Kat Slump is a junior studying IT innovation at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), a software engineering intern at Flywheel, a social engagement strategist at Interface Web School and the president of UNO’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
She also recently received news that she will be heading to California this summer to intern at Apple Inc. as a software engineer.
This week SPN caught up with Kat at 13th Street Coffee in Omaha to talk about all things tech, innovation and how she manages to juggle it all.
SPN: When did you decide to get into IT?
KS: After a near-death experience when I was 15, my schedule for the following semester was all messed up, and I had to pick between a piano class or a computer programming course. I tried computer programming, and I ended up making this casino app. It was a visual basic slot machine, and I was so excited that I had made something and to show it to my friends. From there I kept going with AP courses in high school and later the IT Innovation Cup.
SPN: What motivated you to get involved with startups?
KS: I randomly applied for a position at Interface after my involvement with CEO Club, not knowing too much about it or what I was getting myself into (laughs). It was unique to be a tech student applying for a marketing job at Interface because I had the opportunity to market something that I believe in. From there, Shonna [Dorsey] became a huge mentor to me, and I went to tons of startup events and really tried to get involved.
SPN: What do you do with CEO Club?
KS: I actually found the startup community through UNO’s professor Dr. Eesley who encouraged me to get involved in the CEO Club. The following semester I decided to run for the Chief Marketing Officer of the organization and I got it.
It’s almost been like running a startup in itself because we’ve revamped a lot of things. We added a lot of technologies like Slack, MailChimp and Flock to add transparency and to help us with strategy within the organization. Our main mission this year is to bridge the gap between students and the local startup community.
Working for two startups, I’m able to see these opportunities first hand and connect students with local resources to help teach them about the branding, marketing and funding aspects that go into startups.
SPN: What piece of advice would you give someone who is working and going to school full time?
KS: Learning how to pull back and saying no to some things is very important. Also, if it’s not in my Google calendar it’s not happening. You have to prioritize, get organized and you have to give yourself a break sometimes. I get through it because I am doing something I love, so be passionate about what you do as well.
SPN: Why do you think it’s important for more women to get involved in the IT field and what do you think is the best way to make it happen?
KS: Diversity is so important to innovation. You need to have the different thought processes, lifestyles and viewpoints come together to create innovative projects.
It’s such an awesome time to be in the IT field, especially if you want to make an impact. I think there needs to be more women inspiring others by telling them about their experience and explaining the variety of opportunities there are out there.
SPN: What are you most excited about in the coming year?
KS: The internship at Apple has been a main goal for the last year and a half, so the fact that it’s happening is a dream come true.
Last summer I visited some friends who were interning there, and they let me go to lunch with them. I was sitting with that group, and I said, ‘I’m going to be here next year.’ Some of them didn’t know me so I don’t think they took me seriously (laughs). But I’m so excited.
SPN: Do you think you’ll stay in the Silicon Prairie?
KS: Yes, yes, yes! I’m totally coming back. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can right now, wherever that leads me. I want to come back and be a leader and inspiration to girls and women that are interested in the IT field.
This story was originally published on the AIM Careerlink blog.
Melanie Lucks is an intern for Silicon Prairie News and AIM Careerlink.