Vargas gives back through Latinas in Technology campaign

Janeth Vargas is one of five women featured in the nationwide Latinas in Technology campaign.

As a high school student interested in computing in Logansport, Indiana, Janeth Vargas wished for a role model who could help answer questions and set an example for her. As a senior at Purdue who has completed three computer networking internships and a part-time job as a security analyst, she is becoming the role model she wished for.

A computer and information technology major, Vargas is one of five women chosen to be featured in a nationwide campaign to support Latinas in technology called TECHNOLOchicas. An initiative of NCWIT, the media campaign and support program is aimed at engaging Latinas and their families in discussions about careers in technology.

"When I was younger, I didn’t have someone who had studied technology to look up to," Vargas said. "Now, I’m really happy and excited to be able to give back and to make younger people understand that technology is a cool area to go into. They should really think about it."

Vargas was first connected to NCWIT through the organization’s Aspirations in Computing scholarship program. The connections she made with the award helped her land an internship with Royal Bank of Canada in New York City, where she worked as part of the company’s information security team.

"NCWIT helped me get my first internship and, really, helped me start my career," Vargas said. So when she found out about the Latinas in Technology program, she knew she had to apply so that she could give back to the organization.

As one of the five faces of the program, Vargas will have the opportunity to meet even more leaders in the technology field and share her excitement about information technology with younger students. Her first event will be one hosted by Apple in Cupertino, California. The five women will make a public appearance there and visit area schools to share their experiences with children.

She’ll be able to share information about her interest in computer networks and cyber security. Her second two internships, for example, focused on network engineering for Royal Bank of Canada and Chevron. She learned about monitoring network security, connecting and configuring network devices, and updating aging data centers. The experiences also showed Vargas that information technology jobs are important in any industry.

"With a background in computers, you can go into any industry – financial, healthcare, oil, or business. You can use your computing knowledge to help any industry you want and make a difference," Vargas said.

In addition to her internships, she worked as an anti-fraud analyst for RSA Security for two years. She and her co-workers were responsible for detecting phishing websites attached to financial institutions and figuring out who to contact to help shut them down. The work experiences were a good complement to the courses in her major, Vargas said.

"The classes have a lot of hands-on projects. We work with all the same devices that are in the workforce now. It was a real benefit to do that all the time for class, because I already had a good understanding of the systems when I did my internships," she said. "My favorite class, CNIT 34500 (Internetwork Design And Implementation) with Ray Hansen, was where I learned about different network protocols. Everything he teaches is exactly the type of stuff I did in my networking internships."

Vargas says working with technology allows her to be creative. She finds new technologies – both using them and making them – to be exciting. That excitement will help her share the message about a bright future for Latinas in Technology for years to come.

Watch Vargas's TECHNOLOchicas video: