Since she was a young girl, ITS Research Computing’s Jenny Williams has appreciated community and hands-on work. These values have shaped, defined and inspired her work as a woman in IT.
Growing up in a family of shipyard workers and a NASA physicist, Williams gained a love for hands-on work at a young age. “I don’t think women or girls are really encouraged to put their hands on things and actually learn by working with them,” she said. To her, taking on a job head-on is an act of strength and independence.
Not only did Williams’ upbringing encourage her to take on challenging problems, but it also taught her the value of a supportive community. Community defines a job more than a description on a page ever could, she said. “Being happy in your job has everything to do with the people you work with every day,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate here at UNC.”
Williams has worked for UNC-Chapel Hill for 28 years and at what is now Research Computing for more than 20 years. The teams Williams has been a part of at ITS have changed over the years as people have come and gone, but these shifts have enabled her to understand the key to a positive work environment. “It’s a balance between being goal-driven and being able to be human,” she said. “You know, talking about your life outside of work and having people care about one another.”
Williams is passing on her IT career lessons through her relationship with her daughter. Williams decided to catch “the wave” of technology in part because IT was a growing field. She intends to help her daughter find her own niche in a technology field that fosters growth — another of Williams’ keys to a positive work environment. “You need enough work coming across your desk and enough variety in the work for you to learn, and for it to be interesting. You must have opportunities to move forward and do new things,” she said.