Welcome to S & S blog! I am ecstatic to be debuting my first entry on this fine Tuesday. Why you may ask? Well, Tuesdays in the tech world is normally designated for tips and all things tech. Why not kick off my Tuesday to showcase women in tech?! Why not claim Tuesdays as #SNSWTT; nice ring to it right?! In light of my new found hashtag (just go along with my shenanigans), I am so happy to be featuring my first woman in tech. Today, I would like you to meet Jennifer Fox, better known as Jenfoxbot. I became intrigued by her after seeing a cool tutorial in my explore page on Instagram. She reminded me of Bill Nye the science guy meets Macgyver. So from there I began stalking her page waiting to see the next cool tutorial. I feel she represents women in tech so well and I wanted to learn her story. I am sure you want to know too, so let's look into who Jenfoxbot really is:
Started my career in the sciences as a physics major at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After working for a dark matter detection experiment during my summers in college and being obsessed with the BP oil spill (2010) and climate change, I decided to switch to engineering for graduate school because I wanted to use my profession to enact positive change.
I received my M.S. from UCLA in Mechanical Engineering in 2013 after completing an independent research project in which I designed and built a soil moisture sensor irrigation control system for use in urban farms. During my education, I was involved in numerous non-profits and teaching opportunities, including the Social Justice Learning Institute in Inglewood, CA, helping to build local food systems to promote equity and social justice, the Metropolitan Water District's Solar Cup Program, in which I helped teach high school students the science behind building a solar powered boat, and as a Physics Lab T.A. for UCLA.
After obtaining my M.S., I worked for a year at a small environmental engineering company in Los Angeles, at which point I was offered a job as a consultant for a health care consulting company based in Seattle, WA. This opportunity has allowed me to work on personal projects, build out my electronics skill set, and work towards building a company that empowers women and girls in STEM fields.
What made you choose the tech industry as a profession?
I suppose it chose me! My first exposure to physics was as a senior in high school, and it just clicked. It came easy for me and I loved it: Finally, an application for all this math we've had to learn over the years! That experience prompted me to pursue physics in college with a vague goal of wanting to be a cosmologist (particle physics + astrophysics), until realizing that my passion for environmental and social justice meant I had to contribute to positive change in the world.
I've dabbled in numerous STEM areas until landing on what I do now: a blend of inventing, engineering, and teaching.
What challenges if any, have you faced as a female in your field?
Well this opens a can of worms! I had the benefit of attending an all-girls high school, so it was never weird to me that I was interested in, and good at, science and math. That is, until college. Since then, It has been pointed out to me countless times, through inane, rude comments and sexist jokes. I've had a boss tell me that I needed to "dress more conservatively in order for men to take me seriously." I've had peers joke that a professor wanted to meet with me because he wanted to sleep with me (he actually wanted to offer me research because I was the top student in my class). I've had people assume my online tutorials were posted by a man. I've had people jump on and inflate small, insignificant mistakes or misspeaks, even when I'd already corrected them. I've had to deal with (sometimes older) men finding me attractive, telling me so, and making numerous professional relationships extremely uncomfortable. I've had to deal with being treated as an outsider, like I'm infiltrating some sort of secret club. I've had to navigate a world in which I'm regularly the only woman trying to have my voice heard, which has strained personal relationships.
And I've also had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people who have encouraged, supported, and helped me immensely along the way, particularly professors throughout my education. And, I've developed lots of great relationships in the tech industry with men and women alike. So it's not all bad :)
What are you currently working on that you would love to share?
I'm working on a series of educational tech kits that aim to reach women and girls and get them into making things using STEM subjects. I'm also working on project-based curriculum in electronics that is aimed to empower women and girls in STEM by teaching the same fundamentals of electronics that you'd learn in the first year as an engineer.
How important is STEM for young girls?
Incredibly important! It is most important to expose young girls to STEM and to give them experience with these fields, so that they can decide for themselves if they enjoy it and want to pursue it. IF they do choose it, it's also important that they are on the same page as the boys when they start. Coming into the field as an outsider and being behind with the subject matter makes it extremely hard for women to catch up later, so we need to start early to ensure that there is an equal distribution of women in all fields.
What advise would you want to give girls or even women getting into the tech field?
Find your passion and keep pushing. It will be hard, and you will probably want to give up at some point (or many points), but keep pushing. Find a support group, whether it's women in tech or friends and family, and talk to them about your experiences. Also, be gentle to yourself and have patience, you don't need to be perfect.
What are some of your hobbies?
Too many things! I love rock climbing, playing piano, and taking my pup, Marley, on walks. I love exploring cities and nature, finding hidden spots and secret views. I love making all kinds of things, especially for people I love. I love finding second uses for objects I might otherwise throw away. I love making/altering my own clothes when I have time or am inspired. I love reading (mostly fiction). I also enjoy spending time with friends over coffee, beers, and/or food!
Tell us one thing most people don't know about you?
I write a lot of free-form poetry, especially when I'm feeling down. I've kept a journal off-and-on since I was a kid, and it's cool to go back and see the transition from kid writing (writing about events, things that happen) to adult writing (writing about feelings + ideas, trying to find meaning, etc.). It's helped me immensely through tough times. I'm super shy about my writing and keep it all hidden away, but I've recently let my partner read some of the things I wrote about him when we were falling in love.
Give us a glimpse of a day in the life of Jenfoxbot?
Wake up, make breakfast, get ready for day, take dog to park. Deal with e-mail. Post to social media. Do consulting work for 4 - 5 hours. Sometimes have meetings in the afternoon, otherwise pack a lunch and go to a makerspace or the Pacific Science Center. Work on "maker" projects, either for clients or for personal portfolio. Eat dinner while watching the Daily Show (or more recently something non-news related....). Deal with e-mail again, then take dog on walk. Go climbing for an hour or two. For the remainder of the evening, typically work an hour or so more on consulting, then work for business (e.g. write curriculum, create flyers for workshops, spec out materials/tools for upcoming workshops, update/fix website, write video scripts, edit videos, etc). Usually end the night with a show or a book. Rinse and repeat!
What is one manta you live by?
I always ask myself "Why" I am doing what I am doing -- even if I sometimes feel like I don't exactly know "what" I'm doing, knowing why is motivation to push through and learn the things I need to do what I am working towards.
To get a peek at Jen in action, here are some of her dope tutorials https://www.sparkfun.com/search/results?term=jenfoxbot
Keep up with Jen- she's social:
Instagram, Twitter @jenfoxbot
Visit her website www.foxbotindustries.com