Tiffany Kasanicky was hooked on engineering when she discovered her joy for problem-solving. Now a principal engineer in the Data Center Group at Intel, she discusses how she began her career (originally wanting to be a marine biologist!), what it’s like for her as a women in tech, and why she says focusing on other aspects of her life and advancing her career “doesn’t have to be a choice.”
Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and your career progression.
Currently, I live in Longmont, Colorado with my husband and daughter, but I grew up in Southern California, the middle child in a family of five. As a competitive gymnast until high school, I found the rigor of the sport had a big impact in shaping my work ethic and self-confidence. I attended a small liberal arts college in Iowa, Graceland University, where I played soccer, ran track, and majored in Computer Engineering. The engineering department was so small at that time that I had one class where I was the only student—and the professor graded on a curve!
I got my start at Intel as an intern in Chandler, Arizona, due in part to the fact that the hiring manager thought my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) was funny. After a short time doing relational databases programming at Cerner in Kansas City, Missouri, I relocated to Arizona to join the team I interned with and to be closer to home. Most of my time at Intel has been spent developing software to enable adoption of Intel technologies. After moving to Colorado in 2010, I’ve had the opportunity to be work on Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory which has been super interesting, rewarding, and downright fun.
Did you always know you wanted to work in technology? Was there a specific event that made you decide to go into the tech industry and more specifically, into your current field?
No, when I started college, I wanted to be either a marine biologist or a medical doctor. It wasn’t until I took my first programming class that I realized how much I truly enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of computer engineering. After that, I was hooked.
What excites you most about working in technology right now?
What brought me into computer engineering to begin with, continues to keep me coming back every day; the ability to spend my days learning new things and figuring out ways to solve problems. With the change of pace in technology moving so rapidly, I feel like we exist in a Choose Your Own Adventure book with infinite possibilities. My backlog of new, interesting, and challenging work is always overflowing. The hardest part is deciding what to tackle first.
We still have a long way to go with female representation in the tech industry. One of Intel’s 2030 goals is to increase the number of women in technical roles to 40%. What do you believe the tech industry needs to do to improve female representation?
I like to believe that at this point, most people realize that diversity makes for better teams, better decisions, and better products. The challenge now is ensuring our culture and processes foster the growth of all types of people. That we don’t allow the loudest voice in the room to win or someone to be held back if they aren’t able to travel. COVID-19 and 2020 in general have really brought into focus that we all juggle competing priorities and have different circumstances. At the same time, it’s highlighted that those competing priorities and different circumstances have impacted women even more. There isn’t an easy answer or quick fix, but certainly keeping the issues at the forefront and taking concerted actions to make changes is essential.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
The opportunities are only limited by my energy to go do them!
What do you wish you had known about being a woman in the tech industry? What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in this industry?
All aspects of our lives overlap and intertwine to form the best versions of each one of us. Our personal and professional lives do not need to be at odds with each other.
Being a parent makes me a better mentor. Being a mentor makes me a better parent. Going for a mid-day run helps me think through complicated problems. Solving complicated problems makes me a better role model for my daughter and helps her realize that she can accomplish great things.
I wish I would’ve realized this earlier, because there were times in my career where I held myself back thinking I needed to choose between advancing my career and other aspects of my life. It doesn’t have to be a choice.
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