Kamila Thigpen

Tell us your story.

I began my career in education in marketing strategy – it actually never crossed my mind to consider technology as a potential career path. Marketing appealed to me because I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to be creative, and I was intrigued by the idea of creating campaigns with the power to influence the way people think.

Around the same time I began working in marketing, I also joined the board of directors for a small youth development program I had interned with during undergrad. Working in this volunteer position helped me more deeply understand the difference between marketing and advocacy. While marketing, at least in the capacity that I practiced it, is focused on creating demand for products and services, advocacy is a vital part of sustaining financial and public support for many aspects of our education system. Advocacy is also crucial to modernizing an education system that employs more than three million K-12 teachers working in more than 100,000 schools.

Technological advancements have had such a drastic impact on almost every sector of our society, but our nation’s education system has yet to fully realize the promise and potential of technology to enhance the learning experience for all students. In a decentralized system such as ours, however, change isn’t easy and there is tremendous value in creating opportunities for policymakers and education leaders to share examples of effective policy and successful strategies for better leveraging technology to modernize our education system.

What advice to you have to share with other women and young girls?

The advice I would give to women entering the educational technology field is not particularly different from what I would say to women in any new profession: don’t underestimate the value of your perspective! Although education appears to be a female-dominated profession, at least at the classroom level, the same patterns of male dominance are often found in leadership positions in education policy and education technology organizations. It is critical that we have a diverse room and a wide variety of opinions at the table when it comes to making decisions about the direction of our education system.

Often, the people with the most experience in education are the ones who have the hardest time thinking outside the box. No matter how young or inexperienced, my advice is to not be afraid to make your voice heard.

Pass it on!

When I had the opportunity to work alongside the executive director of the youth program I volunteered with, it was an eye-opening experience. She was so passionate about her work and was truly a jack of all trades. I admired her ability to take on so many responsibilities, from fundraising to program management, and do them well. But it taught me two things I will never forget:

1) You have to find a balance. I think that being good at too many things creates a tendency for women to think they can do it all. But operating at that level for too long can really burn you out, and in the end that isn’t good for anyone. You have to find a balance and learn to focus your energy on what you can do well without sacrificing your sanity.

2) It’s important to surround yourself with a great team. A strong team allows you to play to each other’s strengths and prevents you from feeling like you need to do everything yourself in order for it to be done right. Admitting that you can’t do everything on your own is a vital part of that.

The Women in Tech campaign exists to help redefine what women in technology means in the 21st century. Started independently by a group of professional women who, after many impassioned discussions about women in tech knew we wanted to expand this definition beyond ‘traditional’ technology skills. To us, it includes most every current, emerging or evolving role within an organization. By featuring leaders and emerging leaders across industries who embody this we hope to collectively ‘stand up’, be proud of our place in the digital world and inspire young women or those new to the ‘tech space’ to get involved.

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