Growing Up Tech

Tech correspondent and consultant for some of the most well-known media outlets and brands – including Austin-based Retail Me Not – Katie Linendoll helps the world keep pace with the ever-changing digital landscape.

Does she also have the answers to how we get more women interested in technology?

Katie monitors her workouts with a fitness band, swipes through her upcoming appointments with a Galaxy Gear watch, flips through email on her Galaxy Note and documents her experiences with the camera on her iPhone 5S. Catching a glimpse of her shuffle through an assortment of those actions while we prepped for this interview, I quickly realized one thing.

Katie Linendoll lives in the future.

Writer and contributor for the TODAY show, as well as regular correspondent for CNN & ESPN, Katie embodies the prototype of the new modern woman – ambitious, multi-talented, hard-working and unintimidated by technology. She’s more than unintimidated by tech, though; she physically embraces it, seeking a way for it to increase her capacity to do more.

 

SELECT START

Growing up, Katie remembers always being a little bit different. The childhood toys she recalls include the Gameboy printer, the Talkboy, and an AOL compact disc. “I’ve always been fascinated by technology,” Katie mentions, recounting how her mother recognized it early on and even went so far as to enroll her in a computer camp where she took classes in networking and electrical wiring.

Attaining a comfort and ease with technology, Katie got her break when she was just 19 – applying for and getting a hosting gig with the regional broadcast Sportszone on ESPN2 – in association with her studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“When you achieve success, I think you just get hungry for more.”
– KATIE LINENDOLL

Maintaining a curiosity in the things that went on behind the camera as much as in front of it, Katie worked her way into a role as an associate producer for ESPN (where she won an Emmy). “It was very hands on,” she explains, speaking about the opportunities she had working with professional tools in the editing room and learning how to integrate those tools into various aspects of a segment.

Years later, and now with an impressive list of speaking engagements on her resume, Katie is still as driven and focused as ever. “When you achieve success, I think you just get hungry for more… I work 16-17 hours a day, but each day is completely different and I love every minute of it.”

A child of the 80's, Katie didn't have many gender peers in her science and technology classes.

A child of the 80’s, Katie didn’t have many gender peers in her science and technology classes.

 

A NECESSARY SHIFT

A child of the 80’s, Katie didn’t have many gender peers in her science and technology classes. Rather than let this fact deter her, she chose to have it empower her as she sought to alter stereotypes for both females and nerds. Surprisingly, though, the age of the internet hasn’t had much of an impact on the gender gap for those pursuing careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Some studies even show that it has gotten worse, with the percentage of female computer science graduates dropping from 37% in 1985 to 18% in 2010 (National Center for Women & Information Technology).

Most experts agree that the future success of the sector hinges on this trend experiencing a shift. One study from MIT shows that groups with more women

“If you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women.”
– GENEVIEVE BELL

have a higher collective intelligence, while a study from Dow Jones details that successful startups employed more female executives than unsuccessful ones. Intel researcher Genevieve Bell

has even been famously quoted as saying “If you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women,” noting in her research that women (not men) are generally the early adopters and most frequent users of the tech that changes our social landscape.

Seeing Katie as an influential female voice in the realm of tech, I asked for her thoughts on what the future looks like and how we get more women to be a part of it.
 

DON’T TELL ME, SHOW ME

Katie explains that the near and future possibilities of virtual reality quite frankly freak her out – referencing an experience she had inside an Oculus Rift demo (a prototype virtual reality headset). Even with a camera team recording the experience, Katie was surprised at how quickly she found herself getting lost in a virtual world that she wasn’t sure she wanted to come back from right away. “We already become addicted to video games, and I can just see us becoming addicted to these new worlds we create.” Could more insight from women help curb those dangers or more quickly leverage their usage for alternative forms of therapy?

Later emphasizing how we need to do a better job of showcasing what a career in the sciences can impact, Katie says emphatically “don’t tell me, show me.” And fortunately, there do to seem to be more female leaders and role models in the tech sector than ever (such as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, and Ann Wojcicki, Co-Founder and CEO of 23andme).

Women have different sources of motivation, and [we] can showcase more ways a woman’s role in tech can nurture the future.”

But it’s not just the stories of successful business women that we need to broadcast, Katie stresses. There is an importance in sharing the humanitarian reasons as well – for example, describing technology efforts involved to battle a Lionfish epidemic in the Atlantic (a story she reported for CNN). “Women have different sources of motivation, and our education system and society can showcase more ways a women’s role in tech can nurture the future,” she says.

Asked what advice she’d give to young women seeking the same professional success she has enjoyed, Katie responds with “Be relentless until you get a ‘Yes.’ When I know I’m onto something I won’t quit until I get it.” On the flip side however, Katie also warns about getting over-committed. “You need to realize early on that saying ‘no’ is as important as saying ‘yes.’ You have to make sure everything you do is top-notch, and that sometimes requires letting go and trusting others. Successful delegation gives you more time to focus on the things you do best.”

The single most important advice she ever received, however, comes from her mother, who always told her to simply “do you” – mentioning the confidence those words instilled in her. With her Galaxy Gear watch buzzing a reminder that it’s time to head to a tech segment recording for CNN, Katie gathers up her Galaxy Note, iPhone 5S, and a slightly tattered clutch in the shape and image of a classic 8-bit Nintendo controller. Literally clinging to the first thing she remembers a passion for, it’s obvious Katie has always taken that advice to heart.

Perhaps our modern world is now ready for more women to do the same.


This article originally published in The Admire Issue of Citygram Austin Magazine [February 2014].
Download the FREE mobile issue designed specifically for your iPhone or iPad in the App Store today.


Photography: Chris Perez

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