The Spring 2017 Grace Series drew to a close with its third speaker, Jill Blanchar, a Bank of America Information Security Executive as well as a committee member on the Global Steering Committee for Women in Technology and & Operations. This past April, Jill Blanchar finished the Spring 2017 run of the Grace Series with her talk titled, “Which Way From Here?”
The Grace Series talks deliver insight into the role of women in today’s technology fields by having female technologists provide technical presentations. The talks aim to provide inspiration and a sense of community for female graduate and undergraduate students studying computer science and software engineering at UT Dallas.
Before handing the floor over to Jill Blanchar, UT Dallas CS professors Drs. Gopal Gupta, Janell Straach, and Pushpa Kumar, began the evening by delivering their individual opening remarks. During Dr. Kumar’s opening remarks, she and two students spoke about their recent trip to the Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS) Conference they had attended in Tucson recently. She ended her portion of the introduction by showing a photo of the Fearless Girl Statue on Wall Street and highlighted how it inspires women of all ages to be fearless.
Following opening remarks, Jill Blanchar welcomed the students to her talk and thanked them for attending. During the course of her talk titled, “Which Way From Here?” Ms. Blanchar spoke openly about the trajectory of her career from government to academic research to the financial services industry; along with the many challenging roles she had along the way, all while making jokes throughout her talk.
Throughout her talk, she spoke honestly about the many advantages and disadvantages she experienced within her career path as a computer scientist and how having a degree in computing opens up the door to not only job positions but also new and interesting places to work. Throughout her career, Ms. Blanchar has worked at various different companies while building an impressive resume. Currently, Ms. Blanchar is the Bank of America information security executive responsible for the controls, risks, and policies for global identity and access management organization. She has been with Bank of America since 1999 and has held various positions such as manager of the Internet and business-facing perimeter environments, lead for the technology strategy an execution for several acquisitions and divestitures, and technology operational risk executive. During her career she has held positions at National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the Illinois Scientific Research Surveys within the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the City of Champaign. Over time, some would refer to her as the “Jill of All Trades.”
She advised the students that even after all these years and different careers, she is still trying to figure out her end goal as well. “I know many of you have a plan for what you want to do once you graduate and some of you might not have a concrete plan. I want you to know that it is ok not to have a plan. What I advise you and everyone is to go with the flow, do whatever interests you and consider all different types of options.” She continued on saying, “You may hear this advice all the time, but don’t turn down opportunities. Consider them and do what your instincts tell you. Always think things through and go with your gut.”
Jill also serves on the Global Steering Committee for Women in Technology and & Operations which is an advocacy group for women as well as on the planning committee for the North Texas National Center for Women in Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing for high school women. She earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of South Florida, and a M.S. in Remote Sensing from the University of Illinois.
The Grace Series Talks feature a wide range of speakers including UT Dallas CS alumni, UT Dallas CS/SE professors, and other distinguished female technologists. Drs. Pushpa Kumar, Janell Straach, and Linda Morales conceived the idea of the UT Dallas Grace Series while attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) Conference a few years ago. The conference, fittingly named after the woman who helped pioneer computer programming, Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, involves a series of presentations designed to bring research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Every year, GHC brings together the community of women technologists, highlighting the best minds in computing and spotlighting the contributions of women to computing. The UT Dallas Computer Science Grace Series lectures are fashioned after the GHC Conference format.
Since the inception of the UT Dallas Grace Series in the spring of 2015 a total of twelve inspiring women have spoken, including: Drs. Bhavani Thuraisingham (click here for her story), Lily Wu (click here for her story), I-Ling Yen (click here for her story), Ranran Feng (click here for her story), Sanda Harabagiu (click here for her story), Rym Zalila-Wenkstern (click here for her story), Dr. Inga H. Musselman (click here for her story), and distinguished industry technologists like Dr. Jo Zhang of Fujitsu Laboratories of America (click here to read her story), Lymari Ames of Cisco Systems (click here to read her story), Romelia Flores a IBM Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor (click here to read her story), Dr. Peggy Shadduck, Director of both the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) STEM Institute and of the Dallas/North Texas STEM Degree Accelerator Program, and Jill Blanchar, a Bank of America Information Security Executive.
From the left: Dr. Pushpa Kumar, Jill Blanchar, and Dr. Janell Straach
The Grace Series will return next Fall.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.