Data Analytics major Whitney King received a big surprise at the end of spring quarter: she was one of two students in the nation to be named a 2015 Terry O’Banion Student Technology Champion.
“Being one of two winners nationwide is a huge honor for Whitney,” said Jody Laflen, dean of BC’s Institute for Business and Information Technology. “She deserves so much praise for her dedication and hard work.”
The League for Innovation in the Community College partners with the Microsoft Corporation to annually select two students who demonstrate a special talent and interest in technology in honor of Terry O’Banion, Senior League Fellow and President Emeritus of the League.
“I am so honored to be chosen for this award,” said King. “I am going to continue to work hard in this program and in technological pursuits, not only for myself, but to show everyone here I am worthy of the award.”
It comes as no surprise that King, who began working in the tech industry in 2006, was drawn to the field. Her father worked in an Intel processor fabrication plant, wearing their famous bunny suit to work every day. “To me, that suit was what a super hero looked like, and their beautiful golden boards were mystifying, concocted using nothing short of wizardry and magic,” she said. “I wanted to know how it all worked, and when I grew up, I wanted to build computer brains too.”
That passion for computers and an aptitude for software applications, helped King land her first job as a tester at 19. In 2012, after switching jobs to a SQL-heavy data analysis role, King began to realize she would need to develop her skills in SQL, C#, and other languages if she hoped to advance her career.
With employer support, King came to Bellevue College to pursue Information Systems. “I wanted to gain a better understanding of statistics and machine learning,” she said. “I’ve learned that database skills are transferable across fields and am glad to be pursuing a field that will allow experience in a wide range of areas and applications in the future.”
“I would absolutely recommend the Information Systems program,” she added. “My instructors and the administration have been knowledgeable and helpful, and the course content has been extremely relevant to my real world work experiences. Additionally, most courses have been offered in a format that’s allowed me to continue working full time at my job while also taking three classes each quarter.”
Supporting women in tech
With recent events shining a light on technology’s predominantly male workforce, King is keenly aware of the need for more women to venture into the tech field and wants to help other women to learn more about the discipline she enjoys. “There are so many doors open to women who are passionate, want to get involved and want to make a difference in this space, and there is room in the industry for anyone who chooses to be involved,” she said. “There are so many amazing things getting made and tweaked because of the involvement of women in the creative and production process!”
She hopes to be able to pick up her pet project that focuses on women in technology when school and work life settle a bit. While she can’t say much about the project right now, she does hope to offer an outlet to empower women and girls in tech, specifically working to make tech interesting and appealing for girls at a young age.
King says she’s found a robust support system of passionate female instructors with real world experience teaching and designing course materials at BC and hopes her experience will resonate with other young women considering a career in tech.
Life after school
Between her coursework and nine years of work experience, King says there are a myriad of avenues she’s considering when she finishes school.
“I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years about what I might want to do ‘when I grow up,’” said King. “The roles that have sparked my mind the most have always been focused around either making or supporting video games, so it’s really interesting and exciting to think about finding a role tying business intelligence, reporting and data analysis back to collaborative gaming.”
King is currently pursuing her bachelor’s at Bellevue College in data analytics and is contemplating an online master’s degree upon completion at BC. “I’m a bit of a hobby student though, so the thought of finishing school isn’t that exciting to me!
– by Evan Epstein
Last Updated September 30, 2016