LiveIntent is an awesome company to work for. One of the things that makes our culture different is our commitment to enabling and empowering people. The gap in gender inequality in the tech industry has been a hot topic over the years. Many stories on popular media point to the lack of opportunities and bias against women as the source of the issue.
Despite the disadvantages that women face in the tech space, one woman at LiveIntent rose above the barriers to escape Wall Street’s grasp and do something very few could do. Vanessa Sergeon is a software engineer at LiveIntent. But this isn’t your typical success story. This is a transformation odyssey. What do I mean? You will soon understand as you discover her journey to LiveIntent.
Vanessa’s journey to LiveIntent started years ago, long before she was old enough to work. As a teenager, Vanessa had a strong interest in computer science. In fact, she took a CS class as early as elementary school. In the 4th grade she was exposed to computer science at a very high level. As she grew up, she became more interested in CS. During middle school, she was given a chance to attend an after school program that would tutor her in CS. Unfortunately, her mother did not feel comfortable with the setting she would be in. “My mom didn’t feel like I belonged in a class full of only guys at that age.” said Vanessa. This isn’t an isolated scenario. Computer science classes as well as most engineering departments are heavily dominated by male attendance.
Before attending Haverford College she discussed her future with her parents. Vanessa’s father played a big role in helping her decide what career path she should take. “My dad did not think that computer science was a good move for me given his experience. He told me that I didn’t want to get stuck in the back office”, Vanessa said. Instead, she chose liberal arts as her major in hopes of using her knowledge to gain access to the financial sector.
After graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts, she went on a job hunt during one of the most depressing times for the financial sector. The offer she had gotten right before graduating was retracted. Luckily for her she had saved up enough money to start her own business. She became a professional poker player. Vanessa had always played poker for fun. Out of necessity, she took her game to another level. For a year and a half as the economy recovered, she managed to sustain herself doing something we see as just fun.
During 2011, the government outlawed the ability to gamble online. This forced Vanessa’s hand. She decided to give job hunting another try. She managed to impress many people on Wall Street. In just a couple of years, she became a private wealth advisor for one of the largest investment banks in the world.
As she dove deeper into her career in the financial sector, she noticed that the work environment at these companies had one thing in common. “The cultures were mostly driven by males for males. If you raise concerns or object to the culture it can place you in a very awkward position” explained Vanessa.
She grew tired of the culture at work, as well as the type of work. A friend of hers had recently finished a code boot camp. That inspired her to make the transition. Vanessa wanted to do something creative, challenging, and rewarding. “When I knew that I wanted to do engineering, I started to save, planned and waited for the right time” she explains. She had planned and saved enough to last her 6 months. “I quit my job to attend code training full-time. During my training I mostly ate pasta and PB&J. I wasn’t sure how soon it would be until I would find a new job.”
It took her 6 days to land her first job as an engineer. “I made up for the meal sacrifice during the training by having celebratory steaks and sushi once I accepted the offer. It was such a relief that taking the risk paid off and faster than I had expected.” she mentions with a giant smile on her face.
Currently she develops the front end for our platform. She is part of the LIM (LiveIntent Inventory Management) team which focuses on the publisher tools of the platform. Her work enables our clients and partners to manage their inventory to make it available for marketers to bid on. Vanessa makes it easier for our clients to monetize their email newsletters.
Vanessa aspires to do more with her coding super powers. “Right now I am focused on learning new languages, architecture patterns, and data visualization”, Vanessa states with a glow of excitement. Like most engineers, she is constantly reading about the latest and greatest technologies. In her spare time, she is exploring the python language to use on her personal project. “In a couple of years I want to run my own startup. I am currently exploring a few ideas and concepts I intend to build.” she states.
Vanessa’s story is a prime example of the obstacles faced by many women and how they can be overcome. When asked what advice she has for other women that aspire to be engineers, she states ” I am as ambitious as any other woman, the only difference was that after researching the industry I realized it wasn’t too late to learn and apply the skills I hadn’t been able to study earlier in life. I really wanted something different and I was willing to do what it takes to get there.”