Skip to main content


Kubrick Data Product Consultant Alyssa Morford shares her experience as a woman in technology, the challenges she has overcome, and the importance of recognizing the day.

I fell in love with the art of putting things together at the age of 10 while surrounded by colorful bricks. While Legos may not be the ultimate feat of architecture, my childhood pastime was my gateway to dreaming of becoming an engineer and the start of my long journey into becoming a woman in STEM.

By the age of 13 I was competing in (and winning) national competitions for debating technology issues, while working within a team to tackle issues covering everything from ideating new biomedical technologies to building robots. I had just so happened to be placed in a school with the number one chapter for the Technology Student Association – a competitive STEM organization for middle and high school students – in the nation. In many ways, growing up in a highly technical and highly competitive world has shaped a significant portion of who I have become today. It was in those rooms and on those stages where I first found confidence in myself and felt true pride in my work. Everything about STEM – from designing and building, to presenting project outcomes from months of work - was invigorating, and I loved it. However, my young competitive days were only the start of my journey.

Research tells us that female participation in STEM drops off after middle school and bottoms out towards the beginning of college. I saw this effect with my own eyes. From the ages of 10-13 I was surrounded by all genders participating in technology classes, but by the time I started high school there was only a handful of girls in my classes, and in my junior and senior year I had multiple classes where I was the only girl. It was a stark contrast to the joyful, inclusive experiences that had once inspired me.

In high school I had the opportunity to turn my hand to exciting new tech, from using power tools to editing images in photoshop and 3D printing. I learned all these skills along with the rest of the class and was just as competent in using them. However, when it came time to form groups for our projects, I repeatedly experienced the last kid picked in gym class phenomenon. In a room full of 30 16-year-old boys I was ignored either for lack of interest in working with me or for being too intimidating to work with. When I did get assigned projects, I also experienced what many women in the workplace still wrangle with – being given writing, organization, and presentation-focused roles, while the boys ‘handle the tech’.

An important part of my story is that I did find an incredible group of individuals in high school to work with and compete with, many of whom I still call dear friends. In them I found a safe haven where I was respected, and my abilities were recognized. However, I often found myself in classes and groups without them, and throughout my high school experience there was a very clear drop in my interest STEM which I now recognize was correlated with my ongoing sense of loneliness, as well as resentment from the environments I would find myself in. It was only after years in college, where old friends would be shocked at how ‘loud and confident’ I had become, that I truly realized how much I had purposefully made myself quiet to avoid negative attention in high school. While I enjoyed engaging in conversation about tech in debates and presentations (and found much success in doing so), I had a growing desire to build and code but was ever so unsubtly told to ‘leave it to those who already know what they were doing’ - and I did.

In college I had a vision to double major in Engineering and Political Science, to one day shape the world of public policy surrounding technology development – knowing top-down change could drastically improve equitable access to technology and skills around the world. I was told that it would be too difficult and that I needed to choose one major. I decided to focus on political science, but stayed tuned into technology issues by finding projects relating to women and diversity in STEM. By the end of college, I was still dreaming about the intersection of policy and technology. When I went to speak with graduation advisors on how to make my dreams a reality, I was told: ‘Well, you should have double majored in engineering’ (cue Alanis Morrissette – isn’t it ironic).    

Finding Kubrick felt like the stars had aligned for me; their model allows individuals from any background/major to learn the technical skills required to help business stakeholders embrace data and launch career shifts. My engineering background combined with my communication skills were what made me an asset to the company. Kubrick shared my view that technology is so often gatekept from certain groups of people in a way that only limits the industry. Moreover, Kubrick aligns with my values in trying to correct it through merit and diversity-based hiring practices. It is with deep satisfaction that I can now say that I am able to code in multiple languages, build machine learning models, and demonstrate the societal importance of such things to stakeholders in industry. Nonetheless, this makes me deeply reflect on all the time spent in my younger years where I limited myself to what ‘I knew I was already good at’. However, going through many of those experiences also made me the impassioned and motivated person I am today – which does serve as an important part of who I am.

One of the biggest reflections I have on my experiences growing up in male-dominated technology classrooms is that while girls can belong in them, we often only do so by shifting who we are. Not just in tech, but in business and so many other industries, women find their stride when they become ‘one of the guys’. Femininity is constantly bashed as ‘too soft’, and so to mitigate that I found myself, as so many women before me, laughing at jokes we do not find funny, dressing in ways that we think we must, never taking up too much space, and giving respect to individuals who would never come to respect us in nearly the same way. However, what so many organizations and people still fail to grasp is that it is diverse people, being authentically themselves, that are going to bring the much-needed diverse perspectives to tech that drive innovation and success.

February 11th is the International Day of Girls and Women in Science, and this year I’m excited to recognize and celebrate it. It was at Kubrick where I had my first female STEM teacher, Sarah Schlobohm (Kubrick’s Head of AI). I found a role model who looked like me and talked like me and gave me the critical ‘she did it, so I can do it too’ moment. This is a moment most men do not ever need to wait until age 22 to get. The world has come a long way in improving access to education and careers in STEM, however statistics continue to show that number of women who stay in the industry or find the same fulfillment within it as their male counterparts is not anywhere close to equal. While representation grows, it is the many girls and women across the world who are truly trudging their way up the ladder who deserve recognition for the work they are doing and the ground they are breaking. In this, it is important for me to acknowledge how privileged I was to be encouraged from such a young age to pursue technology, despite the hurdles I experienced. Both my parents and so many of my teachers supported me and that at least gave me initial confidence and interest, which not everyone gets. I also had opportunities and resources which other schools and regions still significantly lack.

In a shifting of the tides, however, it is companies like Kubrick that are striving to make a difference. I am once again surrounded by equal shares of women and men from all backgrounds as we build something not quite as tangible at Legos, but nearly as impactful on one girl’s journey in finding her place in the world.

Though I know there are still many challenges I will face in pursuing a highly technical future, I am much more confident in my plans to one day achieve my vision of working in making access to technology more equitable, either through public policy, or maybe by becoming another role model for future girls in STEM to look up to. I am hopeful about what the future will hold for the women I have worked with so far and the many more I have not yet, in science, technology, and beyond.

Latest insights