While many women in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) professions end up leaving their jobs, the women that remain in their roles have been shown to demonstrate high levels of confidence and authenticity, and proactively establish a personal brand to achieve success.
Remy Lyle is one of those women. Remy graduated with a B.S. in Computer Engineering at 20 years old. She went on to earn a Master’s in Engineering Management and an Advanced Computer Security Professional Certificate from Stanford University, and passed the CISSP exam (a 6-hour, 250-question beast of a test). She currently works as a Solutions Architect for the Global Technical Enablement team at Ping Identity, solving the most difficult, most complex customer identity and access management problems for customers across the globe.
And she does it all while rocking Jimmy Choo’s and toting around a limited edition Gucci backpack.
I asked Remy to talk a little about her experiences as a female computer engineer working in the tech space, and to offer her own insights into how others can help move the needle on gender imbalance in STEM professions.
What first sparked your interest in engineering and ultimately led to the career path you took?
Growing up, I always knew I would be either a veterinarian, a ballerina, or a computer engineer. Being a vet was ruled out quickly when I realized I have a hard time coping with blood, and a ballerina also got eliminated when I realized how competitive the performance industry is. We had a few programming classes at my school when I was 10, which I was drawn to because the hacker movies always seemed so exciting. I was so enthusiastic about programming that I was even selected to be the student-teacher for the computer class. Ultimately, my sister gave me the final push to pursue computer engineering (she herself was pursuing an industrial engineering degree).
What is it like to be a woman engineer in tech? Do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts?
I love being a female engineer! I also feel very fortunate in that I am given a lot of great opportunities because companies want to encourage retaining and hiring more women in tech. In some respects I do feel like I have a different view just by being in the minority, but personally I have never had a negative experience being a female, and I feel that my credibility and hard work matters more in my career than my gender, which is a very good thing.
Who has served as an ‘influencer’ in your career?
I am where I am in life because of the people that have inspired me, mentored me and helped me along the way. I am inspired by female tech leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg, holding such a key position in one of the world’s biggest tech companies. One of my female mentors is my high school dance coach — she is Filipino like me and has had a successful career in the tech space. She also has a beautiful family and I’ve always looked up to her for being able to balance it all. I’ve also been very fortunate luck to have male bosses that have been supportive, both personally and professionally, and who have helped shape me and make me into the woman I am today.
I've heard you say (jokingly) that you don't have to be a “dude with no fashion sense, coding in a basement" to be a successful computer engineer. Can you talk a little about how you've developed your own personal brand in your career, and stayed true to who you are in a male-dominated field?
Yes! I love telling young ladies that statement. We need to fight the existing stereotypes and change the vision of the “traditional” engineer. I’m a computer engineer, I’m a big nerd, but I love fashion. There’s no reason not to rock my Chanel pearl mules while I’m coding heartbeat authentication. You might even say my engineering degree is funding my expensive fashion habits! It’s interesting because I never thought of it as developing a personal brand, I’m just being me! I know who I am and am very comfortable in my own skin. What I want young ladies to know is that you can be exactly who you are, and there’s no gender or physical features required to be an engineer. You have all that it takes to take on the complex problems of today. You don’t have to be either beautiful or smart - you can be both!
In your opinion, what are positive benefits for businesses who have women in science/tech roles?
Just think about the math: if you’re only looking to educate, train and develop the best and the brightest scientists, mathematicians, engineers, from only 50% of the world’s population, you — as a business, as an economy, as a nation, as an entire world — are potentially missing out on a lot of incredible contributors. When gender stops becoming a filter, the world is living up to its full potential.
We’re seeing a rise in the women in STEM careers, but the balance is still far from equal. What do you personally do to encourage women and girls to pursue education and careers in science and technology
Absolutely everything I can! Most recently, I was chosen by Ping Identity as our female engineer representative to mentor young ladies (8-13 years old) at “Girls and Science”. This event, sponsored by CBS and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, provided girls with the opportunity to meet women in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) professions to learn what they do, who they are, and what inspires them, through hands-on activities and conversations. I had so much fun teaching the girls about what I do everyday, and I even showed them a demonstration of a mock-up login to the Fortnite game using their heartbeat to authenticate them, instead of typing in a password (they loved it!). I have also volunteered for Safe and Secure online, a program sponsored by ISC2 (a professional organization of computer security professionals), to teach kids how to be safe online, and also try to be an inspiration and role model to all young children.
What one piece of advice would you give to women considering a career in STEM?
Work smart, and work hard. All things that are worth obtaining are never easy. You cannot shortcut your way to success. Your accomplishments will always shine through regardless of your gender. Make people gender-blind by the incredible work that you are doing.