In 2016, Bobbie LaFollette won a scholarship through Women & Hi Tech’s Leading Light Awards. This put her squarely on Women & Hi Tech’s radar just as the org was looking for its next Treasurer – one who could take the organization to the next level. As a CPA with a background in tech and finance, Bobbie was the perfect fit.
In her two years as the Treasurer on the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors, Bobbie has accomplished a lot. LaFollette originally started out in art and design but circuitously ended up in the world of STEM via accounting. At first, like most young people, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do. “I had an interest in STEM fields and had trouble deciding a major. My initial major was biology, but I also had an interest in art and design. Eventually, I changed college campuses and moved closer to home and totally changed programs. I got my associate's degree in Computer Graphics Technology from Purdue, then I started working at a bank, which is when I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, though, because I had an interest in finance and accounting and also in software development and design.”
For a while after getting her Associate’s Degree LaFollette worked as a CPA, but then decided that she wanted to get back to her tech roots. She started taking classes at Eleven Fifty Academy where she was introduced to Women & Hi Tech by Tiffany Trusty, “Tiffany was involved with the apprenticeship program at Eleven Fifty Academy. She got me involved with Women & Hi Tech. My career background prior to taking a coding boot camp was mostly banking or accounting related, but I'd diverged from that. I had some experience as a software developer and now I'm a business analyst at a software company.” Currently, LaFollette works at Baker Hill in Carmel developing banking software. She lends a unique perspective in her role at Baker Hill. “I am a business analyst, which is a bridge between development and stakeholders. Given my experience in both development and business, I can relate to both groups and liaise between them.”
LaFollette brought her impressive accounting skills with her to Women & Hi Tech, as well as her insights into software design and coding, to help make positive advancements to Women & Hi Tech’s financial infrastructure. “Since coming on board, I've made improvements in our software systems, and put together more advanced financial reporting packages. These changes have allowed the board to focus more on strategic planning and future growth.” Her contribution to the Board of Directors is a great example of the variety of ways math lovers help support and grow an organization.
As for the next generation of women in STEM, LaFollette believes talking to girls about careers in STEM at a young age can help them understand they aren’t necessarily bound to traditional gender roles, and can help combat real issues young women face, such as peer pressure and confidence. “ If you can reach them when they are younger and let them know of all the opportunities out there, they may realize they have more options than they think." She also believes in the importance of mentoring for female students and professionals in STEM, and that mentoring can be a great vehicle to spread the word about the growing need and opportunities for women in STEM fields. To pay it forward, Bobbie mentors and provides guidance to female students at Eleven Fifty Academy.
“Mentoring and one-on-one interactions help shed some light on how women fit into STEM fields.”
As a Women & Hi Tech scholarship recipient herself, LaFollette also sees scholarships as an important means to help women get into STEM fields. Helping women pay for college is very near and dear to her heart, especially when it comes to young women living in smaller towns who go to smaller schools. She knows the importance of scholarships and grants first-hand. “I came from a family that didn't have as much money, so I relied on grants and scholarships. For some young women, a scholarship can really make a difference. I’d like to see us reach more girls and young women in rural areas and at smaller schools that don’t have as many STEM-related resources as the larger schools.
She sees her role as Treasurer as a way of helping Women & Hi Tech offer more financial aid to those in need. “We have grown tremendously as an organization in the past few years. Having a CPA as the Treasurer helps us continue to grow and advance our ability to fund scholarships and programs for young girls and women in STEM."
LaFollette sees a bright future ahead for young women because of the efforts of Women & Hi Tech. “Because of organizations like Women & Hi Tech that have taken it as part of their mission to purposefully and strategically try and make more women and minorities aware that there are lots of different options with STEM careers, more girls and young women are looking at STEM careers . Years ago, most software development and engineering roles were predominantly filled by men. Because of our efforts and the efforts of organizations like ours, the number of women in STEM-related fields continues to grow.”