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Interviews with Women Breaking Barriers

At, we research and report on trends and degree programs in online education and provide career resources for prospective students who are exploring a wide range of educational opportunities. As part of that mission, we have created a section of features on careers for women in fields and disciplines that have historically been or may currently be dominated by men. For each of these features, we interview leading women who work in the field or discipline, ask them about their experiences, and give them the opportunity to provide personal insights and professional advice to other women who may be considering a career in that area. While portions of these interviews appear as part of the reporting for the features we publish, we also provide full Q&A transcripts of each interview for those who want to read more about what its like to work in data science, cybersecurity, environmental science, business, finance, and many other fields.

Teresa Alonso León, Oregon Representative

Rep. Alonso León is widely admired for her dedication to protecting working families and promoting inclusiveness within higher education. Her unique election campaigns were conducted in three languages (English, Spanish, and Russian) and her staff unionized with the Campaign Workers Guild—a first for Oregon political workers.

Grace Apuy, Senior Wealth Advisor and SVP at Kayne Anderson Rudnick

Grace Apuy serves as a senior wealth advisor and SVP at Kayne Anderson Rudnick, a boutique investment advisory firm with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. She’s an expert not only in comprehensive financial planning for individuals and institutions, but also in building lasting client relationships.

Jessica Ball, PhD – Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow, US Geological Survey

Dr. Jessica Ball offers her perspective on many of the challenges facing women in the geosciences, including inherent bias, work-life balance, media representations of female scientists, and underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.

Rebecca Barnes, PhD – Assistant Professor, Environmental Program, Colorado College

A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry, Dr. Rebecca Barnes is a professor and researcher at Colorado College, where she heads up a mentorship program for young women scientists, researches the impacts of climate change, and works to recruit women into the geosciences.

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz – Senior Level Designer at Certain Affinity

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz is a senior level designer at Certain Affinity. She worked formerly as a level designer with Irrational Games and Demiurge Studios, and she’s an expert in narrative design, level design, and scripting.

Regine Bonneau – Founder and CEO of RB Advisory LLC

If you have to go back to school, get a certification, do an internship, start at the bottom, that’s okay. Keep your eyes on the prize. Cybersecurity is a great industry to be in because it is fairly new and your skills are needed no matter what you see in job descriptions. Don’t stop knocking on the doors and asking for help.

Heather Bowerman, CEO and Founder of DotLab

Before creating DotLab, Heather Bowerman was a consultant in healthcare and technology for McKinsey & Company and later led business operations at Enlitic, a trailblazer in using artificial intelligence to help doctors better interpret radiologic images for diagnoses. She also served as a policy associate in the White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy during the Obama administration.

Amy Boyet – Chief Compliance Officer, Rainmaker Securities

Amy Boyet serves as the CCO at Rainmaker Securities, a FINRA-registered broker-dealer offering clients diversified investment opportunities in private securities. Ms. Boyet graciously agreed to a 30-minute interview in June 2017.

Meta S. Brown, Business Analytics Consultant at A4A Brown Inc., Management Consulting

“The first thing that I would want people to know is that a woman in analytics is as common a creature as a man in analytics. To understand that, you have to avoid getting too wrapped up in titles. There are reasons why one job is called a data analyst, and another is called a data scientist, and another is called a statistician, and so on.”

Lin Buencamino, Financial Rep at CUSO Financial Services & Redwood Credit Union

Lin Buencamino serves as a financial representative at CUSO Financial Services and Redwood Credit Union. She has a wealth of experience working with not-for-profit financial cooperatives, as well as more than a decade with large, for-profit institutions. Prior to joining CUSO, she worked as a private client banker with JPMorgan Chase for 14 year.

Suzann Cabling – CFO, Jackson Square Properties

Suzann Cabling is the Chief Financial Officer of Jackson Square Properties, a private real estate investment company based in San Francisco. She began her career in finance as an accountant, ultimately leaving to pursue her dream of working in real estate.

