By Julie Heckman, Software Developer at Farmobile
Editor’s Note: A recent article in AgFunder highlighted the lack of women in ag tech. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47% of the total workforce, but are underrepresented in science and engineering. At Farmobile, we believe it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you bring to the table. Julie Heckman, who recently joined Farmobile as a software developer, talks about her journey from high school math teacher to agtech engineer.
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Growing up I never dreamed of working at an ag tech company. I had always thought of myself as a teacher. I love kids and math and had no idea how to combine my two passions other than through teaching. I considered other careers in my teens, like journalism and writing, but ultimately decided to attend college to pursue a high school math teaching degree.
Twenty years later, I’ve earned my teaching degree and Master’s in math. And, rather than teaching, I work as one of three female software developers for an agtech startup. And I’m loving my job.
How did that happen?
- I acknowledged what I loved. I started my professional career teaching math and quickly realized that I loved doing math more than I loved teaching it. I sometimes would just work the hardest problems in the text books to see how fast I could do them correctly. That’s about the time that I figured out I needed to go back to school.
- I took a leap and made a change. I was extremely fortunate to figure out that I wanted to make a change pretty early in my life. I was 27 when I realized I needed to find a different career and took a leap of faith and turned in my resignation. I finished out the school year, but spent most of my time monitoring study hall hours searching for job leads.
- I took advantage (and still do) of every opportunity. Always looking for new things to learn, I went back to school and earned a master’s degree in math. I subscribe to Python email lists. I attend Kansas City Women in Technology Tech Talks and Coding and Cocktails. I ask lots of questions of my colleagues. I Google things … a lot. If I can’t figure out something on my own, I ask for help.
My tech career began at Tradebot Systems, Inc., a high frequency trading company in Kansas City. I started as a trader learning the nuances of finance and worked my way up to programming. It was an incredible learning experience. And now, at Farmobile, I’m able to use my programming and tech skills to make a difference in the ag industry.
I also see myself as making a difference for women, overall. My kids tell people that I help farmers and I love that’s how they describe my job.
There’s a lot of talk these days about how underrepresented women are in tech, and even in agtech. What’s stopping women from entering the industry? Women seem to be disadvantaged.
In part, it may be that women shy away from tech because the work is mentally taxing and sometimes the hours can be long. But I’ve found that if you’re able to find the right company with the right culture, those will balance out. The right tech company will support a woman’s role in her family, personal life and company.
At Farmobile, I’ve learned so much about the intricacies of farming and how much math and science, plus intuition and generational knowledge, are required. We are constantly getting new data and figuring out how to process and store it so that we can get it back to the farmers for better decision-making with less heavy lifting and uncertainty. I’m on a team determining which new technology to use to scale our systems for global use. Other teams are adapting our Dashboard app so farmers can see their operations in real-time or historical views, and creating algorithms to automatically identify field boundaries.
At Farmobile, women are involved in every aspect right up to senior leadership. Not only is Farmobile on the cutting edge of agtech, but it is also on the leading edge of women’s involvement in the industry.