47. Maggie Oates (she/her) – Researcher, PhD Student in Societal Computing @ CMU

Posted on
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Figure out what kind of technologist you want to be, not the kind that others think you should be.”

Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.

The only typical part of my day is that I’m usually running to the bus stop with wet hair. My corner of human-focused research is usually 60% logistics and planning, 10% reading, and 30% ‘doing’ the research (code, interviews, data analysis).

How do you stay passionate in your career?

Honestly, it’s hard. If I find my passion wavering, it’s time to do a self-study to see if I or my values have changed, and whether it’s time to move on.

Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?

Documentation is the best technical tool! Also, probably the Linux kernel.

It’s common knowledge that women and femmes often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?

I have faced PTSD after sexual violence. While that violence did not happen in the tech industry, the healing process was really hindered by the tech environments I spent a lot of time in. For example, I remember one day standing outside the door to my Algorithms class, too terrified to walk into that enclosed space surrounded by men. It made no sense, but trauma has never listened to reason.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the #womenintech community?

I love that women and people of color in tech are often the first to be asking hard questions about ethics and technology.

What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?

Figure out what kind of technologist you want to be, not the kind that others think you should be.

Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year. 

I feel really proud to have defined my moral boundaries at work. Three years ago I decided I will not work with or for defense agencies or contractors & have been successful in defending that boundary and finding people who support that decision. A few weeks ago I realized my largest contribution to climate change is air travel, so I decided to my air travel down to one trip per year. Several people have warned me that the decision will affect my career, but I’d rather feel at peace than be promoted. (To be clear, these are personal decisions, not ones I’d pressure anyone else to take.)


• Find me yelling on Twitter https://twitter.com/oatesmeal
• The lecture series I co-organize on Ethics for Technologists
Project Amelia: a theater project I’ve been working on about technology & data

Interested in advertising here by sponsoring us?

💌Wanna stay in touch? (We’ll only bug you monthly with useful resources, exciting updates, jobs, and events!)💌