I spy Alison Spiess kicking some serious a**
What do you do after a week of being surrounded by women in tech at Grace Hopper? Well if you’re Beth, the answer is travel 2 hours to seek out another one! Alison did a semester abroad at the University of New South Wales, which is where I met her – she actually hosted my first ever Friendsgiving. Austin is a beautiful city, and I’m so glad I had Alison to show me around – I only wish it had been a little less hot!
Tell us a little about you.
I lived in Iowa for the first 22 years of my life where I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. I moved to Austin 2 years ago to work at National Instruments and have stumbled upon an amazing team and a couple of cool managers. I love living in Austin. It’s such a funky town with tons of cool people, outdoor activities, music, and good food. I decided I want to stay in Austin for a good while longer so I’m in the process of buying my first house and enjoying doing all the fantasy interior decorating that goes along with it.
One of the first things I did after moving to Austin was buy a pair of rollerskates and join the Texas Rollergirls Recreational League. Austin is a huge city for roller derby, being the source of the modern revival in the early 2000s. I was drawn to it for being a kick-ass woman’s dominated sport where there is no shame in being who you are. Plus, beating up on other women (safely!) is such a thrill! Over the last 2 years, I’ve been working my way up into the Rec League’s most advanced level, Team Reckoning. Next year, I’m hoping to try out for Texas Rollergirls League proper, so be on the lookout for me!
Tell us about what you’re wearing.
Most of what I am wearing is second hand. The dress, the shoes, the vest, the purse, as well as all of the jeans I own. I found them all on different visits to Plato’s Closet. Thrift shopping is the easiest way to get exposed to a ton of different styles, especially things you wouldn’t normally pick up. It’s also super budget friendly, so I don’t feel bad buying something I’m not sure I’ll wear. The hat is from World Market where I stumbled upon it on my mission to get Tim Tams.
My coworkers joke that I own hundreds of shirts with cats on them. I’d like to use this opportunity to point out that I only own 3 cat shirts. I think I got this particular funky space cat shirt from the men’s department at Kohls. It pays off to browse different sections sometimes, you might just find something you like. The jeans are American Eagle, but I got them from Plato’s Closet along with the sandals.
My typical roller derby outfit is a baggy shirt (we LOVE this one), a pair of shorts, and a bright sports bra for a bit of pop. We practice in a warehouse so the hot summers can be brutal if you don’t have proper air flow and skin exposure. I caught this shirt during a sponsored SXSW party last year. I thought the sassy-ness matched my personality so even though it was far too large for me, I cut off the sleeves and repurposed it into a workout shirt. The shorts and sports bra are from Target’s activewear section. I bought my skates from the local roller derby shop, Medusa Skates, about four months ago. They are my babies.
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
I used to be a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. Well, I still am, I love to be comfortable. You won’t find me torturing myself with heels for long periods of time, anything too tight, or bulky jewelry. The simpler the better for me. My style initially started developing in college when I was figuring out who I am. I started gravitating toward to a lot of muted colors and dark neutrals in solids or stripes. I think of it as sort of a laid back, moody, classic style.
The Austin mentality has really started influencing the types of clothes I’ve been buying lately though. People here are really down to earth and stylish hippy is big. I’ve been picking things that are bright, flowy, lacey, floral patterned, and great for warm weather. It’s different than what I’m used to, but I’ve been enjoying branching out and trying something new.
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
I think it’s important to remember when you’re getting into STEM that you have to be ok with failing sometimes. It’ll be difficult. Despite that, you shouldn’t forget to praise your own small successes and don’t let the mistakes get to you. I always have a hard time admitting when I don’t know something, but it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to know everything and no one can fault you for that. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t let other people dictate what you should think of what you’re doing.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
My senior design project has to be it. My team created a home automation system that’s goal was to mesh different standards in an easy to setup and control platform. We covered the whole spectrum of programming from kernel and user-mode development, to web back-end, to web and mobile apps. I spent most of my time working on the web page which was something totally different than I had ever done. While I did learn a lot, I’m most proud of our team dynamic and how dedicated we all were to the project. I want to be that dedicated to every project I work on in the future.
What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?
Buying a house, kicking ass at roller derby, working at National Instruments and (not that she mentioned it) baking up a storm too! All that plus some great advice – reading this definitely has me inspired to kick my productivity up a notch, although I don’t think either of us’ll be brave enough for Roller Derby any time soon (not that Dona would let me anyway!).