Flipping the script: Best Buy developer is on a mission

Lifestyle

February 26, 2020

Becca JohnsonStaff Writer

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From the timeMolly Hayes could crawl, she would go exploring, take things apart and try toput them back together. And while some children might prefer a song or storywhen they had trouble falling asleep, Molly calmed her mind in a different way.

“I would ask my mom for long divisionproblems, and I would work through those in my head until I passed out,” shesaid. “Luckily for me, my mom was a teacher and noticed my aptitude.”

With unwavering support from her mom, Molly excelled in math and science. She went on to earn a computer engineering degree. During her time at college, a male classmate told her she was “too pretty” for that type of work.

Today, she is asoftware engineer at Best Buy and determined to help other young women enterthe tech space. In the U.S. only 28% of women hold careers in science,technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“I considermyself lucky, but you shouldn’t have to be lucky to make it,” said Molly. “Weneed to encourage women to pursue their real passions, otherwise we’re going tobe stuck with that 28%.”

Right now,Molly is the only woman on her team of eight developers. But she’s not entirelyalone, thanks to her leader, Anna Bliss who also co-leads the Women in Techbranch of the Women’s Employee Resource Group (WERG) at Best Buy.

Each month,Women in Tech members meet and have an ongoing group chat where members canreach out at any time. It is a space for women to see themselves, askquestions, seek and give advice, and share useful information.

“We have agreat culture at Best Buy, but it can still be mentally exhausting to not seeyourself reflected in your peers and be the only woman in team meetings,” Annasaid. “Just knowing you’re able to reach out to the group makes you feel lessisolated during a day where you might otherwise only see another woman in the restroom.”

Allies, leadership support are critical

When Women in Tech started in 2017, it had 15 members. Todaythere are more than 240 women on a joint mission of supporting women and genderequity in the tech space.

But womencannot solve the disparity problem alone. It takes support from the top. BrianTilzer is Best Buy’s chief technology officer (CTO) and a proud ally for womenin tech.

“My mom is myoriginal technology hero. She was a human computer for a large life insurancecompany in the 1960s,” said Brian. “That means she did the math and worked thealgorithms with slide rules and paper to calculate, or compute, complicatedequations and problem sets.”

Brian does nottake his mom’s influence for granted.

“I had a rolemodel. The challenge for women — specifically in diverse populations — is therole models are not there,” he said.

Anna said thekey thing men can do at work is to examine how they are contributing to theirimmediate culture.

“To be an allyyou need to do more than say you want to do something for your daughter, sisteror any woman in your life — you need to commit to do the work of genderequity,” Anna said. “That work includes challenging stereotypes, championingthe value of varied experiences and backgrounds and using all of that to solveproblems and create better solutions for everyone.”

Brian has begunthat work as CTO.

“I realize menare very often in the decision-making seats and have influence around hiring andultimately culture,” Brian said. “When I became CTO a year-and-a-half ago,there were zero women in leadership on the Digital and Technology team. Today,women make up over a third of my leadership team.”

This type ofimprovement is encouraging to Women in Tech at Best Buy, but there’s more workto be done.

“Best Buyreflects the broader computing and technology field, in that, we do not havegender parity in our representation on teams,” said Anna. “I have seen ourorganization grow and change over the last several years, and I can’t wait tosee where our journey takes us.”

As for Molly,she’s on a mission to prove women can do anything men can do.

“There is nodifference between the genders as far as ability. I was lucky that my momencouraged the skills that I was really showing an aptitude in, but noteverybody has that person there for them,” she said. “I want to make it easierfor women after me to pursue whatever field piques their interests and arepassionate about.”

Click here to learn more about how Best Buy is working to close the gender gap in STEM.Visit our careers site to learn more about working at Best Buy.