We sat down with Karen Zinn-Amos, an Engineer - Front-End Project Management, from Naperville, and asked her a few questions on the thoughts and feelings the movie Hidden Figures (2016) evoked in her. But before we jump to the interview, let’s take a quick recap of what the movie was all about or shall we say, what really happened in history.
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson are the names of the three African-American female mathematicians who served NASA in the 1960s in sending austronaut John Glenn to orbit Earth - the first time in all of mankind. They were working in what was a very racially and gender hostile environment of the US space technology industry at the time. Their brilliance and ambitions helped them succeed in something that had never been accomplished before, which is why they are remembered as true heroes in U.S. history.
As Karen watched the movie, she felt proud to learn that there have been African-American women who, despite gender and racial biases, have had successful careers and have made major impacts on the U.S. space industry. However, she also felt disappointment because these women hadn’t been respected or valued even though their roles were equally essential to the space program.They had experienced unequal working conditions and had endured obstacles rooted in racial inequalities.
Interestingly enough, Karen is playing a similar role of breaking new ground for minority women in technology today. “When young women see professional women in technical fields succeed, especially women from similar background and culture, it gives them hope because they see a positive role model to whom they can pattern their own career aspirations”, she explains.
When we asked her what made her enter a career in technology in the first place, Karen started speaking about her personal role model. Her biggest influencer was her 7th grade teacher, “She instilled in me that with hard work and determination, I could accomplish anything I desired. She also taught me the importance of setting goals in life […]”. Karen became interested in the technology field after taking a computer programming class in high school. From that point forward, she made the decision to major in computer science in college with the goal of becoming a Computer Science Engineer.
Starting at Nokia she’s found a company culture that fosters diversity and inclusion. According to her: “At Nokia, everyone is treated with respect and valued for the contributions they bring to the company. The key to any successful working relationship is indeed respect. If everyone operated from a place of respect for others, regardless of gender, race, level, etc., and valued each person for the contributions they bring, it would promote an environment where everyone can succeed and contribute to the overall success of any given company”, Karen summarizes.
Lastly, we asked her to share any thoughts or advice on the subject with other aspiring women interested in a career in technology. “I encourage any woman who wishes to pursue a career in technology to pursue her dreams. She should persevere, despite any obstacles that may appear, and move forward until she reaches her goal”, she encouragingly answered.
Be brave. Dream big. Never give up.