Charleston Women in Tech talk technology at Blackbaud
A neuroscientist, an engineer, a CEO, a professor, an innovation director and many more local luminaries representing women in the Charleston tech/business community lit up the new Blackbaud world headquarters earlier this month. Female leaders with vast and varied experience in technology shared their thoughts in a “TedX” style forum, in which each talk lasted five minutes, during a unique event titled “1 Hour, 11 Amazing Speakers, 10 Inspiring Messages.”
Topics ranged from “Perspectives on Tech Investing” by Andrea Marshall, Innovation Director of the Roper St. Francis Research and Innovation Center in Charleston, to CSU’s Dr. Valerie Sessions who spoke about “The Power of Unselfishness.”
College of Charleston computer science student Alexandra Shope shared her ideas about integrating the arts and data science, recalling advice from her parents: “Get skilled and you will find your passion.” Shope said she has found those words inspiring as she applied for and won a research grant to explore the relationship between data analytics and the film-making process. Shope said she “hopes that similar initiatives will help broaden women’s interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields.”
New York University business graduate and tech consultant Selena Martin explained how she has applied her passion for “skills-based volunteering.” She explained that the skills she acquired helping women in technologically underserved communities has helped her expand her own creativity and problem-solving in her career in data analytics, financial modeling and product development.
SPAWAR Project Manager Sierra Williams spoke of the increasing number of African-Americans in STEM fields. Williams, currently the President of the Charleston Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, talked about the tough challenges she faced early in her career as “the only black woman in the room.” She now volunteers in the STEM fields to help “grow the confidence of young women for a life of success.”
Charleston Women in Tech’s Nina Magnesson and Blackbaud Chief Technology Officer Mary Beth Westmoreland (a member of the CWIT board) hosted the event. The forum was free, with voluntary donations going to “CodeON” a CWIT initiative that creates free coding labs in Charleston’s underserved neighborhoods, providing technology, internet access, and teachers from Charleston’s top tech talent. Representatives from the organization said it also accepts volunteers from all backgrounds who are eager to help, as well as learn new tech skills themselves.
CWIT is a collaborative effort of Charleston’s women leaders, educators, and tech professionals to connect, support and prepare women of all ages in the technology industry. Founded in 2014, the group has grown to more than 2,300 members. (More about Charleston Women in Tech at www.charlestonwomenintech.com).
The event was held in the recently completed Blackbaud office complex on Fairchild Street. An international leader in cloud-based software solutions for the social good sector, Blackbaud is Charleston’s largest public company with more than 1,400 employees based at its headquarters on Daniel Island.