Sarah Fabius has worked for more than five years at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, where she is a systems engineer and an HPCC Systems ambassador. She has a passion for technology and enjoys finding unique ways to promote diversity and inclusion within the HPCC Systems community.
Throughout the year, you can find Sarah leading ECL Code Camps and conferences for women in technology, including the annual She is Tomorrow’s Technologist, a LexisNexis Risk Solutions conference for female students interested in technology.
We sat down with Sarah to discuss her experience at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, some of her favorite moments working in the community and advice she would give to young technologists looking to get into the industry.
What inspired you to pursue a career in technology? Did you have a particularly good teacher or role model who made you want to join the field?
I essentially fell into technology. There was an open position at LexisNexis Risk Solutions that somebody had referred me for, and I got the job. I was never encouraged to get into technology growing up and was hardly ever exposed to the industry. Nor did my high school have any programs or offerings geared specifically toward technology.
It wasn't that I wasn't interested, I just never thought of working in the industry as being in the realm of possibility. I think that's one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about bringing technology and different opportunities to young students within the community who aren’t aware of a possible career in the industry.
One of the reasons I've stayed in technology is because of the role models who have mentored me. At LexisNexis Risk Solutions, we have a lot of strong female leaders and I've been able to learn from them through connections that I have formed. These types of relationships have been incredibly encouraging and positive since I entered the field.
Even though I never pictured myself as working in the industry, my time here has made me realize that this is where I am supposed to be.
How do you inspire the kids you work with in the community to find careers in technology – beyond what they thought was even a possibility?
For starters, I think there is a stereotype of what a technologist should be and how they should act. Typically, they’re pictured as being introverted and keeping to themselves. I am trying to change the messaging around that because there's a place for everybody within technology. Personally, I'm very extroverted. I love people and talking with others. Most people incorrectly assume that you wouldn't find somebody with that type of personality in the industry, and as I started my career, a lot of people questioned why I was in the field.
In my opinion, there's an opportunity for every type of person with every type of personality within technology. You just have to find where you fit in and how you can help the bigger picture.
I was fortunate that as I was going through my career, I was able to align my personality with the goals and the mission of the company. I found ways to bring my personality and my skillset together into a successful career. I think it's important when you're going into technology that you don't try to fit into what you feel society says a typical technologist would be. You have your own personality, skills and traits that nobody else has. That’s what makes you unique and that's what companies like LexisNexis Risk Solutions need. Having these diverse environments and cultures is massively important to a successful enterprise.
What are some of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had in your time working with young technologists at community events?
I find it to be rewarding any time I have the opportunity to do something within the community, but one of the most memorable experiences that I've had was the first HPCC Systems ECL code camp.
The event brought in students from a local university who were on the autism spectrum and gave them the opportunity to get hands-on with technology. We also conducted mock interviews to prepare them to eventually find a job in the working world. Being able to see these students’ reactions to the training we were providing was incredibly rewarding.
There was one student in particular who was so grateful for LexisNexis Risk Solutions and what we were doing for them. He just fell in love with our organization and I think it's because often people who are on the spectrum aren't given these opportunities. I think giving them the chance to come in and show that they have value and that they would be a great contribution to any organization was truly special.
Another event that comes to mind was a code camp we hosted last summer for underprivileged and underserved schools in the community. We took in more than 60 kids and they coded Python all day on laptops we provided them. At the end of the event I had the opportunity to tell those students, "Hey, you get to keep that laptop." Those are the types of offerings that could change a student’s life. The majority of them don't have access to technology, so giving them computers and encouraging them to find a career in the industry was truly special.
What advice would you give young women who are just starting a career in technology?
The advice I would give to anyone starting a career in technology would be to ask a lot of questions, learn as much as you can and don't be afraid to speak up. I’d also suggest finding a mentor or sponsor as early as you can when you start your career. Preferably someone who has skills and talents similar to what you would like to learn yourself.
As a woman in technology, having someone on your side supporting you through your career is crucial. I think the earlier on that you find somebody who will advocate for you, the better.
What do you think the HPCC Systems community will look like in 10 years?
I think that HPCC Systems community within the next five to 10 years is going to look much different than it does now. The technology we use today is shifting and we’re seeing everyone migrate to this cloud environment where things are expected to be faster and quicker. I also think that, in general, with the way that the technology is changing, the community within the industry will change and expand rapidly in the coming years.
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