NRECA Women in STEM: Yingwen Zhou

Yingwen Zhou, Sr Web Development Advisor, IT Web Communications, NRECA

Job Role: Sr Web Development Advisor

Department: IT Web Communications

Explain a little bit about your career at NRECA. What is the core function of your current role and how does it support the mission of the organization?

I started as a technical support/training staff of the IT department in 2002. I offered desktop application classes and one-on-one training for employees. Two years later, I applied for a position in IT Web Communications. Since then I’ve focused on client-side web development, web analytics and web development quality assurance. Our Web Communication team has developed, enhanced and maintained over 20 websites that serve our members! I am proud to be a part of this team.

How did you get here? Has your background always been in STEM fields, or was it something you discovered later in your education or career?

My background, in fact, was not in STEM fields, but in business education and business administration. I earned an MBA and a Master of Science in Business Education. When Windows, desktop applications and the Internet emerged in our daily lives and our work environment, I started to teach computer classes – everything from Windows 3.1, WordPerfect, Microsoft Office and CorelDRAW graphic design, to HTML, CSS, Java Script and Visual Basic programming language – for commercial training companies. I learned these various tech subjects from self education and other instructors.

How did you become interested in your area of expertise?

My initial pursuit of a tech career came from survival instinct. When the U.S. was recovering from the economic recession in the 90’s, I took a job teaching applications software because computer training instructors were in demand and the job market was slow. Fast-pace technology forced me to continuously learn and teach new software classes, which I found very exciting, rewarding and addictive.  After I taught many web development classes –I liked non-static WWW – I realized I enjoyed the creativity, adaptability and the ever-evolving nature of web development. While teaching tech classes initiated my interest in web development, it is my career at NRECA that provided me with valuable, hands-on experience and real-world problem solving skills.

The first website I developed was for Homestead Funds (an investment fund founded to provide employees of NRECA-member cooperatives with professional money management) in 2006.

Over the last 17 years at NRECA, my expertise has expanded around web development with a focus on a variety of aspects depending on the different projects I am assigned to, our team goals and available resources. Every phase of my career at NRECA has been challenging and interesting!

What is your favorite thing about your job and NRECA?

NRECA encourages employees to explore career development opportunities and provides financial support for continuing education, technology training and professional certifications. I have taken many technical training classes and received a couple of certifications, so that I can do what I do best and continue to improve.

What inspires you?

I always look for more efficient, higher quality ways to complete a task and I feel rewarded when I am successful in doing so. Working with a group of talented and energetic professionals motivates me to keep up with new technologies, upgrade my technical skills and be competitive.

What does it mean to you to be working in your current field?

My career in the tech field keeps my mind sharp and active. Fast-growing technology not only shaped me to be responsive, versatile and unafraid of constant change, but also pushed me to keep learning and finding my niche in a variety of web development roles. Working at NRECA is the most memorable professional career of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

If you had a piece of advice for someone who wanted to explore a role in Tech or another STEM field, what would it be?

While STEM education is for the future, STEM workforce is here today, which is all about moving forward, non-stop learning, hands-on experience, problem solving and pushing innovation to the next level. If you have interest in tech or another STEM field, go for it with passion. Don’t let anything scare you or stop you, because there IS a place for you in the STEM workforce!

Read more NRECA Women in STEM profiles