Educational Games Company CEO Shares Career Advice for Women in Computer Science

Partnerships Manager, Cognitive ToyBox

Surrounding myself with a small but powerful group of trusted women entrepreneurs has been critical to my career–and to my sanity. This group laughs together, cries together, and shares business tips and tricks that we would otherwise each be learning the hard way on our own, or by paying thousands of dollars in consultant’s fees.

Taken Charge GameBelow is some great career advice from a recent interview I did with Moira Hardek, CEO of Galvanize Labs, a company that has created an educational game platform to teach technology standards in K-12.

Hardek is passionate about her business, very family-oriented, and a doting dog-owner. And she still finds time to unwind by playing her favorite video games In fact, playing games is part of her “market research,” because one of Galvanize Labs’ main products is an online game called Taken Charge that teaches technology to kids through game play. Below is an excerpt from my interview with Hardek.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in technology?

Curiosity started me on my path. I have always been curious about technology, and that led me to teach myself when technology programs were not always available or accessible. The more I learned, the more I realized that technology was the ultimate problem-solving tool and I am a problem solver.

Who influenced your career path?

I have had wonderful mentors and teachers throughout my life, but it was the lack of female role models and icons in my field that changed the direction of my career. So often I was the only woman in the room, not having other women in my department to collaborate with. Having only two other girls in my computer science classes in college made a lasting impression. Finally, I decided to shift the direction of my career to addressing the diversity issue in our industry—through education.

Do you think you have to work harder than a man would in your position for acceptance, status, and/or respect?

Am I perceived differently because of my gender? Of course. Has my path been different than that of a man? Absolutely. There are countless studies and data available that outline the challenges for women and diverse groups in our industry, but the data doesn’t tell you what it’s like to live it. Imposter syndrome is real. Some days are a struggle. But I have focused on surrounding myself with quality people. I find that I laugh more often than not, I am excited about my work every day, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What career advice do you have for young women who enjoy computer science?

Do it! Don’t miss it! Computer science opens the door to endless possibilities. Don’t doubt yourself and never, ever try to do it alone.

Does gender or ethnicity affect your hiring decisions?

I believe that a diverse team is a better team so yes, I strive to create a strong team dynamic with as many backgrounds, points of view, and experiences as possible.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

This question is a tough one. I feel like my next biggest challenge is just around the corner and I’m still learning from my last one. That is the life of an entrepreneur.

What accomplishment has made you the proudest?

All the students we’ve helped. My team and I have been introducing students to computer science for over a decade. The individual stories of each student are still seared into my brain and are what I think about at the beginning and end of each day.

What are your goals for the future? Moira Hardek

With the rise of eSports, casual gamer numbers skyrocketing, and more players than ever, I believe that gaming is at a crossroads and can make a significant impact outside of the entertainment world. My goal is to bring entertainment and education gaming together and engage students at levels never seen before.

You can find out more about Galvanize Labs and Taken Charge in Crain’s Chicago Business and BuiltIn Chicago.

Follow EdWeek Market Brief on Twitter @EdMarketBrief or connect with us on LinkedIn.

Images courtesy of Moira Hardek.

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