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SHEs In STEM: Kara Luton

After working in music publicity and feeling unfulfilled, Kara Luton made the switch to web development. Now she has a passion for exposing women just like herself to the tech world and showing them that it’s an option for them too. Outside of work, Kara enjoys playing with her golden retriever mix, going to concerts, seeing a ballet whenever she can and watching beauty YouTube videos.

SHEs In STEM: Kara Luton

Name: Kara Luton

Company: Lewis Communications
Industry: Technology
Age: 25 (26 on April 30 though 🎂🎉)
SHEroines: Grace Hopper, Allison Esposito
Tell us about yourself: who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I grew up in a military family so I’ve lived all over the country including Montana, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, but Franklin, TN is my home. I currently work as a web developer at Lewis Communications which is also in Franklin. Outside of work, I love playing with my golden retriever mix, going to concerts, seeing a ballet whenever I can (I grew up doing ballet) and watching beauty YouTube videos.
What was your path to becoming a SHE in STEM? Which area of STEM are you a part of?
I work in the technology field, but my path to that was pretty unique from many others. I went to Belmont University for public relations. After graduating, I worked as a music publicist. It was what I was always working towards in college and was really excited to be one of the few who landed a job in the music industry. I loved what I did, but after a few years, I was getting burnt out. Essentially, my whole job relied on journalists opening my emails, and I was feeling really pressured to land placements for clients. I had been thinking about changing careers for a while when I discovered CodeCademy’s HTML and CSS courses.

I absolutely loved the feeling of fixing an error and started looking into coding more.

After searching for a bit I found the Iron Yard’s front-end development bootcamp. It was a full-time 12-week-long program and I enrolled. Unfortunately, a year after I attended TIY, they shut down nationally. I still wouldn’t have changed my experience though – going to a coding bootcamp was the best decision I could have made, and I’m loving working as a web developer now.
What about being a SHE in STEM brings you the most joy?
The women in STEM community is amazing and brings me the most joy. There wasn’t really a community feeling when I worked in public relations since everyone was competing against each other for placements for their own clients.

There are so many women in tech groups in Nashville, and I love that we’re all very supportive and welcoming to each other.

What is the most challenging part of being a SHE in STEM?
The most challenging part of being a SHE in STEM is exactly that – being a SHE.

There aren’t many women in the STEM field, and it’s something I’m trying to actively change.

I was one of the first two women developers hired at my office. I’ve walked into conferences of 300 only a handful of which were women. I’m proud of my path to the STEM field, but wish I would have been exposed to coding in school. More schools need to provide STEM programs to students and actively target young women so they grow up knowing that this is path they can take.
What’s the professional achievement that makes you the most proud?
The professional achievement that makes me the proudest is co-organizing the Nashville chapter of Tech Ladies. Tech Ladies is a national organization open to women in all areas of technology. I first heard about Tech Ladies while I was still at the Iron Yard and myself and another student, Stephanie Provence, decided to host a local chapter here in town. Our events are quarterly and mainly focus on professional development. We’ve hosted speed networking events, a fireside chat with a CEO and will be having a women in tech ‘day in the life’ panel soon.

I have a big passion for encouraging other women to pursue the tech field and am glad I can expose tech to more women through Tech Ladies.

What and who has motivated you the most in your journey as a SHE in STEM?
My husband has really motivated the most in my journey into the STEM world. He completely believed in me when I told him that I was quitting my job as a music publicist to go to a coding bootcamp. And even though he doesn’t code at all he let me talk through things with him so I could better understand them. He’s been by my side from the very beginning and always encourages me to keep pushing myself.
If you could go back in time and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?

Keep going – everything will work out in the end.

I was extremely nervous that I had made the wrong decision when I started my bootcamp, especially when after graduating it took me four months to find the perfect job. As someone who needs a strict routine, it was driving me insane not having a consistent schedule! Looking back, I’m so glad I took that leap of faith. I just wish I knew that it would all work out and that struggle of not working for four months after graduating would be worth it.
If you could give any advice to young women considering a path in STEM, what would you say?
Go for it! It may be overwhelming being the only woman in the room right now, but just think about the impact you are making. You are paving the way for other women to get into STEM and that’s an amazing thing.
Who are some other SHEs in STEM to watch?
I recently stumbled across an article by Chloe Condon on Medium – she’s definitely one to watch. She’s a former actress who is now a developer evangelist. She writes on various topics about being a woman in the tech field. Chloe has a quirky style of writing while still telling the truth and giving great advice. You should also definitely watch Allison Esposito. She’s the founder of Tech Ladies and is doing amazing things in the tech world for women.
What’s the most exciting thing happening in STEM right now?
I’m really excited that women are taking a stand for diversity in STEM right now. I’m seeing so many articles and tweets about having more diverse employees at your company whether that be hiring a woman, a person of color, a bootcamp graduate, someone self-taught, etc.

Having diverse employees at your company only benefits it in the end.

What are some resources for SHEs to learn more about your field?
Go to a meetup in town – you’ll meet amazing women who are already in the field and you’ll get to learn a lot. If you’re in Nashville, Tech Ladies will be having a day in the life panel on May 15th where you’ll get to hear from women in different positions in the tech field and learn what they do day-to-day. You can RSVP here. Like I mentioned earlier, CodeCademy is great for learning the very basics of code and Team Treehouse is great as well. Get out there, start talking to people and make an effort – it’ll be noticed!
Find Kara on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium

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