Information, Technology & Consulting

Women in Technology: Maureen Hennigan, Project Manager

 

Maureen Hennigan is Project Manager for RAPPORT, Dartmouth's electronic research administration system. In addition to her work in technology, Maureen has devoted her life to acting. She's performed everything from Shakespeare to Moliere to avant-garde work in regional theater, off-Broadway, and off-off-Broadway venues. Here, she discusses her dual passions: technology and the arts.

My path towards a career in technology was certainly not a straightforward one. I went to college expecting to graduate with a degree in business and ended up with a degree in English, having decided early on that a business career did not offer me the creative outlet I had been secretly yearning for. I had always been interested in writing, and while that path was similarly not straightforward, it remains a love of mine and one I still pursue.

However, the true answer to my secret creative desires came a year out of college when, after being adequately employed in publishing, I announced to astonished friends and family that I would be pursuing an acting career. Since I had never even been in as much as a school play, my parents reluctantly supported the decision (emotionally, not financially) as long as I could pay my own bills. Thus came the need for the "day job.” I started with graphic design work, but, by virtue of being the only person at my company who knew how to use the prevailing desktop publishing software, that changed quickly into tech support.

And while I was never a techie in my childhood, I quickly taught myself how to use, support, and, train various pieces of software. This translated into desktop support work at companies like Citibank, Viacom, and MTV to name just a few. I learned how to install, configure, and repair equipment on both the PC and Mac platforms as well as stand-up servers and administer networks.  And while I was often asked who taught me how to do this, a question my male counterparts were never asked, I never let anyone else's prejudices affect me.

Bit by bit, my help desk work morphed into jobs writing bits of custom code, which again grew into work as a developer. I found a niche in building apps that had started as home-grown projects, which I grew into enterprise-wide solutions. Working as a developer, often doing soup-to-nuts work, was perhaps my most satisfying work in technology. I loved listening to customers, coming to understand what they do, and then translating that into an elegant solution that would make their jobs easier. I loved the creativity in doing development, especially making something work when it wasn't supposed to or when the solution wasn't obvious.

Throughout my years in technology, I have often been the only woman in a department of men. I suppose it never fazed me to be one of the guys. I grew up a tomboy with two older brothers. I often played with and competed with the boys. I grew up in a household where gender roles were not imposed. My parents expressed neither gender expectations nor limitations for me. They simply reveled in the knowledge and expertise I gravitated towards and appreciated my interest in the topics of my choosing…and there were many topics as evidenced by my dual careers.

And while my acting career was as fulfilling creatively, it has been my career in technology that has sustained me and balanced my right brain with the left. I suppose if I had done any of what society had expected of me, I would not have explored so many varying and sometimes opposing opportunities. So for girls and women who look to any career path, whether it be one well-populated with identifiable role models or not, I'd say don't be burdened by the expectations of others… and always have a creative outlet.

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