Hi, Britney! What turned you on to engineering?
Both my parents were computer programmers and I definitely got their genes for problem solving and wanted to follow in their footsteps. So, when a Computer Science course was offered at my high school, I jumped at the chance and loved it. I entered college with a Computer Science major but I was in classes with a lot of engineering majors and after researching more about Computer Engineering, I switched over. I then decided to add Electrical Engineering to my major as a challenge to myself.
What is your degree in and from where?
My degrees are in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
Favorite and/or most challenging courses you took to prepare for your degree? Why?
My most challenging non-engineering course in college was Calculus 3. Conceptualizing in 3D was not my thing. My most challenging course while in engineering was Electromagnetic Fields. Though I was majoring in both Computer and Electrical Engineering, computer programming was still my forte, so the concept of electrical charges and interactions was hard for me to grasp at times. My favorite courses were Digital Logic and C++ because I LOVE problem solving. Digital logic forced me to think in different ways than all my other classes. With C++, I loved being presented with a problem and figuring out how to code a solution. Working to solve a problem and troubleshoot issues in your code and then coming out in the end with a working piece of code that provides a benefit to someone was so gratifying.
You’re working as a software quality assurance (QA) analyst. What got you interested in that?
Fresh out of college I entered the work force as a software engineer doing what I had always loved to do in college, write code. I hated it. 🙂 I didn’t like not having the big picture and at my company software engineers worked on their one application and only knew enough about the others to allow for successful integration. My best friend had become a QA Analyst after also being a computer engineer and she seemed a lot happier than I felt, so I wanted to try it. I realized that the part of programming that I liked was not the actual writing of the code but it was the understanding of the requirements and all the possible issues and all the possible solutions and choosing the best solution while troubleshooting the issues. These are all the things that Quality Assurance allows me to do every day. As a QA Analyst I have to have a holistic view of the system and understand and test as many scenarios as possible.
Software continues to get more and more complex as we expect computers to do more. What are the most common problems you see?
The most common problem I see is time, the time it takes to make decisions and the time it takes to handle compatibility issues. As technology changes, refactoring becomes necessary to keep up and have systems remain compatible. With the bureaucracy that rules large organizations, making “non-revenue producing” changes to code does not rank at the top of the decision-makers’ priority list. This can cause a lot of issues with compatibility between the platforms used to produce new code and the old code. This is a strain on QA as it can create a high level of regression defects and increase timelines.
Best part of your day job?
The best part of my day job is being able to help the business realize their vision. It is my job to understand not only what they want but also why they want it. The intent is sometimes more important than the actual request, and because I understand the system capabilities I am able help the business solution their wants and needs while keeping technical capabilities in mind.
You cheer for the Atlanta Dream WNBA team. How long have you cheered for them, and why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
This is my second year as an Atlanta Dream Shooting Star Cheerleader. I tried out to be a professional cheerleader because I love to dance and perform. I love the excitement of the games and how the young fans look up to us. Some of the most intelligent, kind, and beautiful women I know are cheerleaders, it is an honor to be among their ranks. Like they say, you will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, and as a cheerleader I have had the privilege to be surrounded by some of the greatest.
Which came first, your interest in engineering or cheerleading?
My interest in math/engineering came first. I was a cheerleader and dancer as a little girl but was not very good, so I didn’t always enjoy it, but math was always my love. High school was when I discovered my true passion for dance and that passion has only increased since.
What’s a day on the job like for you?
As a Quality Assurance Analyst it is my job to test the website and make sure that it works properly before changes are released to the public. I ensure that the functionality on the website is what my business owners have asked for and that there are as few defects as possible. I also have to understand, at least at a high level, how all the applications work together to make sure that the requested change makes sense and that it can be properly tested.
As a Senior QA, I spend most of my time in meetings ensuring that all functionality requested by the business is written clearly and correctly taking all other systems and functionality into consideration. My job is to make sure that my team knows exactly what the change is that is being requested and how it should be tested. The QA team is the last line of defense before code is put out to the public. Our goal is to deliver the best fully functional website we can.
