Alice Merchant

Tell us your story.

I can thank my parents and my love of photography for introducing me to the digital world. It’s fun to remember my summer camp computer bus with its Commodore 64’s and the Apple computer my parents brought home in the early 90’s. This early and FUN exposure to new technologies made it less intimidating to jump into the deep end during the big “film to digital” change that happened while I was learning to be a photographer at RIT.

RIT’s photo program is world-class, with incredible facilities, and the overall university has long-standing strengths in technology and engineering. This combination of creativity and technology provided an amazing mix of people and experience to learn from. On-campus jobs put me right in the center of the emerging digital photography industry (shout out to the Electronic Still Photography lab). Computer Science friends taught me many things including html. Computer Engineering Tech students showed me what their labs looked like and why their dorm rooms were filled with so many tools. Network Engineers explained how groundbreaking it was that our dorms had Ethernet connections at the time, and what it took to actually make that a reality.

I tried to learn as much as possible from everyone I met in addition to my formal photography course load. The richness of knowledge from these diverse peers and friends has been a gift that continues to pay inspiring dividends.

What do you most want other women and young girls to know about being a woman in our digital culture?

My advice is to persevere in your quest for knowledge. Allow yourself to be curious about anything that interests you, and then find someone who is excited to talk to you or share that very thing with you. This is much easier said than done. You may have to truly observe and listen to find out who is worth your time. You may have to weed out people who dismiss you, speak over you, or aren’t comfortable sharing knowledge. Do yourself a favor and make a steady and conscious effort to connect with the most diverse group of people possible. And lastly, it always helps to return the favor by actively sharing your own knowledge with others.

The Women in Tech campaign exists to help redefine what women in technology means in the 21st century. Started independently by a group of professional women who, after many impassioned discussions about women in tech knew we wanted to expand this definition beyond 'traditional' technology skills. To us, it includes most every current, emerging or evolving role within an organization. By featuring leaders and emerging leaders across industries who embody this we hope to collectively 'stand up', be proud of our place in the digital world and inspire young women or those new to the 'tech space' to get involved.