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SHEs In STEM: Stephanie Provence

Stephanie Provence is a web developer living and eating in Nashville. She is co-founder and organizer of Tech Ladies Nashville, a national organization focused on empowering women-in-tech. She currently works as a developer at Lewis Communications, where her primary focus is building full-stack web applications for her clients. You can follow her at thehealthydev.com where she blogs about her adventures as a developer and her journey to a healthier lifestyle.

SHEs In STEM: Stephanie Provence

Name: Stephanie Provence
Company: Lewis Communications
Industry: Technology
Age: 27
SHEroines: Emma Watson, Hedy Lamarr, Grace Hopper, Sarah Drasner, Tina Fey, Hermione Granger

Tell us about yourself: who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I’m an INFJ, Capricorn and a 9 on the Enneagram and, if that doesn’t mean anything to you, essentially I’m kind, shy and a huge people pleaser. I currently work as a web developer at Lewis Communications in Nashville, TN. I’m a native to Nashville and attended college here. I have two dogs who are my world, Vinnie and Amelia.

What was your path to becoming a SHE in STEM? Which area of STEM are you a part of?
I haven’t always been a developer. I transitioned to this career about two years ago, after working in public relations. In fact, when I was in high school I actually was coding, though at the time I didn’t know it. I loved making Myspace layouts or making mods for my Sims. There was no one at the time though to show me that this was actually a career, so I went with a career that was glamorized by my favorite television show, Sex and the City, ala Samantha Jones.

TL;DR Sex and the City lied…

While, I did enjoy public relations I found that it wasn’t all glamorous parties, nights with celebrities and rarely was I able to enjoy a cosmopolitan at an event I managed. It was mostly writing/recycling news releases, managing social media accounts and planning stressful events. Needless to say something was missing for me. I knew I wanted to do something creative so I started reading a lot of “self-help” books to help me narrow down what my next step would be. One of the questions that a lot of these books ask you to reflect on is, “What did you enjoy most when you were a child?”. I asked my parents and that lead me to have that lightbulb moment about building and creating designs with HTML and CSS. I started trying out some online courses with Codecademy and all the memories came flooding back.

Changing careers was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done if I’m being completely honest. There is so so much uncertainty and grey there at the beginning that you have to dig deep in your well of resilience to keep going. I had a high profile job in economic development for the city of Nashville. I led the young professionals initiative that helped bring young talent to Nashville. In large part, the reason Nashville is what it is now is due to my former team and the business leaders of Nashville. When I told my family I wanted to quit my job and go back to school they pretty much thought I was crazy. That was really hard. Especially, when you have so much faith in yourself. I think that’s when you know you are on to something big.

What about being a SHE in STEM brings you the most joy?

There is a revolution happening in STEM right now, especially for web development.

With education becoming more easily accessible both online and at formal education schools I see more and more women choosing to become a developer or designer and that makes me H*CKING ECSTATIC!

What is the most challenging part of being a SHE in STEM?
Although more and more women are joining this field we are still a minority, and it can be exhausting at times. I find myself having to speak out more when I hear something that is offensive, harmful and damaging to other women in technology. As an aforementioned INFJ and 9 this is so difficult thing for me.

I love to keep the peace and hate conflict. However, I feel a large responsibility on my shoulders to leave this industry better than when I found it and pave the way for young women.

What’s the professional achievement that makes you the most proud?
It’s a bit silly, but I am most proud of having a talk I proposed to a conference being accepted. I had attended Nodevember, a javascript conference, the year before as a student at The Iron Yard (TIY), I had very little idea of what Node.js was and went around the conference in a daze of confusion and wonderment. I remember being shy and not wanting to ask anyone what the heck is Node.js. When I saw the call for proposals (CFP) go out I decided to submit a talk about the basics of Node.js. I didn’t expect them to pick the talk because after all the conference is called NODE-vember. I figured anyone attending would already have an idea of what Node.js was. Still I couldn’t forget the feeling I had as a student.

It was kind of like feeling left out of a cool club and I didn’t want anyone else to feel like that at the conference that year.

Much to my surprise, the organizers selected my talk! I still didn’t really know anything about Node so I decided to teach it to myself and turn what I learned into the talk. I’m happy to report the talk went well and people reacted pretty positively to it!

What and who has motivated you the most in your journey as a SHE in STEM?
Probably, my best friend Kara. It’s funny actually we attended the same college, had the same major and were in the same sorority, but I never really got to know her during school. Fast forward a few years, when I signed up for The Iron Yard Nashville I found out that she was attending as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was going to become the rock and motivation for me to keep sticking through the program. We became fast friends and continued encouraging and championing one another through the difficult times. It was a running joke throughout our program with our classmates that it be funny if we got a job together. I swear fate has a sense of humor because now Kara and I work together as developers at Lewis Communications! We actually did it and I couldn’t be more thankful. Whenever, we are ready to move on to new challenges we have decided that we will interview together and be a package deal.

If you could go back in time and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?

Have courage. Be kind.

If you could give any advice to young women considering a path in STEM, what would you say?
Working in STEM can be difficult at times. Honestly, I have had to deal with some really discouraging remarks and have been discriminated against as a woman. By and large this is not the majority of my experience in this field and if you are afraid of making the jump to a STEM field because of that please remember that you have an army of woman who will come to your aid.

You are more than capable of working in this field. Women practically built this industry into what it is.

Who are some other SHEs in STEM to watch?
I’d keep a look out for Allison Esposito! She is the founder of Tech Ladies, a national organization of 30,000 women in tech. Kara and I joined when it was starting out and volunteered to lead the local Tech Ladies Nashville chapter. Allison is a force and a champion of women in tech everywhere. I’m so grateful for this resource she built.

What are some resources for SHEs to learn more about your field?
If you are interested in becoming a web developer I would highly encourage you to take the free courses on Codecademy, Codeschool, and Treehouse. This was how I got my start!I have also put together a list of tools, tips and tricks for aspiring developers.

Find Stephanie on Twitter and Instagram

ICYMI: Check out our other SHEs in STEM posts-Melissa Karlin, Rachel StuveKolisa Yola Sinyanya, Kara LutonSamantha Hau, Kira Bailey, I Don’t Know How To Science, Taylor Breland, and Kelsey Caffy. And don’t miss out on SHEspeaks: Rainu Ittycheriah with Eventbrite (ep 5).

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