. The tech industry continues to diversify and I really hope that helps more people see themselves in roles like mine.”
Sign up NOW for the virtual hackathon on Thursday, November 10!
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