Like a lot of her co-workers at HP Inc., Jane Miceli says, she did not expect to stay long in Boise. Miceli, 35, moved to the Treasure Valley with her husband in 2007 to take a job with HP after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science in her hometown at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
HP laid her off a year later as part a broad downsizing in Boise’s printing and imaging department. She then worked as a software-test engineer at Rockwell Automation, a quality-assurance engineer at Bodybuilding.com and a scrum master (team coordinator) at Silverback, Yaro and Sensus. Then HP hired her back in 2014 as a cloud-operations and automation engineer.
Along the way, Miceli got involved with several groups promoting women in technology. In 2014, she co-founded the Boise chapter of Girl Develop It!, a nonprofit that provides women with training and networking opportunities. Advocating for women in tech remains a passion for Miceli, though she’s no longer part of the chapter.
She and her husband, Timothy, have a 7-year-old-son and a 3-year-old daughter.
Q: What brought you to Boise in 2007?
A: HP recruited me. I thought it would be a pass-through. I thought we’d move elsewhere, because that’s what my dad did in his engineering career: move from city to city.
But we liked it here. We have kids. I joke that it’s so hard to find an actual native Idahoan that I had to breed a couple.
Q: Were there many women students in your collegiate computer science classes?
A: I counted how many women and how many men were in each class and wrote it on the syllabus, just because there were so few of us. Usually it was around 10 percent women, sometimes as high as 20.
Q: Some Idaho economic development professionals look to tech as the sector that will solve Idaho’s low-wage problem. Is that realistic?
A: It might do the exact opposite.
As we automate more things, more jobs will start disappearing. Fast-food restaurants are automating. They have replaced pharmaceutical techs in hospitals with robots. They are 3D-printing Nikes. There’s a chance we’ll reduce jobs, and people will have to make a significant pivot in their careers to be able to fill the new roles.
Q: Why did you get involved in groups promoting women in technology?
A: Years ago, I’d posted a lot of women-in-tech articles on my LinkedIn page. I had a boss who said, “Stop talking about women in tech. You don’t want to get labeled as one of those people.” That was infuriating.
If a boss could say that to me, there are other people who feel that way. I took all that anger and I decided to do something about it.
Jane Miceli, HP Inc. software engineer
About the same time, I took an implicit bias test from Harvard. My results said that I had a slight bias against women in careers, whereas my husband, who came from a conservative family where his mom stayed at home, had less bias than I did. That also made me mad. I took that test like 10 times to try to force it to tell me something different. It didn’t.
I decided I had to start researching how to change that, to research what women have done in the industry, what value they bring. Then I could package that up in education [efforts] and be willing to step out and be labeled as “one of those people.”
Q: Why do you think the results showed you were biased?
A: I don’t know. It didn’t make a lot of sense. I had a hardworking mom who kind of ran the family. I had a laid-back father who happened to be an engineer. I don’t know if it was programing from my field, or the media, or where it came from. But I do know I can address it now.
Q: How do women benefit from having that community offered by female tech groups?
A: It helps a lot to know others are in the same boat. You pick up tips and tricks you’ve learned, books you’ve read, and meet leaders to go to who are awesome, to pick their brain.
Most of the issues people run into, they can fix by changing themselves. That’s usually a hard sell for people. You want to blame other people for your problems, but you rob yourself of that growth and that introspection of what you might do differently. You can change other people by changing you.
Q: Hold up. You are saying if a woman has a boss who gives preference to men, or who sexually harasses them, she can fix that by changing herself?
A: In that kind of situation, you should leave. But if you are always concerned about being in the minority and being “that woman” who is really angry at men, you become that. If you focus on doing things differently, people will respect you for your technical skills and your people skills.
Q: You led the effort to co-found Girl Develop It! Why did you get involved?
A: I needed to connect with other women to see what other people in tech were doing, especially because the industry is so broad. I also wanted to learn some new skills.
Q: Did you get pushback after creating Girl Develop It!
A: I got a lot of push-back from co-workers, and probably from that boss that I mentioned. I left shortly thereafter. I got a lot of one-on-one messages from meetup.com group members asking: “What about a men’s group? If we don’t have a group, why do you need one?”
Q: Why were some men upset?
A: They can’t see that there’s a disadvantage. My husband was one of them. We’d been together for 15 years, going back to college. I’d tell him about my frustrations, and he’d say, “No. You were having a bad day.” It took a lot of discussion and sharing before even my husband said, “Yeah, there’s an issue there.”
Q: What does it take for women to thrive in tech?
A: Grit. There’s no inherent talent to science. It’s something you can develop. I got through college by believing that, because my dad was an engineer, it was something I could inherently do, and I wanted a job where I could make decent money. After college, I felt like I was a bad engineer, and I just decided I would be good at it. That took me out of my self-moping funk.
Q: How can we help girls get involved in technology?
A: I enjoy working with the Boise School District with the robotics team as they developed Android applications. There weren’t a lot of girls, but when they did show up, they were excited to meet a woman who was in technology. Even teaching a semester of C++ at Boise State University to mechanical engineers, there was a woman who started taking more computer science because she persevered. Early in the class, I agreed with her: It’s hard. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. But you are going to power through, and here’s how you can do it.
Q: How do these concerns affect the way you parent your son and daughter?
A: I talk to my son a lot about feelings. When he gets upset, we put words to it. With my little girl, we’ll hopefully talk a lot about math and science. We took both kids to BSU Stem Days last weekend. But I don’t know if I have the answers yet.
Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @ZachKyleNews. This story appears in the February 15-March 14, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on technology. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).