Kristina Carson – Prod. Mktg. Mgr. at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive

Kristina Carson is a product marketing manager at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive, where she promotes large games such as Disney Emoji Blitz, and is also the president of Good Cookie Games LLC.

Lisa Colosi-Peterson, PhD – Asst. Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, U. of Virginia

Dr. Lisa Colosi-Peterson discusses her work as an environmental engineer and a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UVA, and offers advice to women who may be considering a career in environmental engineering.

Kimberly Cooper – CEO and Cofounder of Spatialand

Kimberly Cooper is an expert in business development and leadership, and cofounded Prologue and Prologue Immersive, revolutionary companies which designed visual effects for Iron Man, Iron Man 2, X-Men, Tron, American Horror Story, and many other popular titles.

Heidi Fikstad, Co-founder and CEO of Moss Crossing

Heidi Fikstad co-founded and serves as CEO of Moss Crossing, a multi-award-winning dispensary in the Friendly Street neighborhood of Eugene, Oregon. She has over 20 years of experience as a designer and brings her creativity to the store’s advertising, brand identity, and unique retail space. She sits on the Oregon Cannabis Association Board of Directors.

Emily Fischer, PhD – Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

As the lead investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded research project exploring ways to bring more women undergraduates into the geosciences, Dr. Emily Fischer has studied various strategies for overcoming many of the challenges faced by women in environmental, atmospheric, and climate science.

Jane Frankland – Managing Director at Cyber Security Capital

I don’t really think you have to be a certain type of person to work in cybersecurity, but being tenacious, thick skinned, and be able to adapt to change helps. You have to learn how to play a political game if you want to rise within a corporation. You have to accept that often you’ll need to be more mobile and hop from one job to another in order to receive promotions and pay increases.

Rachel Rubin Franklin – Head of Social VR at Facebook

Before joining Facebook as head of social VR, Rachel Rubin Franklin served as an executive producer and general manager at Electronic Arts, where she led The Sims 4—one of the most successful PC games of all time. Prior to that, she was the cofounder and president of Moonstone Interactive, a lucrative website design and online marketing firm.

Kendra Freeman, Co-founder and Owner of Yum Clouds

Kendra Freeman co-founded YUM CLOUDS, an artisan cannabis product and community-building company with locations in Portland and Albuquerque. Before this, she co-founded Mendi, a hemp-derived CBD product wellness business, and Oso Verde Farms, an all-natural, sustainable cannabis farm. She sits on the Oregon Cannabis Association Board of Directors.

Sarah Gareau, DrPH, MCHES

Expert interview with Dr. Sarah Gareau, Senior Research Associate and Maternal & Child Health Policy Analyst at the University of South Carolina’s Institute of Families in Society.

Sara Gelser, Oregon Senator

Senator Gelser is a renowned activist in promoting the #MeToo movement and was a TIME “Person of the Year” for breaking the silence on sexual harassment in the capital. She is also widely admired for her work in tightening Oregon’s child abuse reporting and investigations (Karly’s Law), among other accomplishments.

Joyce Gerber, JD, Creator and Host of The Canna Mom Show Podcast

Joyce Gerber is the creator, host, and executive producer of The Canna Mom Show. This award-winning podcast has featured hundreds of female activists, entrepreneurs, and other important voices in the cannabis industry. After earning her JD at Northeastern University, she worked as an attorney in family and civil service law. She also has served as a public school advocate, project director, and skilled fabric artist.

Ahna Girshick, Senior Computational Research Scientist at AncestryDNA

Dr. Ahna Girshick’s research has been published in high-impact scientific journals, including Nature Neuroscience and SIGGRAPH. Her research has been cited in over a thousand times and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Science News, Rolling Stone, WIRED, and NPR, among others.

