Written by volunteer writer Alison Perch
For Mercedes Petrellis, technology is essential in organizing and improving processes. As a program & project manager at an IT consulting and software development company, Mercedes oversees large-scale IT projects, using both agile and traditional approaches.
Technology — including WordPress, infographics, digital presentations, Salesforce, and social media — is a key component of Mercedes’ day-to-day work. She also supports projects related to IT infrastructure, Software as a Service, and cloud technologies.
Though Mercedes now loves working with technology, she didn’t specifically seek out a career in tech. Mercedes’ parents encouraged her to pursue a career — whatever she put her mind to — and says she “fell” into an IT job because of her interest in improving processes and workflows.
“I didn’t choose a tech job; I got lucky and it found me. Early in my career, I had bosses and coworkers supporting me, both men and women, but I was not aware of a technical career path,” Mercedes says.
Mercedes wants to make sure young people realize the full range of technical career options available to them. As a woman in tech, she also wants to help close the gender gap in STEM and help girls gain confidence.
“It can feel a bit lonely at times if you are the only women or one of few women in the room. It can make it harder to gain advancements through networking and finding mentors. I can see how young women starting out in their careers might not go into STEM if they lack role models that they can relate to,” Mercedes says.
Today, Mercedes serves as a mentor and role model by volunteering with TechGirlz. She found out about TechGirlz through Network for Women with Careers in Technology (NWCT) in Philadelphia and signed up to volunteer soon after.
“I enjoy supporting a cause I believe in, while learning something new every time. I’ve also met some amazing people at TechGirlz who are [giving] of their time to others and inspire me,” Mercedes says.
Mercedes has volunteered as both an instructor and teaching assistant, and she’s written a blog post about the benefits of volunteering with TechGirlz. She especially enjoys helping out at TechShopz because she can directly interact with girls and fellow volunteers. However, she notes that there are many other ways to get involved, including reviewing workshop plans and assisting with marketing efforts.
“Every interaction with TechGirlz staff is extremely professional and organized. I feel well prepared each time I volunteer for a workshop … There is a real excitement to support the girls in their discoveries and share our love of technology,” Mercedes explains.
Mercedes loves learning new things by volunteering with TechGirlz and wants to continue building her tech skills. Right now, she’s fascinated by Blockchain and artificial intelligence, especially in the project management world. Mercedes encourages her eleven-year-old son to explore STEM topics as well.
For anyone unsure about volunteering with TechGirlz, Mercedes says: “Go for it! The organization is well run, and you make an impact each time you help.”
Help girls become confident technology users! Sign up to volunteer today.