March is Women’s History Month and ITS is celebrating by highlighting women and nonbinary Tar Heels in technology. All month long, ITS News will share profiles and Q&As to share the breadth and diversity of the Carolina women-in-tech experience. For the full list of profiles and to read some historical perspective, visit Celebrating Women’s History Month: Carolina women in IT.
Tell us about your current role and what you do:
I work full-time for a nonprofit program, the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, operated by the University Libraries. We’re funded by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funds through the State Library of North Carolina and provide digitization and digital publishing services to a variety of organizations across the state.
As the center’s staff software developer, I’m responsible for maintaining the center’s website and digital repositories (DigitalNC.org), as well as whatever I can do to support the Digital Heritage Center’s production work (building tools and establishing repeatable or automated processes that help us do more, more quickly). I am a member of the University Libraries’ software development team, and work closely with the libraries’ infrastructure management group.
What path led you to IT and where you are now?
I came to software development through libraries. My first job as a graduate student was encoding the text of historic documents into XML so that they could be searched via UNC’s library website. I moved from encoding those documents to working with the databases used to organize them and finally to presenting them online. I loved every part of it and by the time I graduated I was taking as many IT courses as I could.
About Stephanie Williams
Stephanie Williams is the Digital Projects Programmer in North Carolina Digital Heritage Center at UNC-Chapel Hill’s University Libraries.
She has a bachelor’s degree in classics from Furman University and a master’s in library science from UNC-Chapel Hill.
She has worked in UNC Libraries, and IT, for 15 years.
What excites you about the future of your field?
There’s less distinction between “information technology” and “library science” now than ever, but I’m so glad to work in libraries. Libraries and librarians have long felt a responsibility to grapple with issues of inequality, exclusion and bias with regard to collections and access. I’m thankful to have learning opportunities, thoughtful resources and passionate communities of practice to draw from as I navigate the ways that technology can contribute positively (or negatively) to these issues.
What career advice would you give women in IT?
I’ve been lucky to land (and stay) in a work environment that values diversity of all kinds, but if I were on the hunt for a new opportunity, this is something I’d look for. One of the great things about IT is the way it draws people from all kinds of educational backgrounds and alternate career paths; I know I’m likely to feel more comfortable in an organization that welcomes this.
What resources do you recommend for women who are looking to start or advance their IT careers?
I really admire how Ellen Ullman explores her experiences in writing, and I love that she advocates for a more holistic view of what it means to work “in technology.” I checked out her novel, “The Bug,” the week COVID shut the world down. It’s a cautionary tale about a programmer who slowly loses his mind trying to fix an elusive problem. In hindsight, I probably should have picked another time to read that!