What does it mean for you to be a software analyst?
I see the role of the Quality Assurance Analyst for a website-based company as being “Image Control.” If users are going to a company’s website that never works properly or is not aesthetically pleasing, their view of the company is lowered. If your website is unreliable, most new customers will equate your company as being unreliable. The reliability of the website, which includes accuracy, availability, performance, and much more, is directly related to revenue for my company. If QA is not completed properly, all of these areas are put in jeopardy and revenue suffers.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your engineering career?
Cheerleading has made it easier for me to talk to all different types of people. The general stereotype around people in IT is that we are not personable or friendly, and that we sit in front of our computers all day. This is completely false, for most people at least, but we do have a tendency to keep to ourselves and only interact with others in IT, and when we must interact with people outside of IT at work, there is a tendency towards only knowing how to explain things in “IT Speak.” Being a cheerleader has helped me excel with communicating comfortably in different ways with different people.
Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or computer engineers]? How did you handle it?
I feel that it is very important that we break these stereotypes. Children need to understand that it is okay to be anything that they want to be and they don’t have to be pigeonholed by stereotypes. I have luckily not had to deal with very many challenges related to stereotypes about cheerleaders, at least not to my knowledge. 😉 People at work know that I am a cheerleader and find it fascinating. I know some women have had issues on jobs when it is known that they are a cheerleader, but luckily I have never dealt with that.
Best cheerleading experience?
My best cheerleading experience was when my name was called at the first AFL Georgia Force Auditions. Though this was 2008, the season when the AFL folded, it was also my first audition for a professional cheerleading team. Being chosen for this team gave me the confidence that set the course for the past 6 years of my life and has allowed me to meet some of my closest friends and have some great experiences that I would have never had if I had not continued to pursue being a professional cheerleader. Because of cheerleading I met my fiancé. Need I say more? 🙂
Best engineering-related experience?
My best or maybe I should say coolest engineering-related experience would probably be having a Top Secret Clearance. It was one of those things that I knew existed but never thought about having myself. Though honestly I didn’t learn very many interesting secrets, it was cool to see reactions when I told people I had a Top Secret Clearance. 🙂 My second best experience was probably driving an excavator when I was an intern for Caterpillar Inc.
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
I would not change my degree, but I do plan on going back to get an MBA in order to enhance my management skills.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell my 12 year old self that I won’t have to choose between dance and career success one day so keep striving to be the best at both. I would also tell myself to stay in ballet. Ballet is the foundation of dance and there have been many times in my dance career that I have wished I had that foundation.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I am actually very shy. Cheerleading has forced me to be more outgoing, so when I know I need to speak up and be assertive or personable, I just switch on Cheerleader Britney. Though Cheerleader Britney is always present when I’m in uniform representing my team, she also comes out in my everyday life. I believe that the confidence being a cheerleader has given has helped me succeed in many areas of my life, including my career.
Apart from work and cheering, what are some of your favorite activities?
I love watching TV. My guilty pleasure is reality TV, but I also watch a lot of crime dramas and HGTV. Of course, any dance or cheerleading show will also make it onto my DVR.
What are your plans for the future?
My plan for the future is to continue working in IT for the next few years and then who knows… There are so many possibilities, I haven’t decided yet.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I want to be a Science Cheerleader because the combination of Science and Cheerleading is what makes me who I am. I am proud that I did not let stereotypes or naysayers stop me from pursuing both my dreams and I want to make sure kids know they don’t have to choose. A while ago a coworker of mine told me about wanting to enter her daughter, who loves science and reading, into cheerleading but her husband was completely opposed due to stereotypes. She told me that I was going to be her best argument for allowing their daughter to become a cheerleader. She said, “How can he argue against the fact that I know a cheerleader who was a valedictorian, engineering major, is pursuing a Masters, and is a Sr. Software Quality Assurance Analyst?” This is why I want to be a Science Cheerleader. I want to continue to be the model or “argument” for any parent that wants their child to pursue their dreams, even if their dreams stereotypically conflict.