Sheryll Norwood: Women in Tech
Tell us about your family.
I have two daughters. My oldest is Brittney, and she was a miracle baby—she weighed only two pounds! Celeste is my second. I have two grandchildren (one of whom is the first boy born into the family in four generations!) Jaylen, 9, and Keonna 7. I was born in Vero Beach, Fla., and currently live in St. Petersburg, Fla.
What drew you to working in tech?
I wanted to be a college professor, a math professor. I was studying math, and I started taking some programming classes to fill out my schedule, and programming just seemed to flow for me. At the time, programming appealed to my creative and problem-solver nature. After graduation, I interviewed with IBM, thinking I would go back one day to become a college professor, but my career in programming really took off with them.
What, or who, do you feel helped you get to where you are today?
My sister and I are 14 months apart, so we are basically twins, and she has always given me unconditional love and support. When I started school, I started at Florida State University and partied too much and dropped out. My sister didn’t give up on me. She was working at IBM and invited me to live with her in NC, which was essential to my finishing school. She paid for everything so I was able to complete school—she gave me my second chance.
Who was the greatest female influence in your life?
Everybody has a teacher that influenced them. In fourth grade, I had that teacher—Mrs. Grant. She really encouraged me and put me on a path to be interested in and major in math. Despite many girls and women being discouraged from pursuing that path, she instilled in me the sense that I had the ability to succeed in mathematic disciplines. Because of her, I always have a desire to lead, to teach—so after working in IBM for quite a while, I became a technology teacher in 2000, which brought my love of technology and teaching together. I got my Cisco network associate certification (CCNA), which felt like such an accomplishment, and it allowed me to teach networking and PC support. Mrs. Grant would have been proud!
How would you like to see the world change for young women today?
I would like to see more women in technology. The growth of women in this field hasn’t kept pace with other changes in other industries. I keep waiting for IT to explode with women. I always try to encourage young women and girls to explore technology as a career.
What cause are you most passionate about?
As an educator, I was always striving to lead and facilitate students to be their best. The world tears us down sometimes, and I want to make sure people are empowered to reach their potential: it’s the cornerstone of what I believe. Everyone is gifted and should strive to reach their potential; sometimes we just need help getting there.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
After retirement, I see myself as either a retired adjunct teacher or opening a school or tutoring agency. Whatever it is, it will be something to empower students.
If you could change anything about the world, what would it be?
Bullying stifles people and changes the course of their lives. Some people can’t outgrow some of what has happened to them, so bullying can be permanently damaging. So I would get rid of bullying.
What are your 3 favorite ways to spend your time?
If I’m not working, I’m thinking about something I can do to solve a problem. If I’m not doing work, I am trying to create something. But if I am taking a rare moment to relax, I love spending time with my grandchildren, reading and listening to music: Motown in particular. I also love to go to plays and musicals.