Dr. Claudia Gonzaga-Jauregui, Geneticist and Genomicist

“Women in sciences, we know there are a lot of challenges. It’s called the leaky pipeline, right, where a lot of women start in graduate school, and then when you go to advance in your career, very few people make it to full professors. But I heard someone say, it’s not a leaky pipeline. It’s like people are stabbing at it.”

Tricia Gray – Cofounder and CEO of Our Machinery

Tricia Gray is the CEO and cofounder of Our Machinery, an engine company which gives developers the tools they need to build games. With more than two decades of experience in the industry, she started as a video game tester at Sega when she was 17.

Meredith Hastings, PhD – Associate Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Brown University

Dr. Meredith Hastings is an atmospheric chemist, a biogeochemical research scientist, and an Associate Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University. Her work focuses on the global N cycle, the biogeochemical record in ice cores, and global connections between atmospheric chemistry and climate. In 2014, she received the Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award

Tracey Holloway, PhD – Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Tracy Holloway details the large and small challenges she and other women face in male-dominated STEM fields like atmospheric chemistry, climate science, and environmental engineering.

Elizabeth Howard – Vice President of Publishing at Aspyr Media

In 2002, Elizabeth Howard started working at Aspyr Media—an influential multi-platform publisher of AAA video games based in Austin, TX. The company is responsible for bringing Call of Duty, Civilization, and other internationally renowned games to the Mac.

Betsy Johnson, Oregon Senator

Senator Johnson has held numerous leadership positions during her time in the House and Senate. She is currently the co-chair of the Joint Committee On Ways and Means; its Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development; and the Joint Committee On Legislative Audits.

Anna Kaplan, Co-founder and CEO of SugarTop Buddery

Anna Kaplan is the CEO and co-founder of SugarTop Buddery, a company devoted to cultivating and processing cannabis, where she supports a vibrant artistic community with concerts and other events. Trained as an artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she earned her MFA in ceramics and painting. She serves as president of the non-profit Women Leaders in Cannabis and sits on the Oregon Cannabis Association Board of Directors.

Joowon Kim – Biodesign Digital Health Fellow at the TMC Innovation Institute

Joowon Kim is an expert in VR game art, animation, mobile and video game development, business planning, and community outreach. She serves as a lecturer at the University of Houston and is the co-founder of the LevelUp Camp, which teaches kids how to design their own VR/AR environments, as well as websites and mobile apps.

Mary Beth Kreissler – CFO & SVP of Finance, Startup Advisor

Mary Beth Kreissler has served as the Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance at various startups and high-growth companies in San Francisco and Washington DC.

Christine Le, Wealth Advisor at Kayne Anderson Rudnick

Christine Le brings more than a decade of experience in financial services to her work at Kayne Anderson Rudnick. She’s a dual-certified professional, who holds both the CFP and CTFA designations.

Christine Lee – VP and GM of Global Business Development at Immersv

Christine Lee is an expert in mobile entertainment and monetization, as well as contract negotiations, multi-media sales, and managing relationships. Prior to joining Immersv, she served as the general manager of Chartboost; a media solutions lead in gaming at Google; and an account executive at Microsoft.

Cornelia Lévy-Bencheton, Principal of CLB Strategic Consulting, LLC

“In our culture, analytics and the STEM disciplines are often seen as unfeminine and the purview of males, the proverbial boys’ club where only the boys can thrive. This makes many women turn away before they even start or have a chance to explore. We need to promote STEM career choices to women from a benefits perspective. Making the industry as a whole more attractive to women is partly a marketing and branding challenge, the goal of which should be to help women go down the path of working in a field they love.”

Leisel Madureira – Animator at Gunfire Games

Prior to joining Gunfire Games, Ms. Madureira served as an animator with KingsIsle Entertainment and and associate animator for Vigil Games, where she worked on Darksiders and Darksiders II. Among her past and present coworkers, she’s renowned for her creative ability to convey subtle actions and nuances in characters, as well as her endurance during crunch weeks before game launches.

