Cassidy Williams: The Ability to Build Whatever You Want is So Empowering!
The developer helping to inspire the next generation of STEM students to be the best they can be
Engineers play a vital role in shaping our world, and their importance has never been more visible than during the global pandemic – as we’ve seen engineers, technicians and manufacturers quickly pivot to producing personal protective equipment, ventilators, and medical supplies.
As our society becomes increasingly more reliant on technology, engineers will continue to lead innovations in the way we live – from tackling the climate change emergency to setting a new standard for technology to serve the public interest.
We know that companies where diverse talent feels included, tend to be more innovative, more productive, and more profitable. But in engineering, a field so dependent on the result of making unexpected connections, diversity is an absolute necessity.
International Women in Engineering Day was launched in 2014 to draw attention to the many great opportunities for women in the sector and to encourage girls to pursue engineering careers. This year’s theme of #ShapeTheWorld encompasses the huge potential for budding engineers to make a real difference in the world.
To celebrate, we wanted to introduce Freedom friend Cassidy Williams, who is making a big impact as a software engineer while helping and inspiring others to follow suit! She was kind enough to share her thoughts on how to encourage and support girls to pursue careers in engineering, as well as her own advice on getting into the field.
Hi Cassidy! Who or what inspired you to become a Software Engineer?
I had a chance encounter with a neighbor when I walked home from school in 8th grade. I heard them say, “check out my website!”. Until then I didn’t realize you could even have your own website. From there I just scoured the internet teaching myself everything I could about making them!
Did you encounter any challenges along the way to becoming an engineer?
Engineering is a tough thing to study and do! I think you can ask any engineer and you’ll find that they had trouble getting over certain humps in a curriculum and a challenging technical problem at a job. That being said, it’s such an amazing feeling to understand a complex concept or finally fix a bug, that the challenges make it worth it!
Support organizations that are making strides, volunteer, and be a role model!
What are your thoughts on diversity in the tech industry? What can we do to make it better?
Hahaha, in two words: Needs work.
Support organizations that are making strides in the space, like Black Girls Code, NCWIT, and Girls Who Code, volunteer, and be a role model!
You have so many cool projects on the go! How do you prioritize what gets your time and attention each day?
It’s hard to figure out how to prioritize things! Typically though, I try to figure out what I can realistically get done in a given week, and try to put that on my calendar and to-do list and stick to it.
How do you stay focused and motivated on a daily basis? Do you have a routine, ritual, or process that helps you get into a productive flow?
In terms of a day-to-day routine I typically start my day with some breakfast then go to my office to work – I don’t often have a ton of meetings, maybe 1-3 a day.
I spend non-meeting time coding, writing blog posts, making videos, or doing code/content reviews. After work I spend my evenings playing video games, watching movies, playing music, or drinking boba tea with friends. Having this as a regular routine keeps me pretty focused!
As someone who works with computers, do you find it hard to disconnect from technology? If so, have you implemented any strategies to deal with that?
Yes, and honestly I like coding and tech so much that I’ll admit that I don’t try to disconnect much! When I do, I close my computer in a separate room and physically leave it behind to do other things.
How can we help make careers in engineering more accessible or appealing to girls in order to raise more female engineers?
We need more diverse role models!!
Keep experimenting and learning until you find something that you love.
What advice would you give to young people who are just getting started in the field?
Keep experimenting and learning until you find something that you love. Don’t compare yourself to others – everyone’s experience is different!
What if I’m older? Is there still a chance to retrain as an engineer or any point in learning to code?
Yes, of course! My father-in-law is a perfect example of that. He started learning how to code at 52 and he’s a working software engineer now and loves it! Ageism is definitely real, and he had to work very hard to make it happen, but it’s never too late.
What’s the best thing about being a woman in engineering today?
Being an engineer is a creative, logical, and fun career. Being able to build whatever you want, only limited by what you can come up with, is so empowering!
Cassidy is a Principal Developer Experience Engineer at Netlify. She’s also worked for CodePen, Amazon, and Venmo, and had the honor of working with various non-profits, including cKeys and Hacker Fund as their Director of Outreach. She’s active in the developer community, and one of Glamour Magazine’s 35 Women Under 35 Changing the Tech Industry and LinkedIn’s Top Professionals 35 & Under. As an avid speaker, Cassidy has participated in several events including the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing, TEDx, the United Nations, and dozens of other technical events.
To learn more about Cassidy’s work, sign up to her weekly newsletter, support her on Patreon, join her on GitHub and Codepen, or connect on LinkedIn.