Ashley Nealy can be found with her laptop in tow, happy to solve your next creative or technology problem. Since she was a child watching Toy Story, Nealy has been fascinated with the tech world. As the Web Team Lead for a department of the United States Treasury, a member of Women in Technology, and a leader in Black Women in STEM, this go-getter is a force that demands attention. So, we caught up with Nealy to learn how she is taking over the world one tech task at a time.
What is your current role?
Web Team Lead for United States Department of the Treasury in the Office of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Mindly Maven, LLC
What startup/tech projects have you worked on?
Urban League of Greater Atlanta Young Professionals, Atlanta, Georgia; developer, website redesign with membership databases. A lot with my government job, but not sure if I can share.
What tech/tools are essential to you?
I always need a high powered laptop! I design and my workbook has about as much going on as I do. My Google Chrome never has less than 10 tabs open. I also love my Misfit fitness tracker, it helps motivate me to stay active in the midst of it all and it’s my favorite color – pink. Other than that, I’m constantly checking email. I use an iPhone which keeps me pretty organized. Photoshop is my best friend when it comes to design. I also can’t live without Google Maps. Atlanta traffic is the worst and you can never get time back so it’s my go-to app before I ever step foot out of the house.
How do you stay informed and on top of emerging trends?
I spend a lot of time online. There’s always interesting articles I discover that are exploring some new trend in tech. Believe it or not, Facebook has actually become of my first-hand news sources (reliable sources of course). I have a lot of friends who are interested in technology so many times I will see them post something that I then check out.
What are your best technical or creative skills?
I am always thinking of a way to solve something – most of the time that includes technology or creativity. I usually have to work with limited resources so creativity comes second nature. Web and graphic design fuse the best of both worlds for me. Technically, it’s coming up with a process or workflow. Creatively, it’s coming up with a fun flyer or website.
What’s next on your list to learn?
Everything! I’ve stepped away from HTML programming, for a while, so next would be Ruby on Rails.
Why the interest in technology roles?
Ever since I was a child. Toy Story came out and I had an interest in digital animation. I used to draw as a child so it was amazing to me how technology and computer graphics could make something look so real and three-dimensional. In high school, I stuck with computer science and learned how to program. My computer science teacher, who was a woman, encouraged me to stay in the field because there were not that many females in it. I did.
What tech or entrepreneurial organizations do you belong to, why is it important to be engaged in the community?
Women in Technology and now Black Women in STEM (ATL). Shirley Chisholm said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” I truly believe that. I’ve never been satisfied with someone not being able to have the same opportunities as me because of what they may look like. I’ve always been involved and it gives me so much satisfaction and gratitude that I just can’t get from anywhere else. Also when you make the choice not to be engaged in the community, you’re silently contributing to the issues of society just by the lack of your presence. You never know what a simple gesture can do to help change the world. You could inspire the next innovator of our time.
What advice do you have to women hoping to break into technology industries?
Go for and it and don’t be intimidated! It’s definitely not a lot of us, but we have a lot to bring to the table. Men and women can sometimes see things in two different ways, but there is never anything wrong with having too many perspectives. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll be respected in your industry no matter your gender. Women have proved over time that we’re just as capable and smart as men and no one should stop you from pursuing your goals even if it’s not the most popular field for us.