Innovate Birmingham is helping women break into the tech field. Here’s what graduates + candidates have to say.

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An Innovate Birmingham ThinkData Analytics Graduate presenting at Summer 2019 Demo Day. Photo submitted

For women looking to break into the tech field, the prospect of entering such a male-dominated industry can be daunting. Luckily, Innovate Birmingham is providing candidates with the skills and confidence they need to make their mark on the Birmingham tech industry. Here’s what five female graduates & candidates have to say about their experience with Innovate Birmingham.

Learn more about Innovate Birmingham’s programs and scholarship opportunities.

Who is Innovate Birmingham?

Innovate Birmingham ThinkData Analytics Graduates collaborating on final projects. Photo submitted

Several years ago, Innovate Birmingham noticed a discrepancy in the Birmingham tech field: there were more IT jobs available than qualified individuals to fill them. So, Innovate Birmingham developed two “bootcamp” style programs to help train the next generation of aspiring tech professionals: Software Development and Data Analytics.

Since Innovate Birmingham’s vision is “equitable economic prosperity in our tech ecosystem”, the program is doing their part by striving to remove barriers for women through their FREE training and partnership with the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), a non-profit organization that works to increase the participation of girls and women in tech.

By offering these fast-track bootcamps, Innovate Birmingham is providing local talent with the necessary tech skills and career development opportunities to succeed.

What Do Recent Graduates Have to Say?

1. Lexi Kwak – Software Development Graduate, Software QA Engineer at Airship 

What is your current role at your company and what does a typical day look like for you?

I start my typical workday by testing different software and applications for each project. I also spend time creating and maintaining test plans for each project. My goal is essentially to break the app—ensure that there are no bugs, and consider how a user may utilize the application.

Additionally, communication is so important to ensure we are all on the same page. Since we are all fully remote, Zoom meetings are a must. Part of my day often includes time for continued learning so that I can grow as a team member and develop new skills that will help me perform better at my role.

Did you always want to work in the tech industry? If not, what inspired you to do so?

I worked in marketing for over five years, mainly in the digital space. Then, I decided I wanted to learn more about how things work. However, it wasn’t until I applied and was accepted to Innovate Birmingham’s Software Development Bootcamp that I really took it seriously. After only a few weeks in the program, I knew this was where I wanted to be.

Were there any barriers you faced being a woman in tech or deciding to pursue tech?

Since my college degree wasn’t applicable, and I couldn’t afford to send myself back to college, I was a bit worried. I didn’t think that I could afford to make the career change. Then, I discovered Innovate Birmingham provided an opportunity to pursue a tech career—at no cost. As soon as I got my acceptance letter, I fully committed to my new career path and I haven’t looked back!

2. Catrina Callahan – Software Development Graduate, Junior Software Developer at JWEB Development

How has Innovate Birmingham equipped you with the professional or technical training necessary to be successful in the tech industry?

I could never have changed careers without Innovate Birmingham. Don’t get me wrong—the bootcamp is hard, but they push and encourage you to pursue your dreams.

Innovate Birmingham also provided the opportunities we needed to take our new skills into the world. In fact, I met my current employer at a career fair hosted by Innovate Birmingham. Before I started my current job, I was so nervous. But on the first day, I thought to myself: “Hey, I know this. I can do this!” I still have a lot to learn, but with the skills I learned at Innovate Birmingham, I have a solid foundation to build upon.

Do you notice a lack of women in the tech industry? If so, why do you think that may be?

Although I’ve seen more women once I joined the industry, the ratio of men to women seems very disproportionate. I think many women—not just in the tech field—often feel that they have to choose between having a career or having a family.

While this is an antiquated idea, there is still a stigma around a powerful woman. Many people think that if a woman chooses a ‘difficult’ career, she’ll never have a life or a family. While we are working to do away with those false conceptions, they still make it harder to see tech as a viable option.

What advice would you give to girls and women who are considering STEM fields as a study or career?

You are unstoppable. STEM careers may seem scary and difficult, but don’t underestimate yourself. You are smarter than you know—give yourself a chance and never forget you have a community who are always ready to help!

3. Heidi Moos – ThinkData Analytics Graduate, Data Analyst and Project Manager

How did you become interested in pursuing a career in tech?

