Information, Technology & Consulting

Women in Technology: Christina Dulude, Web Architect/Engineer

As technical lead for the Web Services team in ITS, I manage the development of Dartmouth’s websites and their integration with other campus systems. Web Services client websites include those for academic and administrative departments, as well as centers and initiatives and the homesite—for a grand total of close to 200 separate sites. We’re in the middle of a major web redesign and the migration of websites from one content management system to another.

What I most appreciate about our team is that we all wear many hats, rather than being siloed into specific roles. One day I might be coding PHP for a custom website module, and the next day conducting an index-card sorting exercise with an academic department to gather user-feedback on how to best structure the pages on their website.

I became interested in technology in a very roundabout way. Growing up, I always assumed my strengths were in the creative or artistic fields. In high school, I leaned more towards literature and creative writing; I never really gave much thought to math, science, or computers because I just assumed I wasn’t very good in those fields—despite getting the same grades in my math and science classes as I did in the humanities.

In college, I triple-majored in Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, and Classical Studies (Latin and Greek). It wasn’t until my junior year that I took my first computer class—only because it filled a general education requirement for my degree. The class was Java programming; much to my surprise, I not only found the class quite easy, but I also really enjoyed it. I then proceeded to pack my schedule with as many IT classes as I could for the remainder of my college career, and ended up with a minor in Computer Science.

I was particularly interested in making websites. This was back in the late ‘90s when being a “webmaster” meant that you coded your own HTML from scratch, designed your own graphics, maybe did a little Perl—and you probably managed the server yourself too. As someone who likes to do a lot of different things at once, this was right up my alley. I was also interested in the human factors of web design, so I completed a masters degree in Information Science. There, I learned about usability and information architecture, which is the field of organizing websites so they are intuitive for people to use.

In my undergrad Computer Science classes, there were very few women. In my masters program, however, there were slightly more; although still a greater number of men than women. I have been at Dartmouth since February of 2011. Previously I worked at Duke University for six years as a web developer. Before that, I was the web specialist for the Indiana University School of Medicine.

I am very involved with higher-ed web organizations and web design and development communities (particularly for Drupal, which is the new content management system we use at Dartmouth). I recently presented at the national Drupal conference in Austin, TX with folks from Harvard, Stanford, and Yale on scaling Drupal for higher education. As part of the conference, I also co-organized a day-long higher-ed specific summit. Closer to home, I speak fairly regularly at Boston events for Drupal and WordPress (another content management system we use at Dartmouth). I always enjoy meeting designers and developers from other universities, as well as from other industries.

Overall, I haven’t found it terribly difficult to work in a male-dominated field. The main challenge I’ve faced has been people assuming I’m the graphic designer when they first meet me in an IT context without knowing my role, or thinking that they need to dumb down technical language around me. I sometimes joke that one thing I quite enjoy about being a woman in technology is having no line for the ladies’ restroom at IT conferences, while the men’s has a line out the door.

I think more women don’t pursue careers in technology because we just assume we won’t be interested in or good at it—especially when we are young and considering career paths. I also think that a lot of young women feel like they need to be perfect and are afraid of falling short, so they don’t step outside their comfort zone. My main piece of advice to women considering a career in technology is to not fear failure, or at least not let that fear prevent you from trying new things. Your male counterparts aren’t inherently smarter; they are just more confident.

Information, Technology & Consulting