Sondra Ashmore, PhD - Geek Girl Rising
Sondra Ashmore, PhD
Sondra Ashmore

Sondra Ashmore, PhD

IT Director

Principal Financial Group

Years in tech industry? 15

Who or what inspired your career in tech?
During my last year of college, I decided to take a couple of web design classes. Web design was relatively new at that time. I enjoyed them, but I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in a non-tech field. I was working for a professor and he convinced me to apply to a top engineering school in addition to the liberal arts programs for graduate school. It was a long shot and I didn’t think I would be accepted, but I figured I didn’t have much to lose by applying. I was accepted and was offered a scholarship. I couldn’t resist the challenge, and I’ve been in tech ever since.

What’s been your career or life best hack ever?
Audio books! I like to read but was finding it difficult to fit in with everything else I had to get done. I was introduced to audiobooks and suddenly I was able to listen to the books I wanted to read while driving to work, cleaning the house or walking the dog. I was thrilled that I was able to find a way to be happy and productive at the same time.

What has been your greatest career challenge?
Staying current with the latest technology trends has become an increasing challenge. I’ve had to accept that I can’t know all of the latest trends in great detail and that the real skill I need to develop is being able to adapt to rapid change.

What is your biggest career success? 
Publishing my first book, Introduction to Agile Methods (2014) was exciting. It was surreal to see it on for the first time.

Who are your role models?
I can’t say that I have specific role models, but I do have some wonderful people in my life who are mentors and sponsors. I like to learn from everyone around me.

If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
I would have suggested that I buy my first computer earlier. I didn’t have my own computer until I was 21 years old. I would have benefited from spending more time on a computer earlier in my life.

What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
I like to read, work in my yard, and spend time with friends and family. I also like to volunteer for organizations that support women in IT and STEM. Last year I co-founded an organization in central Iowa for women in IT called “Technologistas.” It has been great hearing the stories of other women who have chosen technology for their career and to learn from one another both personally and professionally.

Flats, heels or kicks? 
Why didn’t you ask, “Java, .Net, or HTML”?

Best career advice book? 
Take The Lead by Betsey Meyer

Who are the women in tech that you most admire?
I took my son to a talk recently on how to customize your Mindcraft game. The speaker was a fourth grade girl from one of the local elementary schools. She had taught herself how to customize the game by watching videos on the computer and downloading the required software. She gave the talk to a room full of children and adults – most of whom she did not know. She doesn’t have a tech career yet, but I hope she does one day. I admired how she took it upon herself to learn, grow, and share her knowledge with others.