When Tiffany Trusty was invited by a friend to attend the Leading Light Awards in 2010, she accepted with some reluctance. As someone with a desire to be recognized for her talent first and foremost, she had been resisting women’s networks her whole career. As the second female graduate of Rose-Hulman, Trusty was used to being the only woman in the room, and didn’t really mind it. “I transferred in because they didn’t even go coed until two years into my college career,” she recalled. “I was the only girl in every class. I guess that was when I first felt the responsibility to stand up and say, ‘I am a woman in tech—hello!’”
Surrounded by female peers at the Leading Light Awards, Trusty said she had never felt more comfortable.
“I suddenly realized that this was something I hadn’t known I needed all along.”
Trusty sought out every board member she could find in the room and asked each how she could get involved. Her passion for mentorship came out in most of those conversations, and Trusty was invited to present at the next board meeting about mentorship opportunities. “They politely said no to my ideas….and they also asked me to join the board.”
Though the organization had always been called Women & Hi Tech, they badly needed a website, had two online followers, and were still using pen, paper and hand written checks to check in guests at events. As a seasoned web developer, Trusty joined the board in the role of Communication Chair and took on the task of growing web presence with a site, social media, and an email list. “Once that was under control, we still had to tackle the burden of spreadsheet hell,” she recalls. With the help and insight of Lori Boyer & Elyse Swoverland, Trusty helped Women & Hi Tech deploy new technology that would integrate the website with membership records, event registrations, and reminders for renewal. “I couldn’t believe I was at the table with these brilliant inspiring women,” Trusty remembers of her time on the board. After Boyer came on as Communications Chair, Trusty transitioned to the role of Technology Chair and the duo continued to help Women & Hi Tech accelerate growth through strategic use of software and web presence.
Tiffany also took over linkage duties and continued Women & Hi Tech’s commitment to the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award. “In addition to judging the awards and earmarking funds to give a small honorarium to each winner, we also get the invaluable opportunity to sit at a table with these girls and simply encourage them to keep aspiring,” Trusty said.
When her employer of sixteen years, Motorola, severely downsized in 2011, Trusty felt the strength of her network through Women & Hi Tech even more. “I felt so much karma given to me during that time,” she said. “I could have had a knee-jerk reaction and taken another corporate job. Instead, I decided to freelance and really get to know the tech landscape in Indy. Because of my connection with Women & Hi Tech, I never hurt for clients.”
After five years freelancing, Tiffany knew she loved mobile apps. “By then Scott Jones had started Eleven Fifty, and that sparked my passion—the idea of junior engineers that will grow here over time to make our beloved tech community a strong one.” It was teaching at the Eleven Fifty Academy that Tiffany also discovered new skills. “Before then I wanted to get deep in the code and make a beautiful product. But I was never so rewarded by a product as I was when I saw an apprentice get their first job. It was then I realized I had a passion for growing talent.”
With an expanded skill set Tiffany returned to her freelance business in 2017—this time, also as a new mother. “Earlier when I had been freelancing, I would go networking every night. But as a new mom, instead of going to ten events, I decided to host my own and invite everyone I wanted to see.” Her monthly “IT / Nerd Happy Hour” continues to this day at Ale Emporium, though the very first meeting led Tiffany into another professional opportunity. “A Rose-Hulman alum showed up, and we got to talking about mobile apps at Lilly. A short time later, that led to me being recruited.” Today, Tiffany works for Eli Lilly as a manager of software execution leads, leading teams that are developing digital products to help diabetics live a better life. “I know I love enabling brilliant people to do the best work and luckily at Lilly I’m surrounded by brilliant people. I want to remove the blockers and encourage and enable them to fly.”
This inspiration also extends to her work in the STEM community, where Trusty hopes to remove blockers for young professionals. Tiffany is currently at work with Vincennes University to raise the profile of an innovative new on-campus living and learning community specifically for women in STEM. She also regularly speaks at conferences and is a member of the National Center for Women in IT Affinity Group Alliance and the Women in STEM Initiative. Rose-Hulman awarded Tiffany a Career Achievement Award in 2017, not for her innovations in development, but for her contributions as a leader to the STEM community. “At first I tried to tell them I didn’t know if I deserved the award, but after they said why, I understood that I did deserve it,” she said. “I have both taken it upon myself and taught every woman I mentor--go out and show up. Go to conferences, stand up and speak! Do this because when a woman walks in a room and sees another woman standing at the head, we feel a little more confident.“
On the other hand, Trusty’s biggest wish for Women & Hi Tech moving forward is an increased number of male allies, in membership and in leadership. “I love the support group and life raft we have created and the comfortable network. But there are so many men who want to help, who don’t know how, and who need to be welcomed,” she said. “We have a responsibility overall to encourage the next generation to keep going. Boys and girls. Together.”