Area Women Honor Their Mentors & Their Stem Superheroes

Written by: Bethlehem Gronneberg
Bethlehem Gronneberg Founder and CEO of uCodeGirl

March is an influential month to celebrate the historical achievements of women, their leadership, their courage and their strength. The World Economic Forum report tells us that gender parity is a long and winding road. And that we are all in this together because no country has successfully closed its gender gap. Even if female leaders are now steering multinational companies, and are head of states, we still live in a world that overlooks half of its available talent. We stand on the shoulders of pioneering STEM giants and we honor those women who helped spark our passion, saw our potential, empowered our dreams and cheered our successes. I reached out to a few area women professionals in STEM. I already know them as selfless mentors who gave their time and talent for the purpose of affecting the future at uCodeGirl. Here they are reflecting on their sources of inspiration and their STEM power. Read on…

Nicole (Larson) Haugen, Principal Software Engineer Manager, Microsoft

Nicole (Larson) Haugen

Honors Ms. Linda Olson, former tech instructor at Detroit Lakes High School, MN 

“I credit my entire career choice in software engineering to my former high school tech instructor, Ms. Linda Olson. She introduced me to web design which sparked my interest in computers and led me to studying Computer Science in college. Even more important, she showed me that women can be tech savvy. I never have had the chance to thank her for being an inspiration and role model – so I hope she reads this to know what a difference that she made in my life as well as other students that she had.” 

Becky Newell, President at Levridge, LLC

Becky Newell

Honors Billie Hayes

“Billie Hayes was my manager when I became a new mom. She understood perfectly the challenges of balancing a career in technology while being a new mom and she was instrumental in helping me through that part of my life. I’ll be forever grateful for her mentoring.”

Zahra A. Banks, Technology Analyst, Wells Fargo

Zahra A. Banks

Honors Bethlehem Gronneberg, Founder at uCodeGirl

“A woman that empowered/inspired me is Bethlehem Gronneberg, her determination to create opportunities for the less opportune will forever be a reminder for me to seek to do that for others.”

Amrutha Varshini Y K, Technical Project Coordinator at uCodeGirl

Amrutha Varshini Y K

Honors Dr. Simone Ludwig, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Computer Science at North Dakota State University (NDSU)

“Throughout my graduate studies and after, Dr. Simone Ludwig, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Computer Science at North Dakota State University (NDSU) has been an inspiration to me to work hard and try my best at school and in personal life. She has inspired me through her work, her mentorship, and her involvement with the student community around her.”

Linlie Huggans, SCHEELS Core Developer

Linlie Huggans

Honors Becky Torkelson, Scheels Information Systems ASL 

“Becky started as a cashier in Scheels and worked hard to earn her spot in management in Scheels Information Systems. Not only is she incredibly knowledgeable at her job, she’s also an active member in our women’s empowerment groups and always ready to lift up those around her.”

Karri Mitchell, Senior Engineering Manager, Microsoft

Karri Mitchell

Honors the fictional Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek 

“As a young girl, I was inspired by the fictional Captain Kathryn Janeway from the Star Trek: Voyager television series. She was the leader and a scientist: strong, courageous, intelligent, and yet still feminine and compassionate. I learned how to be a leader from her. Never forget that girls are learning from the stories and characters we share.” 

Kailee Gray, Web Developer

Kailee Gray

Honors Shannon Wiedman & Megan Otto 

“I would love to recognize so many women who have lifted me up and encouraged me throughout my life. My mother, grandmother, countless female teachers, and female coworkers who have paved the path before me. I especially like to recognize Shannon Wiedman & Megan Otto. After leaving graduate school I was lost trying to decide my next career steps. They provided great community, support, and education and I became self empowered and confident enough to pursue a career in tech. Before meeting them I felt like a fish out of water. Thank you to all the women who have worked so hard so that I can feel comfortable in tech now!” 

Birgit Pruess, Professor Microbiological Sciences, NDSU

Birgit Pruess

Honors Gwen Stickney, Associate Professor and Chair, Modern Languages, NDSU 

“I first met Gwen when we both started at NDSU on August 16, 2004. While Spanish and Microbiology are undeniably two very different fields, we found out quickly where the communalities in our work were. Gwen spent countless hours teaching me how to teach. She came from a family of successful college teachers, whereas I was a first class researcher without much experience or education to teach. In particular, the many problems students brought into their classroom were overwhelming at first. With her guidance, I turned into a person who genuinely loves students and has their best interest in her heart. She is very much on top of everything she does and there is no doubt in my mind that she is the driving force behind the education of Spanish and other modern languages at NDSU.” 

Bethlehem Gronneberg, Founder, uCodeGirl

Bethlehem Gronneberg

Honors Dr. Nancy Hafkin, Internet Hall of Fame Inductee, Pioneer Women in ICT Africa 

“Dr. Nancy Hafkin is my lifetime mentor. She gave me my second job out of college as a webmaster at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. She led by example and showed me how to confidently traverse and persevere in my uncharted world of tech and enabled me on a great path.” 

United Nations Women chooses the theme for International Women Day every year and writes, “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. #ChooseToChallenge” 

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