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Adulting 101 spotlights women in tech careers

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INTERACTION: Abby Burkhalterhelps some local teens witha Bloxels video game builder.
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WOMEN IN TECH CAREERS: Clinton Prairie and IUK graduate Abby Burkhalter, right, answers questions from FCPL teen services manager Rachel Milburn on Thursday evening at The Edge.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

In the third installment of the Frankfort Community Public Library’s “Adulting 101” series, Abby Burkhalter spoke to teens at The Edge about how she followed her career path in technology and became a .NET developer.

“It went really well,” FCPL teen services manager Rachel Milburn said. “I really enjoyed Abby’s conversation. My favorite thing about what she had to tell the kids is that she really encouraged them to go after internships, be willing to take starter jobs if necessary in order to work up to their dream job, and to apply for scholarships early. The kids listened. We had several more come in toward the end of the program, and some of the kids stayed to talk to Abby and ask questions after the interview. It was a a really positive event.

“This was for women, but it was for boys, too,” Milburn added. “I just wanted them to have a chance to meet Abby because she is successful, and she worked hard to get where she is. I wanted them to learn about what she did to create the career that she has, the steps she took and what it is like to be a woman in that career. I wanted girls to realize that technology is a great field to go into, and they are welcome to go into it as well.”

A 2011 graduate of Clinton Prairie High School, Burkhalter initially wanted to go to school to be an archaeologist but changed her mind during her first year at Ivy Tech. She ended up graduating from Indiana University Kokomo where she also interned and worked as a web technician. After several technology-related jobs, including being a web developer for IUPUI, she became a front-end .NET developer.

“A .NET developer is basically a software developer,” Burkhalter said. “It is a web application developer, so I make software for home building companies right now. I write code, and I create new features for our current software application.

“(Front-end) means that I deal mostly with the interface of our application – the part that you actually see and interact with,” she added. “So, I deal a lot with the user experience of the application rather than the back end, which is more database work.”

Burkhalter was happy to share her experiences with teens in her home county.

“I wanted to share with them my experience with coming into this career – where I came from and the journey to where I am now,” she said. “I felt like the questions really brought me back to my high school years, and I hope that the teens could relate. Hopefully, they got some valuable insight as to what the college journey from high school to graduation entails.”

Her message to them was to not give up.

“There are going to be struggles,” she said. “Just be persistent. There is a lot of work involved, but if you are willing to stay on the path and invest in the time, the payoff is really worth it.

“I love it,” Burkhalter added. “It is exciting. It is competitive. I feel like I constantly have something to look forward to. The technology field in general is ever-evolving, so we are constantly moving forward. There is no monotony to it. It is very exciting.”

With the benefit of hindsight, Burkhalter also shared tips for making the pathway to a tech career less difficult than it has to be.

“I wish I had tried harder to apply for scholarships,” she said. “I wish I had done a better job of utilizing my resources.

“Honestly, in high school, I didn’t even think of a technology career,” she added. “It didn’t come to me until after high school. Going to Ivy Tech was the best decision because it saved me a lot of money. I was going to be an archaeologist. I was going to go to the University of Indianapolis and spend a lot of money on tuition, and I ended up changing my mind. It was the best decision to go to Ivy Tech. It gave me time to think about what I really wanted to do, and that paid off.”

Milburn’s next Adulting 101 event will focus on studying for finals.

“All of the people who attend will get study kits to take home,” she said.

In May, Adulting 101 will feature Christopher Hinchcliffe, the author of “Chasing Checkers” and brother of race car driver James Hinchcliffe.

“He is a great writer, and he has a great story,” Milburn said. “He will be here to talk to us.”