Sarah Kabala - Geek Girl Rising
Sarah Kabala
Sarah Kabala

Sarah Kabala

Software engineer

Aechelon Technology

“Supporting my younger brothers while I was in college was my biggest challenge. Our family is ‘non-traditional.’ I confronted it head on by dropping out and gittin’ a job as an ‘inside wireman.’”

Years in industry? 2.5

Who or what inspired your career in tech?
Back in the day, I thought I’d program video games. I got schooled up and then found out what kind of overtime that specialty entails. I decided on a less glamorous vein of software programming that would be just as fun but would leave time for hobbies and sleep. So far, so good. (One of my hobbies is making video games!)

What’s been your best career or life “hack” ever?
Keeping slim but effective .vimrc, .bashrc, and .inputrc configs on a thumb drive. And putting all of my bills on Autopay.

What has been your greatest career challenge?
Supporting my younger brothers while I was in college was my biggest challenge. Our family is “non-traditional.” I confronted it head on by dropping out and gittin’ a job as an “inside wireman.” I loved that job. It was mentally and physically challenging, and it gave me father figures to interact with every day. I didn’t go back to school right away. After I had an injury, I decided to go back to school finish my Computer Science degree. The rest is recent history.

What is your biggest career success? 
Making ends meet with just one job was a breakthrough. I joined the union! Getting picked up full-time in my current position from a quiet internship was the next life-changer.

Who are your role models?
I don’t think I have role models. I was half-adult as a kid, always questioning people who “knew better” than me, and I was right more often than a kid should have to be. There are people I admire as great and wise teachers. Christ. Ghandi. I can’t be them. I have to be me. But I try to learn from them as much as I can how to live a nurturing life.

If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
Ease back on that anxiety gas-pedal, kiddo.

What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
Catch up on the newspaper with a cup of tea. Babysit my sweet li’l nephews. Drive for Meals on Wheels. Join friends on a hike. Mine is a quiet life, and that suits me fine.

Flats, heels or kicks? 
Kicks fo sho.

Best career advice book? 
Joel on Software by Joel Spolsky is pretty great. It’s an advice book for software developers.

Who are the women in tech that you most admire?
My major professor, Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. is amazing. She is patient–a must when dealing with younger me–and sharp as a tack. I’m not sure if she sleeps. She gets ten things done for every one I think about. Carolina is blazing a trail in virtual reality research two decades strong, helping to start and direct new VR laboratories wherever she goes.

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