Featured Woman in Technology: Amity Binkert

Amity2 Amity Binkert works as a contractor for a market-research company called novaQuant.  Using Perl, JavaScript, Python, and CSS, she designs and implements online surveys and transforms and tabulates the resulting data for analysis and reporting.  Amity lives in the San Francisco Bay area, but novaQuant is a completely distributed company, with no central office and employees across the United States. 

"The best part about my job is that I get to learn new technologies and work on new projects on a weekly basis," Amity says.  The surveys are in and out in a few weeks, and Amity enjoys the quick pace.  "With the fast turnaround time on projects, it rarely gets boring!" 

Amity enjoyed playing with computers as a child.  She and her mother experimented with writing programs in BASIC to draw shapes and fill them with different patterns.  Amity modified the autoexec.bat file on her machine and made it greet her with a cheerful "Hello!" when the computer started.  In college, she decided to pursue Engineering because she enjoyed science and math.  She specifically decided on Computer Engineering for personal reasons; Amity's father has a degenerative disease which destroyed his eyesight, and he was declared legally blind during Amity's freshman year of college.  This gave her a deep interest in the humanistic side of computing, and how technology could help people like her father.  She was motivated to study software engineering when she saw how accessible computer programs, such as JAWS (a screen reader for Windows), allowed her father to continue working without his eyesight. 

Amity inspires me in her ability to balance her work and her life.  She has always had a wide variety of interests, from programming to sports to travel to literature.  Her job is only one part of her whole life, and it's important for her to balance it with her other interests.  Amity believes in giving her all to her job during her working hours.  She also knows that she works best when she's had rest and time away from her computer to devote to the other aspects of her life.  Amity has two young children, one 2 and one 4 months.  "It is important to know your limits, set your boundaries, and remain confident in them.  I have two small kids and if I worked all the time, I wouldn't get to spend time with them.  So I designate work hours and stick to them." 

When Amity worked full-time prior to her children, one work/life balance trick that she used was "at the end of each day, write down everything that's on your mind that still needs to be done, and leave it at the office.  Then you can go home and refresh, and when you come back to work the next day, you can immediately focus on your list and know what problems you need to tackle." 

When Amity had her first son, she transferred from a full-time to a part-time position at her company at the time, Vector CANtech.  When their son was 6 months old, Amity and her husband moved across the country to California for her husband's new job.  Amity took a short break of several months from technical work and then looked for employment in her new location.  When she was searching for a position, she specifically looked for part-time work that would be close to home.  She didn't find anything that fit her needs right away, but she persisted.  She eventually found her current position at novaQuant working from home part-time, and has since had her second child.  Her schedule is to work from home from 8am-1pm four days/week while a loving nanny watches her children.  She then has the afternoons off to spend with her children.

Amity graduated with highest honors from the University of Michigan, and she could have worked for a number of high-profile companies.  To this day, she is contacted by headhunters trying to recruit her to full-time positions with benefits at big companies.  However, Amity always turns them down because she has a job with the flexibility that she wants right now.  "At the end of the day, will you bemoan the fact that one more bug didn't get fixed, or that you didn't read that bedtime story to your child?  You have to be confident in your values.  If you want full-time work, you have to be honest with yourself about what that will take and whether you want to give up the many things that go along with working those extra hours: sleep, time with family and friends, vacations, etc.  If your career aspirations are greater, you may have to sacrifice your social life even more.  You just have to choose what is important to you - and reassess your work/life situation as needed."

Amity's advice to other women in technology: "When looking for a job, write down what is important to you.  Remain confident during your search that you are worthy of these things, and then don't quit until you've found them.  Don't compromise your values or what is important to you."

Comments (1)
  1. Dianne Marsh says:

    Jennifer Marsman , developer evangelist at Microsoft, is in the process of producing a series of blogs

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