This post originally appeared on the Turner blog.
Today we bring you the third edition of LiTTeral, Turner’s monthly interview series with the Ladies in Tech at Turner, aka LiTT. In case you missed earlier installments, LiTT is a group of Turner technologists who gather for community and professional development. Their mission is to increase retention and recruitment of women in tech through compelling and authentic programming.
This month features Shavonn Brown interviewing Alana Gordy—or as friends call her, "Big Al." Alana discusses the evolution of her unplanned tech career, and how she ended up specializing in Android OS, Samsung hardware and virtual reality.
Shavonn: I was saying your name wrong.
Alana: Everybody does. One of my nicknames is Al and then it was Big Al and then it became Al Capone because I love mafia movies.
I like Big Al.
I'm five foot three so it’s a joke because I’m clearly not Big Al.
Okay so, Big Al, how did you get into tech?
Well, it was never planned. I come from an extensive management background. I have been “managing” something since I was 19, everything from bars, live music venues to corporate America. I ran a multimillion-dollar store which required me to be there all the time. I was never able to have family time on the weekend. I don't know if you ever worked in retail, but that's the way it is.
Yes. No holidays either. I always worked holidays.
I missed the most important family moments because of work. So, a friend of mine was working at this IT solution company, and she told me they were hiring for business development. Since I had been running businesses and selling my whole life, she got me an interview and I got hired that day. I took a big pay cut, but I knew it was something that I would love and it would give me what I needed for my family.
I went in and killed it. I learned a lot about IT in a very small amount of time. And since I knew how to do payroll and HR from previous management jobs, I took over that as well. I ended up being an account manager, business development, an operations manager and a recruiter. Within eight months, I got recruited for a digital media marketing agency in Atlanta as their operations manager and they gave me a huge pay increase. I managed millions of dollars. One of the project managers and I created their very first Agile [software] training for project managers. Project management wasn't my job, but I did it because I just wanted to know, and I was learning. If project managers were out, I would fill in.
In my next job, I started to get into mobile apps, and now that I’m at Turner, I’m way more technical than I ever was before. Here I specialize in Android, Samsung and virtual reality.
So, you've done a lot of stepping into roles when someone left and picking up new things. Have you picked up any code?
Oh yeah, I can read code, I just can't code. In fact, when the guys tell me there's an issue I prefer them to just show me what it looks like in code on their computer because I actually understand it a lot better. I know that sounds crazy, it's just the best way I learn. If you show me how it works, I'll never forget it.
Do you want to learn to code?
I want to learn to code. I don't have a lot of time now because I do this, and I'm also co-chair for TechBridge, and I'm on the nominations committee for Women of the Year for Women in Technology. I also do a lot of stuff outside of this job, which alone is more than two handfuls. Plus I have a four-year-old who is my life. I have a lot to do, but I'll get there slowly.
Do you have any hobbies?
My hobbies are what I pretty much told you earlier because there's not much more time in a day. I like to help people as much as I can through any type of nonprofit, especially nonprofits that focus on helping people in poverty and women in tech. Mostly I stay focused on LiTT, of course, anything I can do here, and then the BLES I.T. Girls stuff and TechBridge. TechBridge is my heart because it’s focused on helping people in poverty. W.I.T. has a very special place in my heart as well, because I care very much that women feel they belong in a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] career. That's one of the most important things for me, especially with Avi because I want her to know that those careers are not—at all—made just for men.
And I definitely don't want Avi to ever feel like she's less because she's female. I want her to feel more. I want to show her that, "You watched your mommy do all this while going through a lot of challenging personal things at the same time and you saw me get through it. If I can do it, you can do it."
My product owner here, Ed, bought Avi her first technology book. It's called Rosie Revere, Engineer. There's a whole set of books that are focused on getting involved in STEM at that early age and keeping them in it. I do everything I can. I'm always trying to show her a lot of the things I do. I lead by way of example— I had two really strong women who taught me work ethic and that I could do anything. As my grandma would say, “can’t never could cause she didn’t want to” every time I was on the verge of giving up on something. It still rings daily in my mind and keeps me motivated.