Erika Marin-Spiotta, PhD – Associate Professor, Dept. of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As the principal investigator on an NSF ADVANCE Partnership grant to address sexual harassment and gender bias in the geosciences, Dr. Erika Marin-Spiotta offers her perspective on the barriers that discourage women from pursuing careers in STEM fields and how these barriers are being addressed and overcome.

Laura Miele, Chief Operating Officer at Electronic Arts (EA)

Prior to becoming the Chief Operating Officer, Laura Miele was Chief Studios Officer and held several other high leadership positions where she honed her expertise in analytics, business strategy, marketing, and publishing. In her current role, she leads several teams in spearheading EA’s commercial digital transformation and developing superlative gaming experiences.

Jen Miller-Osborn – Threat Intelligence Analyst, Palo Alto Networks

Women are underrepresented in cybersecurity. There’s no denying that. But as the need for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow it simply isn’t feasible to ignore qualified candidates based on gender.

Laurie Monnes Anderson, Oregon Senator

Senator Monnes Anderson works with countless community associations to advance local legislation and causes, including the Gresham Historical Society, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Women’s Auxiliary, and the Gresham and West Columbia Gorge Chambers of Commerce.

Marguerite Moyet – SVP & Senior Banker, KeyBank

Marguerite Moyet worked her way up from being a teller in 1992, serving later as an accountant, an analyst, and a credit underwriter. Based in the Seattle area, she’s also a Relationship Manager with KeyBank’s Income Property Group.

Subasri Narasimhan, PhD, MPH

Expert interview with Dr. Subasri Narasimhan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Research Assistant Professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Center for Reproductive Health Research in the Southeast (RISE).

Nancy Nathanson, Oregon Representative

Rep. Nathanson currently works with countless nonprofits to keep her finger to the pulse of civic priorities. She is celebrated for her role in shaping OregonSaves, a statewide retirement savings program, as well as her work to secure sensible gun legislation, affordable housing, and consumer protections.

Melanie Harrison Okoro, PhD – Water Quality Specialist, NOAA in the NMFS

Community building, networking, and mentoring are all a part of the way forward for women and minorities in the Earth and environmental sciences, as Dr. Melanie Harrison Okoro has learned through her work with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Earth Science Women’s Network, and the American Geophysical Union.

Robin Patin, Financial Advisor at Edward Jones

Robin Patin, a multi-talented financial advisor, is passionate about helping three groups in particular to build wealth: retirees, women, and people undergoing major life transitions.

Emily Paxhia – Managing Director, Poseidon Asset Management

Emily Paxhia is an experienced investor, market researcher, and strategist. She worked as a brand consultant for numerous influential companies, including Comedy Central, American Express, Pepsi Co., Time Warner, HBO, and McKinsey, among many others.

Dr. Claudia Perlich, Chief Scientist at Dstillery

Intuition can be very valuable when you are trying to debug something. Let’s say you’re looking at a particular campaign and it is not working. You need to consider out of the 100 different variables that went into it, which is most likely to cause the problem that you are seeing. That requires a deep understand of the full data pipeline, from the early data collection process, up through the execution and the decision logic.

Melissa Preston – Art Director at ArtCraft Entertainment

Melissa Preston is the art director at ArtCraft Entertainment, where she manages large teams of artists who create characters and worlds for MMO video games such as Crowfall. She holds a fine arts degree in studio drawing and painting and is an expert in 3D modeling, texturing, and painting color theory.

Cynthia Rando – CEO of Sophic Synergistics

Cynthia Rando holds her BS and MS in human factors engineering and an MBA. As an expert in user experience and ergonomics, Ms. Rando worked for 12 years at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, serving as a human factors engineer, as well as an innovation and strategy coordinator.

Amanda Reed – General Partner, Palomar Ventures

Amanda Reed is a third generation entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley with extensive knowledge of early-stage investments and a keen eye for innovations in software. She graciously agreed to a 30-minute interview in June 2017.

