It’s a Friday night in New York City and I’m walking through Union Square en route to the Capital One Lab on Fifth Avenue to attend their #WITDemoDay. I partner frequently with Capital One, so I know the drill — from the layout of the space to the members of the AngelHack team — but I’m arriving early for the event just in case…
While I’m reviewing the evening’s program, Emily Rouse (Capital One’s communications manager responsible for supporting the bank’s women in tech initiatives), tells me enthusiastically about the keynote speaker for the evening, Laura Ferguson and I smile, knowing this is why I arrived early. “I know Laura” when the name finally registers, “I interviewed her at a mobile tech conference in Washington D.C. approximately 5 years ago. When I asked Laura if there was a coding language she didn’t know, her response was something along the lines of not liking COBOL.”
Laura started coding at 11 years old — learning first on a Radio Shack computer (when code was “recorded” onto a cassette tape) before moving on to “writing her code down on paper before inputting it into an Apple II” (because she didn’t have a computer at home). A math major in college, she was one of nine students who graduated in “computer science”. Computers made her curious. Her first job in the late ‘80’s was as a “computing consultant” in an accounting firm. She’s subsequently applied her data, visualization and problem-solving skills to elections, real estate and now, banking. Oh, and she pursued a master’s degree (studying AI) and raised a family, along the way.
Not surprisingly, the packed house of #WITDemoDay attendees hung on Laura’s every word.
Three big takeaways from Laura’s “how I got here” keynote:
- It is OK to hit pause on something that interests you, and come back to it later. Laura may have started to code at age 11, but she stopped when the after-school computer class conflicted with choir practice.
- Experiment. Don’t worry if something fails or doesn’t work. Armed with the knowledge from the first try, the next time will definitely be better.
- Persistence is everything.
On persistence, as she’s tackled challenges ranging from accounting to election data (then launching a startup at the time I first met Laura), I’ll take her word on this — no further explanation required.
Next #WITDemoDay presented by Capital One, powered by AngelHack and in partnership with Women Who Code, is in Washington, D.C. on July 21 and 22. And yes, I’ll be at that one too. #CapitalOnePartner