When Lori Boyer graduated from Indiana University with a degree in marketing and sociology, she wasn’t sure what future lay ahead. Her decision on her college major had been largely influenced by the expectations of teachers and friends from her small home town about what was “expected” for girls to study. “Even just going to IU was a big enough risk,” Boyer said. “I did not have the confidence to break the mold and speak up, to say ‘Get out of my way! I’m a woman! Hear me roar!’ I don’t have regrets, but I wish I had joined computer clubs and found my nerds back in college.”
Instead, after graduation Boyer got a job at a software company in the human resources department. She soon got tired of being asked the same questions over and over. “I decided we needed an online FAQ, which at the time was a substantial undertaking,” she said. “Back in the days of dialup, you couldn’t just watch an online tutorial, or upload a file to a web host and call it done.” Boyer turned to the thick coding books in her office and began a journey of self-education that would define her career. “After I completed that project, I saw a position had opened up at our company for a junior web developer. I applied, and when I got it, I couldn’t believe it.” From there, lacking mentors, it was back to the books. After a few years learning the basics, Boyer began a journey of job-hopping, spending 1-2 years at each organization before she found her upward mobility was too limited for her liking.
“It seemed like the only way to get raises or to further my career was to accept a new position. Otherwise, it wasn’t happening at the same pace as my contributions to the team.”
That all changed when Boyer was hired by Barnes & Thornburg, where she continues to work happily after over a decade. “A lot of people think I must have some legal background, but my role here is centered on automation and integration. The software I write makes it so that others have an easier job because I’ve automated the way they can complete an assignment. For instance, one software I wrote took a 2-3-week manual process down to a few hours.” The project was a finalist for a MIRA Award. “Anytime I can take a procedure that is completed on paper and make it digital, that helps us grow, streamlines processes, and frees up trained minds like lawyers and paralegals to get back to practicing law,” Boyer said.
Though she started work at Barnes & Thornburg in 2006, Boyer didn’t learn about Women & Hi Tech until 2014, when a project she completed at the firm made her a finalist for a Leading Light Award in the Outstanding Achievement in STEM category. “I have always felt very secluded as a woman in tech, especially a self-taught one. As soon as I heard, I thought ‘Wow, that’s cool. I’m not actually alone.’ I started volunteering right away and joined the board in 2015 as Communications Chair, just as we were making major changes to the website and infrastructure.” Now in her second term on the board, Lori manages the organization’s social media and email marketing, website, and event registrations. “We had Facebook, Twitter, and a blog before I joined the board, but I am proud of the degree that I have helped elevate them and make them consistent,” she said.
“I also really enjoy getting out in the Indy tech scene to speak at events and encourage women to pursue STEM Careers,” Boyer added. “That’s something that even 3.5 years ago when I started on the board I was terrified of. I was so scared they would ask a question and I wouldn’t know the answer. I had big impostor syndrome. Thanks to Women & Hi Tech, I have grown beyond that.” In 2018, Lori was named a TechPoint #Tech25 Winner. “Basically, this is an award for the techies hanging out behind the scenes that aren’t in the C-suite.” she described. “The other 24 are also all people like me who have been around, but aren’t executives or CEO's, yet do so much that they are important to an organization.”
Continuing her self-education, Lori also applied for a #GrowWithGoogle scholarship and was accepted to complete a certification in Android development. “Is it something I use every day? No. But it’s now a skill I have that’s totally different from the code I write in my day job. Learning different coding languages makes me happy. I like a good challenge!” Opportunities like this are one of the reasons Boyer is so delighted that Women & Hi Tech has started to offer professional development grants as of 2018. “If you’re a grown person and already in a job, how are you supposed to progress your career? Sure, take classes in your own time…but the funding isn’t always there. I like that we support nontraditional paths, because across the Indianapolis STEM community, other organizations do too.”
Lori predicts that it’s through shared goals with other local organizations that Women & Hi Tech will be able to do more and more within the next twenty years. “It’s great to see all these different groups starting to come to a place where we all work together and know each other’s value,” she said. “That works well for us to connect our members with opportunities. What’s coming next for us is more. More outreach. More members. More partners. More growth. And more success in accelerating STEM innovation by encouraging talent to pursue passion.”