I had heard about Dr. Anderson from several friends, all telling me that I had to talk to her. I learned of her work in the tech field and her influence on so many other women who are in the field or looking to be in the field and I knew I couldn’t pass up a chance to meet her. Getting to talk with her was such a great experience and she is such a kind, powerful, and amazing woman. As the only woman in her department, she works to represent and recruit other women into the tech field.
Tell me about your background; what led you to where you are, and what your current work is.
I am currently an associate professor of information systems at BYU. I teach classes to our core and master students. I’m also researching NeuroIS, which is the combination of neuroscience and information systems, specifically looking at security issues. I earned a BS and MAcc from BYU, then worked for Accenture (the consulting firm) before going back to school at Carnegie Mellon University to earn a PhD. I’ve been teaching at BYU since 2001.
Did you always know that you wanted to teach and be a professor?
Um, no, I had initially thought I wanted to be an accounting major but then hated my accounting classes, it was the worst. So I took the career-counseling test and then told me I would make a great funeral director or respiratory therapist, those were my top two. So I stuck it out in the accounting program and one of the required classes at the time was accounting information systems and I really liked that class. I ended up working with a teacher who mentored me and encouraged me to go on and study Information Systems and get my PhD.
What made you want to go into tech, had you always liked computers since you were young?
It was actually preparing for this interview that I realized I really was kind of a nerd my whole life. My grandfather was into computers way back when and my family inherited it. I, for fun, took a community class to learn how to use it. Thinking about I realize how weird I was haha. This was in the mid-80’s and I was learning to program in basic.
Did you ever struggle with being a woman in a male dominated field?
So, in the consulting field I didn’t notice it very much and it wasn’t an issue. However, since I’ve been back here there are fewer women in tech in general. We have about 10% women in our major, which is about the national average but we are always trying to improve that. I’m the only woman in the department so they always want me to be on committees and mentor and I love to do that but it does take up a lot of time. I think in the past there have been attitude and pay problems, but my department has been great.
Where do you find inspiration in your life?
I have four daughters and I love teaching them. My husband is actually a stay at home parent and so he is with them during the day, but I like to get my time with them. I’m trying to instill in them a love of music, sports, and reading. I also took up harp lessons a few years ago and my kids like to makeup songs with that.
What is your favorite part about your current job?
Working with passionate students. I’ve got some awesome students.
What has been your biggest challenge in getting to where you are today?
Finding time for everything. This semester is probably my busiest ever so I’m just swimming to try and keep ahead.
What advice do you have for women in business and for women entrepreneurs?
I think mentoring really makes a difference. I think finding a good mentor is important, and when you have the chance, being a good mentor. I try to find opportunities where I can do that.
What do you think is one thing that women bring to the field of tech?
I think it is more of usability and design. There are different characteristics between women and men and there is more to be added when you have a diverse group. There are some people who have men creating apps for women, but let’s get women involved in that. It doesn’t make sense to have men creating things for women without a woman’s voice being part of the process.