I was an early adopter of email and the World Wide Web—in fact, while I was teaching in Hoover City Schools, I helped train other teachers on how to use technology with students. Yet, I hadn’t considered tech as a potential career path.

Then, Robin Hunt of ThinkData Analytics spoke to my students about STEM careers. Even then, I thought it was too late for me to move into a technology position. Then, Innovate Birmingham partnered with Central Six—so, I took the leap and joined the Data Analytics Cohort.

What is it like to be a woman in the tech field in Birmingham?

So many organizations have worked hard to create opportunities for minorities and women in the Birmingham area. For instance, Innovate Birmingham has partnered with the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) to help break down barriers for women in the tech field. I am incredibly proud to be a part of the new ecosystem.

Birmingham is the place to be if you are a woman or minority who wants to break into data analysis, coding, or cybersecurity. People recognize that diversity is key to a successful business. The tech industry is growing faster than people are being trained. It’s possible to get a good salary after completing Innovate Birmingham’s programs. Scholarships from NCWIT make it possible for women to gain certifications to move up in their careers.

4. Niki Beck – Current Software Development Candidate, Cohort 12

Where were you prior to Innovate Birmingham and why did you decide to apply?

I was (and still am) an entrepreneur operating my own company. My business focuses on branding and design, so I spent a ton of time building websites. I began to notice a gap in my own knowledge and skill set, regarding web design. I felt like I wasn’t able to fully serve my clients—that’s when I learned about Innovate Birmingham’s coding bootcamp, and knew I needed to be a part of it.

Were there any barriers you faced as a woman deciding to pursue tech?

The main barrier I faced as a woman in the tech field was representation. Since there are more men in the tech field, it was difficult to visualize myself in the field—or even have mentorship. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I felt drawn to the industry. I wanted to become a role model for other women looking to enter the tech field in Birmingham.

How has Innovate Birmingham equipped you with the professional or technical training necessary to prepare you for the tech industry?

Innovate Birmingham has been a game-changer for me. Not only do I have the technical skillset to take on projects from a coding perspective, but I also have the professional development skills to carry myself well in the workplace. I  have made so many incredible connections with professionals in this industry that I would have never been able to make if it weren’t for Innovate Bham! 

What advice would you give to girls and women who are considering STEAM fields as a study or career?

I would say, without a doubt, to do it! This industry needs dedicated, knowledgeable, and strong-minded females leading the way in tech advancements. I am hoping to become the tech woman that I wish I could’ve looked up to before getting into the industry, and I would encourage them to do the same! 

5. Arnitra Latrice Gray – Current ThinkData Analytics Candidate, Cohort 12

Did you always want to work in the tech industry? If not, what inspired you to pursue the opportunity?

For the past five years, I had been working as a Pharmacy Technician. Although I enjoyed helping people, I didn’t feel challenged or satisfied in my career. Then, a close friend suggested that I apply for the Data Analytics program at Innovate Birmingham.

Were there any barriers you faced as a woman deciding to pursue tech?

The biggest barrier I faced was being available for my daughter and making time for class. She and I are both attending class remotely, and we are both learning to give each other space to absorb new material.

How has Innovate Birmingham equipped you with the professional or technical training necessary to prepare you for the tech industry?

Innovate Birmingham has given me the appropriate tools to step into the tech industry with confidence. They have provided me with great information about Data Analytics and how to market myself within the tech industry.

What advice would you give to girls and women who are considering STEAM fields as a study or career?

Anything is possible and never give up no matter how long it takes for you to achieve your goals. As Nelson Mandela said, “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

Want to Learn More About Innovate Birmingham?

An Innovate Birmingham ThinkData Analytics Graduate presenting at Summer 2019 Demo Day. Photo submitted

If you’re interested in starting a career in the tech field, there is no better place to start than Innovate Birmingham.

  • The fast-track bootcamps at Innovate Birmingham add early value towards a tech career.
  • In addition to diverse candidates, each candidate is prepared for a diverse range of jobs.
  • Innovate Birmingham is more than tech training. They also prepare each candidate for the professional world.

Learn more about Innovate Birmingham’s programs and scholarship opportunities.

The deadline to apply for Cohort 13 of Innovate Birmingham’s Data Analytics or Software Development bootcamp is December 11th, so be sure to apply today!

Sponsored by:


  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.