Beauty queen, singer, pianist and software developer, Allison Farris has found a way to combine her passions into something even more lucrative: a career.
What are some areas of interest to you in emerging technology?
I am very interested in artificial intelligence. I also love being able to apply inclusive design concepts in front-end design when building information systems.
What do you think the biggest issue is for women entering the technology industry?
The lack of female representation and leaders is one of the biggest issues. The inability to see female role models in the field leads to young girls moving away from STEM, and in particular technology, interests.
How have you married pageants and STEM education support?
The Miss America Organization allows me the opportunity to engage with audiences all across the District of Columbia to engage young girls in hands on learning, exposing more women to computer science, and depict a real world woman in the technology industry. I am able to share my experiences through being a spokesperson for this organization for girls to see Miss DC as a multidimensional leader so that they think, “I want to do that. I can do that. I will do that.”
Who is your inspiration in coding?
Karlie Kloss who is a supermodel who learned how to code and created a non-profit to offer women scholarships and summer camps to pursue and learn computer science. I love the message she sends —
that anyone at anytime can be empowered by technology, learning how to code, and make a difference.
What prompted you to pursue a career in computer science?
Once, I dreamt of being a concert pianist. I grew up as a classical pianist with the goal to attend New England Conservatory for music performance. When I auditioned, I got rejected. I ultimately went on to major in music performance at The University of Alabama where I discovered music software, which introduced me into the world of tech. I had a moment where I realized how I could blend my love for music with technology, turning my passion into a career. I shifted my focus from pursuing a music degree to a technology degree.
What do you hope to do with DigiGirlz and Girls Inc. to empower young girls in coding?
My goal is to show women and girls how they can turn their passion into a career leveraging technology as the tool to allow them to do it. I partner with outreach programs, like Microsoft DigiGirlz, to engage girls in hands-on with collaborative learning while introducing concepts of computer science and the role technology plays in every industry. By generating energy around what it is that makes them excited to learn and grow empowers girls, providing them a way to achieve it through technology is what sparks passion to engage and explore STEM careers.
How did you get started on mentoring and why do you think it’s important to do it?
My very first mentor at Microsoft sparked another moment for me when she helped me realize how I can bring my passion to promote women in technology to my day-to-day job as a software developer consultant. Mentorship is such a critical component for personal growth and creates ripple affects.