Capital One’s Jennifer Manry on Girls Finding Their Passion in Tech

January 19, 2017

2:20 pm

Nearly eight in ten middle-skill jobs in today’s workforce require digital skills. This represents 32 percent of all labor market demands in nation. In order to fill the talent gap, it’s critical to expose our youth to STEM education earlier in their life, build their proficiency in tech, and open their eyes to what is possible in STEM careers.

For Jennifer Manry, Vice President of Enterprise End User Computing and Access Management at Capital One, her dream of entering tech started when she was nine years old. Back then, it wasn’t common for girls to be interested in STEM, let alone learning to code. Today, she is leading the charge for the younger generation, especially girls, to enter tech and find their passion through the Capital One C1 Coders program.

The C1 Coders program is where middle school children around the country learn to develop mobile apps using MIT University APP Inventor 2. Since they launched the program with two schools in five communities, they’ve grown to 20 schools, impacting over 2,500 students nationwide, and in McLean, VA alone, over 500 students learned how to coding at a recent event.

Jennifer Manry, Capital One

When Jennifer first told her mom she was going into STEM, it was a shock but was told to follow her passion.

“I have a very distinct memory of telling my mom I was going to be an electrical engineer when I grew up. Her response was, ‘You’re going to drive electric trains?' And I said, ‘No, that's different, I want to go into electric engineering.' Even though my mom wasn’t quite sure what that meant, she wanted me to follow my passion and see the wonders of what science and math can do for you,” said Manry.

Manry followed her passion to Georgia Tech where she developed her love for robotics and engineering. However, there were limited options for girls to enter a career in that area of focus.

“Well, my engineering degree was actually focused on the principles of physics and mechanical systems. That part for me started right about 10 and it has stayed with me all the way through my mechanical engineering degree at Georgia Tech, and then carrying me through into technology roles at Capital One. If I had the skills of these kids (at C1 Coders), I’d be absolutely building robotics right now – that was my love and why I went in to engineering and I think the field of robotics has just come so far,” said Manry.

With women making up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, there is an opportunity to encourage younger women to pursue STEM careers and open their eyes to the possibilities if exposed to the tools to succeed.

“A huge part of [STEM Careers] is opening students’ eyes from a young age to develop a greater interest in and excitement about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We’re helping ignite a passion for software engineering and computer science in young people – and particularly among young women, who are noticeably absent from this field,” said Manry.

Being a leading force in the C1 Coders program, Manry is also making strides in digital inclusion for young students who wouldn’t normally be exposed to these type of coding programs and training.

“This access and digital inclusion is so important as 71 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but only eight percent of STEM graduates are in Computer Science. The C1 Coders program helps bridge this digital divide by getting students excited about coding at a critical period in their education – the middle school years – and give our next generation a better chance of finding and staying in rewarding careers,” Manry said.

Read about how Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik learned to code and empowers young women to pursue careers in STEM as well.

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.