Amanda Reiman, PhD, Founder of Personal Plants

Dr. Amanda Reiman is a social ethnobotanist and founded Personal Plants, which educates people about the healthy use of psychoactive plants. She also serves as the chief knowledge officer of New Frontier Data, an analytics and technology company covering the cannabis industry globally.

Megan Smith, PhD

Expert interview with Dr. Megan Smith, Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health at Boise State University

Lisa Snyder, Feminist, Plant Medicine Advocate, and Co-founder of Tokeativity

Lisa Snyder is the co-founder and chief innovation officer of Tokeativity, an international cannabis community for women that has hosted hundreds of events since 2015. She is a board member for Sweet Jane Magazine and the Oregon Cannabis Association. Recently, she co-created and was an executive producer of Bridges, a web series on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is also a digital artist, strategist, consultant, writer, and business coach. Snyder has been recognized for her work in Rolling Stone, Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, and other major media outlets.

Marie Stoner, PhD, MPH

Expert interview with Marie Stoner. PhD, MPH, Investigator at the Women’s Global Health Imperative at RTI International.

Christie Terrill – Partner, Bishop Fox

Cybersecurty is a broad label that we’ve put on what is actually a collection of very different sub-specialties. I have met very few people who are an expert in all of the different specialties. Teamwork is a necessity, and having a diversity of perspectives is critical in this field.

Rachel Thomas, Founder of & Assistant Professor at the University of San Francisco

One of Dr. Rachel Thomas’s courses, “Practical Deep Learning for Coders,” has enrolled over 100,000 students and her writing has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese. As a researcher and assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, she helped develop the first open access deep learning certificate program in the world and has taught graduate-level numerical linear algebra.

Dr. Christina Vallianatos, Scientist and Educator

“My smoother sailing has been because the women around me have been able to break a lot more ground and make my path smoother. And that’s what I’m hoping to do in my own way for the people that come after me. I’ve benefited so much from all sorts of folks, trailblazing and supporting me, and I want to do the same for the next generation.”

Lisa White, PhD – Asst. Director for Education and Public Programs, UC Museum of Paleontology

Women are doing important and innovative work in the Earth and environmental sciences, says Dr. Lisa White, but more work needs to be done to foster inclusion and diversity in the field, and to promote women to more senior positions.

Christine Wiedinmyer, PhD – Assoc. Dir. for Science, Coop. Institute for Research in Enviro. Sciences, CU Boulder

Dr. Christine Wiedinmyer discusses some of the big and small challenges she and other women have overcome as researchers and academics in the field of atmospheric chemistry and climate science, including the importance role that strong guidance and mentoring can have on young women entering these fields.

Michelle S. Williams, PhD, MSPH

Expert interview with Michelle S. Williams, Assistant Professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University.

Ann Winblad – Founding Partner at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

Ann Winblad is the cofounder and managing director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, an eminent VC firm investing in early-stage software companies. After working as a systems programmer with the Federal Reserve Bank, Ms. Winblad co-founded Open Systems, Inc. in 1976.

Jackie Winters, Oregon Senator

Senator Winters has received prestigious honors throughout her career, including the Salem First Citizen Award, the United Way Outstanding Achievement Award, the NAACP President’s Award for Advancing the Cause of Civil Rights in Oregon, and an International Women’s Who’s Who recognition.

Cy Wise – Studio Director at Owlchemy Labs

Prior to joining Owlchemy, Cy Wise was an independent social media marketing consultant for technology and entertainment companies, including BattleCry Studios, where she served as the marketing coordinator. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, graduating summa cum laude and focusing her studies on gaming and internet communities.

Mellissa Withers, PhD, MHS

Expert interview with Dr. Mellissa Withers. Associate Professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

Fryda Wolff – Video Game Voice Actor

Fryda Wolff is an experienced, multilingual voice actor with countless appearances in trailers, commercials, TV shows, and video games. Most recently, she starred as Sara Ryder in BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda.