(ROSENBERG, Texas) – In college, Phyllis Hollingshead was studying to become a teacher when her own teacher opened a door to computer programming.
“I realized it was this logical process you go through of telling the computer what to do,” she recalled. “It’s fascinating — you can control that machine. I would’ve thought it was mystical and hard to do, but it wasn’t as hard as I imagined it would be.”
Hollingshead has been an instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Computer Programming Technology program for 16 years.
“Back when I was in college, I was the only woman in that class,” she remembered. “One of the teachers kept telling me I was in a man’s field. I kept reminding him that women helped start this.”
Hollingshead encourages prospective students to give computer programming a shot — as does her colleague, Susie Watkins.
“I feel like anybody can do anything they want as long as they put their mind to it,” Watkins said.
Watkins has taught at TSTC for nearly 22 years. Before teaching, she balanced getting her degrees with working and raising her daughter. She became interested in computer programming thanks to video games and her father’s work on old computers at Fort Hood.
Watkins was also the only woman in her classes.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” she said. “No one gave me any grief. They (the other students) were always asking me for help.”
Alexis Fisher, a Waco resident who is currently training in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, also became interested in the field because of video games, which she has been playing since the age of 2.
But instead of gaming, Fisher found her passion in software development.
“I’d like to go into software development because that field is rising more than gaming,” she said. “And it’s always nice to have the option to do either one because I’ll have the degree for it.”
Though she is one of few women in her classes, Fisher has not noticed a difference.
“I haven’t had any issues,” she said. “It’s been pretty good, and I don’t get treated any differently by instructors or other students. We get our programs done and go.”
For Jazmin Hernandez, of Harlingen, TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program satisfies her curiosity in her tech support position — and gives her fulfillment whenever she sees success in an assignment.
“I really want to get a good job, but I want to move forward with computer science,” Hernandez said. “I really want to go for software engineer. That’s my main goal.”
Hernandez encourages prospective students to give the program a try to see whether they like it — and to devote the time and patience they need to study and grow.
Her motivation? Her daughters.
“My oldest daughter — she’s 7 — she always tells me, ‘Oh, you’re so smart, Mom. Study — I want you to pass,’” Hernandez said. “It’s cute. She’s very encouraging.”
And if her daughters may decide one day to pursue a career in this field?
“It would be awesome,” Hernandez said.
In Texas, computer programmers can make an average annual salary of $91,830, according to onetonline.org.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology with fully online training. The program’s Performance-Based Education approach affords students the flexibility to direct their own learning, focusing on mastering competencies.
During the month of March, TSTC is honoring women in history and on its campuses who work to make strides in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields every day.
Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.