A few right turns led women to successful tech career paths.

A few right turns led women to successful tech career paths. 

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women's Day, Claris interviewed successful women who have advanced their careers using Claris FileMaker. Get to know them, learn about their journeys, and find out where they are today. These ambitious women also discuss what it’s like being a woman in tech and their shared vision for a more inclusive industry. 

Tech career sprouted in a lab. 

Beatrice Beaubien, project manager at i2eye 

FileMaker developer, Beatrice Beaubien, felt drawn to science and math as a student. She earned a PhD in biochemistry and began her career in the 90s working in a laboratory, where the seeds to become a developer were planted. That’s when Beatrice used a software program to create an interactive guide to molecular biological techniques. “I had so much fun with it,” she says. That project led to more like it, then Beatrice provisioned all of her lab equipment using a relational database. “At that point, I realized how empowering it is to take control of day-to-day tasks,” she adds. 

With her deep knowledge of scientific laboratories and her passion for development, Beatrice created new databases to manage clinical trials for illnesses from cancer to eye diseases. She transitioned into developing fulltime and expanded into other types of databases, managing everything from legal information to client contacts. Beatrice sees one of her strengths as the ability to create a bridge between technology and people. “It’s one thing to be tech savvy, but it’s another thing to positively augment the user experience, making it not just beneficial but delightful,” she exclaims. And Beatrice sees a real path for more women developers with unique points of view.  

“I see lots of women in the FileMaker Community who are skilled and accomplished in other fields – from journalism to art design – and bring a broad depth of knowledge that enhances their performance as FileMaker developers,” she says. “And so I keep thinking, what types of technology won’t be made if we don’t bring more women into this industry? As we have more women developers, I personally believe it’s going to redefine the industry’s status quo and what it means for a product to be successful.” 

When it came to her experiences as a woman in the tech field, Beatrice says she’s experienced a laundry list of sexist comments. But what really stands out is being interrupted when she’s speaking. “So many women get talked over in meetings,” she states. But the solution seems straightforward. “The more women we have in tech, the more women seated around every table in a meeting, the more our ideas will be heard,” she says.    

From log cabin to Silicon Valley. 

Gillian Gentry, vice president at Soliant Consulting 

Gillian was born about as far away from a technology career as it gets. She grew up in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, and was raised in a log cabin without electricity or running water. “I grew up in such a remote place that we didn’t interact with technology on a daily basis, so a tech career wasn’t even on my radar,” Gillian states. 

She dreamed about moving away, but doing so was daunting since the town is surrounded by frozen tundra on one side and icy sea on the other. The only way out was by plane – too expensive for a kid like her to afford. Gillian craved something different, but didn’t realize a career in technology would be her golden ticket until she moved to California. 

“No one in my family went to college. But I always knew that I wanted to have a different kind of life, and I knew the path out was through education. I imagine many women want to make the same kind of transition I did, but just don’t know how to start. That’s why it’s important for me to encourage everyone, especially people in remote areas, and let them know there's a space in the tech field. And there are people who want to help. Looking back, I would have loved to hear that message as a kid,” Gillian explains. 

“I think the first step to getting more women in technology is to shout from the rooftops, ‘Technology is for you!’ – we need to get that message out. Then representation comes next, showing that women really do work in this field. Finally, we need to encourage women to enroll in learning opportunities that clear pathways to a tech career, with help from women mentors along the way,” she says. 

And Gillian wants women to know that you don’t have to be the kind of software coder you see in the media. “I really encourage women to understand the concept of low code,” she says. “You don’t need to be able to sit down and type out long lines of code when using FileMaker. With low code, you can be extremely successful if you’re a critical thinker and know how to solve problems,” Gillian adds.   

Natural fixer of broken things. 

Chris Snipe, data manager at Chicago Public Schools 

Working with technology and mechanics came naturally to Chrishawna, “Chris,” Snipe as far back as she can remember. Chris explains, “If anything broke in our home, I was the person who would fix it. And I was coding in BASIC when I was 11-years-old, creating little programs to guess people’s birthdays, things like that. Since I was a gamer, my ultimate goal was to be a video game programmer.” In pursuit of that goal, Chris attended the University of Iowa on a full scholarship and obtained a BS in computer science, followed by a master’s degree in business information systems.  

After graduating, Chris wasn’t sure she wanted to work in technology since her computer sciences courses weren’t as exciting as the video games she enjoyed as a kid. However, she got a job at Chicago Public Schools as a data analyst and connected with the developer who created the school system’s database. “Her name is Molly, and I call her my shero,” Chris says. “She's the one who introduced me to FileMaker, which I quickly figured out was amazing. With FileMaker, I revamped our entire application process at Chicago Public Schools,” she exclaims.  

As a Black woman, Chris states she’s been underestimated many times – part of why she’s chosen to shorten her name since it’s gender-neutral. “There are plenty of women named Chris, but in the tech world, when people see my name, they automatically assume I’m a man,” she explains. “People often don’t expect to see a Black woman with the technical skill level that I have. At times, I’ve been asked to take basic proficiency tests to prove I can do basic database development or even work in Excel. I’ve been given skill tests then told that I really am a developer. It still feels like a man’s world out there. But I like surprising people – it feels good to knock down those barriers,” Chris adds. 

A bold career move was the right decision. 

Krissy Ferris, chief of staff at Proof+Geist 

Krissy began her tech career as a developer while she was managing a medical office that needed a better system to capture patients’ health metrics. “We started looking for software, and that’s when we found FileMaker. We used it to build a solution from the ground up, which we then modified to do more complex data management tasks,” states Krissy. She found she liked developing – and excelled at it. “My skills with FileMaker grew as the solutions grew, and I decided to make developing my career,” she says. As Krissy started her new career as a coder, the same doctor’s office re-hired her under a new, more prestigious title to manage their FileMaker custom applications. 

Like a couple of the women we interviewed, Krissy didn’t have a degree in computer science. In fact, she has a BA in comparative religion and a master’s degree in sociology. When building her tech career, Krissy found guidance and inspiration by seeking out mentors. “I advise people coming into this field to be as bold as they can. When starting out, I just took a deep breath and reached out to people who I respected, even though it felt intimidating. I don’t think anyone said ‘no’ when I requested advice,” Krissy exclaims.  

In addition to her chief of staff role, Krissy is also the lead facilitator at the nonprofit Women Innovating Together - FileMaker (WITfm). This organization is also a great place for women – and people of all genders – to seek out support. “WITfm gives you a place to go to ask those ‘dumb questions,’ a place where you won’t be judged, and a place where you're encouraged. It’s where I know I can go to seek advice,” she says. Krissy wants everyone considering or starting out in a tech career to know that people in the FileMaker Community are so welcoming. “If you just contact somebody that you admire, they're often willing to mentor or support you. And if they don't have the time or capacity, they will often direct you to someone who does,” she adds. 

One of the best things about being a developer is the freedom it gives Krissy to choose her own lifestyle. “That was one of the main attractions for me, to be able to pick who I work with and also what my work life looks like,” she explains. “In this career, I have the scheduling flexibility to go on a five-week-vacation if I want or to structure my days in the way that works for me. That kind of flexibility isn’t always available with other jobs. My advice for women considering a tech career is if you enjoy solving problems, you’ll be happy building FileMaker solutions.”  

Find out how to get involved with Women Innovating Together (WITfm) here