Meet Chloe Elliott

How did you find out about PDXWIT? Prior to diving into my coding boot camp at PDX Code Guild, I had never heard of PDXWIT. It only took a few moments into my tech journey to first hear about the importance of tech Meetups and the groups which were centered and targeted towards women in tech. PDXWIT was on every list and on the tip of everyone’s tongue. I knew it would be one of my first stops and a mainstay in my adventures in tech. I feel very lucky to have found it.

Describe your path to your tech career. Ideally, I would love to be able to say “I always knew that I would be working in tech.” This would be so much easier than the story to follow. Soon after graduating from the University of Oregon; the September 11th attacks happened. I decided to join the Air Force and work in Intelligence. The training for military intelligence was intense. First I went through eight weeks of basic military training and next to an immersive Arabic language school. Then off to Intelligence Analyst school where I dedicated many hours to one task: making sure your brain makes the switch from being a casual observer to one which can scrutinize, recognize, and interpret patterns, relationships, and behaviors relevant to national security. Once at my final duty station, I was training again to learn how to prepare others in my specialty.

I landed on the 24-hour watch floor at NSA Texas as a shift supervisor in the “Indications and Warnings Cell.” My team utilized all of our training to examine situational intelligence to make sure all assets in land, sea, and air were safe from harm within a designated area. Specifics about what we did and what we accomplished are classified, and I cannot speak to them but, I can say that I am very proud of our mission. We came from all different walks of life with diverse views and belief systems, and we got it done. When something in the military "needs doing," everyone steps up. I would never have believed this could happen before having this experience. It has forever changed my outlook. It has become a big part of who I am, and I readily embrace it as one of my better characteristics. 

After I finished my military contract, I came back home to Portland, worked in sales and client relations, got married, completed an MBA at Concordia University and taught myself how to monetize a personal investment property. During this time I had the lucky circumstance to have children. Through them, I rediscovered how to play and, interestingly enough, how to fail. Kids are natural born scientists; always failing, experimenting and testing boundaries. It’s the most immediate and effective way to learn. I was inspired and decided I wanted to be as fearless in failure as they were. I started creating again; I taught myself to design and sew clothes, how to grow organic vegetables, decorate cookies and how to write knitting patterns to contribute to I started a blog to catalog my designs and naturally, I began to want to manipulate the ‘canned’ blog from its natural state. This is the catalyst which spurred learning to program. I realized after my first “Hello World,” that I had been analyzing, programming, and debugging this whole time. I just needed to re-apply my energy to these special languages which “magically” makes the computers do what you want. I have always been interested in programming; I just could never really visualize myself in that role. It was tough to become aware that I had internalized all the stereotypical preconceived ideas about how someone in that role should look.

Once I had this awakening, I couldn’t take classes fast enough. After completing several online courses, I enrolled and completed an immersive in-person boot camp. Now, I am actively looking for a career in tech. The thing I  love the most about our industry is that no matter how new or seasoned you are; the tech industry is the great equalizer and you have to learn something new all the time. 

What advice would you give to a woman pursuing a career in tech? What do you wish you had known? I wish I had known the creative aspect of programming. I wish I hadn’t listened to my high school counselor who discouraged me from taking Computer Science classes and suggested the Home Economy class instead. I wish I hadn’t internalized the static. I can not say this for how I was then, but there is always “now” and “I’m not done yet.”

We asked Chloe to comment on how she hopes to see the role of women in technology changing. I’d like to see more women in charge. I recall a case study for my business degree which included marketing research indicating that women control approximately 80% of overall spending dollars in America. I thought, “that’s a whole lot of economic power!” Who better to understand how to get access to that influence than a woman? The question is; “how do we make this happen?” I feel strongly that successful breakout female entrepreneurship is the key. When women embrace themselves for all that they are and feel free to be authentically unique in their ideas, they unleash something extraordinary. This can only benefit our whole society.

We need women represented in all roles; angel investors, bankers, development, management, entrepreneurs, and all the rest. Along with this, there needs to be a drastic shift in the norms of society. Right now, typical models center around men being in charge and women supporting the men. You can observe this typical pattern within most human cultures and societies. I feel that this power struggle focuses on the idea that there just isn’t enough for everybody. I wish there was a clear way to show that this just isn’t true. I think this is why I love Science Fiction and Virtual Reality so much. Both of these things, meshed together and executed well, has the potential to help us to start to reimagine our cultural norms and plant the seed for what we could achieve if we ever decide to come together.

Historically, most perceptions do not change until companies start to see examples of how their current views and systems are failing to contribute to their return on investment. If they can see statistical proof of another company dipping into a desirable market and gaining on market share they will then be quick to change. For most companies, waiting until they have enough statistical data to prove the market will result in reduced recovery agility. This will not be good for anyone. More than ever, Portland needs a thriving tech economy. I feel confident that our community will continue to inch towards a more equal and profitable platform. We just might need a little innovation and “targeted” encouragement.