Quavo’s System Architect Jessica Wile recently sat down for a Q&A where she shared her experience as a woman in the predominately male tech industry:
What’s your current position at Quavo? How long have you been in this position? Can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?
After graduating from Kalamazoo College, I started at Quavo as a Developer Intern in October of 2019. Shortly after I accepted a full-time position as an Associate Developer and have since been promoted to a System Architect. I am responsible for enhancing, developing, and implementing our products. Most recently I have been working with the CardWorks team to enhance their process with QFD.
I want to understand how and why you ended up here working in Fintech. What led you to this industry? What were you doing before you came here? What attracted you to this work?
I have always enjoyed math, physics, and computer science and knew I would end up in a career in one of these fields eventually. I was not aware that this job existed until my twin brother started working for Quavo and encouraged me to apply for a position.
This is a position that allows me to really apply myself by using my problem-solving and critical thinking skills to enhance our QFD product. I have always wanted to use my math and computing skills in a real-world context and as a Quavo developer, I get the best of both worlds.
Tell us a bit about your younger self. Where did you grow up and attend school? Do you have any memorable experiences or accomplishments you’d like to share?
I grew up in Schoolcraft, Michigan which is a small country town. I spent most of my time outside hanging out with my brother and our friends. When I was not hanging out with my friends you could find me on the soccer field. From a young age, I was extremely competitive. In 5th grade, I won our school-wide Spelling Bee, and in 7th grade our Science Fair. This competitive energy is what drove me to apply and get accepted into the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center (KAMSC). At KAMSC I took advanced courses in math, physics, and computer science and really fell in love with problem-solving. Attending KAMSC enabled me to apply for a full ride to Kalamazoo College through the Heyl Scholarship, which I was later awarded.
At Kalamazoo College, I majored in both mathematics and physics and was very involved with both programs. I was a teaching assistant almost every quarter of my college career and at one point I held three teaching assistant positions while also working for Information Services. During my summers, I spent my time in a lab where I held research positions in both nuclear and condensed matter physics.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re committed to in your work and/or personal life?
My high school physics teacher, Mr. Michael Sinclair, was one of my most influential teachers and mentor. He encouraged me to apply for the Heyl Scholarship as he saw the person I had the potential to become despite only being in high school. His style of teaching made physics fun and piqued my interest in the subject. He pushed me to find different ways of solving problems in order to be a better student.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about? What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work? Not so much the goals that are in your job description, but the goals you hold personally.
My competitive drive and love of learning are what motivates me to be the best in everything that I do. I love problem-solving and the desire to overcome new challenges pushes me to my full potential. Personally, I want to continue learning and advancing throughout my career while enjoying both what I do and the people around me.
Women’s History Month is and always will be a great opportunity to learn about female history, stories, accomplishments, and perspectives. The tech and financial industries have been predominately white and male in America. Do you think that is changing? What do you think needs to happen for there to be more representation and inclusion of women in the Fintech industry?
I was extremely fortunate to have teachers and mentors that encouraged my interest in STEM, and I know that is not the case for everyone across the country. There needs to be more recognition of young women’s interest in STEM early on in their life because that is when people decide what kind of career path they want to pursue later in life.
Women in STEM should be given more leadership roles and opportunities where they are deserved as this will help pave the way for more women to follow in their footsteps. Also, we need to recognize that women of color and the LGBTQ+ community have additional obstacles to overcome while pursuing careers in the STEM field and these obstacles need to be addressed so we can ultimately have more diversity and inclusion of all individuals.
Do you think the start-up mentality in the Fintech industry provides more opportunities for greater diversity than in other industries? Why if so and if why not, how can the industry do better?
The start-up mentality is a very teamwork-driven approach that makes each team member more valuable. This dependability encourages and appreciates diversity because you need people with different backgrounds and experiences to work as a cohesive group. When I first joined Quavo I initially thought I would run into coworkers thinking I was not smart enough to be a developer considering I did not have a strong computer science background, but that thought was immediately dismissed. My coworkers are welcoming and are always willing to help. I have always felt respected and valued by my male coworkers here at Quavo.
What does Women’s History Month mean for you both professionally and personally?
It is important to both acknowledge and recognize the work of all the women before us that pushed boundaries and fought for equality, but it is also important to recognize that the work is a work in progress. Women’s History Month reminds us of how far we have come, but we still have a long way to go. Women are and have always been contributing members of society and are capable of so much more than they have been given credit. Going forward, we need to be more adamant at recognizing women’s contributions and help women recognize their full potential.
Professionally, as a woman in STEM, it is important to look at the importance of women’s contributions to science. The women who continue fighting for equality result in more diversity and representation of women in various professions. As there are more inclusion and representation, I am treated with more respect and I encounter less sexism in the workplace which allows me to live my life and do my job. I am comfortable enough in my workplace to recognize my full potential.
Personally, Women’s History Month is a reminder that the work of many great women allowed me to do what I love. Thanks to these women I face fewer obstacles and have more opportunities to advance and grow.