Jamie Parenteau: from War Zones to Tech
My name is Erika Green, and I’m a FileMaker developer who joined Codence after finishing the FileMaker internship and training program through 42 Silicon Valley.
Throughout my career in tech, I’ve been inspired and coached by some truly great women. As part of Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight some of the amazing women in our community on our blog.
To begin our Women in Tech series, we present our talk with Jamie Parenteau, Corporate Relations Manager for 42 Silicon Valley. 42 SV is a free computer programming school disrupting the traditional education model, and Jamie stands at the forefront by creating partnerships with Silicon Valley’s future developers and local businesses.
Jamie shares what it means to work in the technology education sector, be a female combat veteran, and how gender has affected her career.
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do, and what a typical day for you is like?
I am currently the Corporate Relations Manager at 42 Silicon Valley – but I wear many hats. My main focus is to drive partnerships for 42SV, whether that be events for hiring, mentor/mentee opportunities, fun activities for student morale, or how to support our local community.
I see it all as one big beautiful beast: it’s not only important to look at job opportunities for my students, but also how to help give them exposure to as many different types of experiences as possible to become a well-rounded human being.
You must be a good human being first – and that takes a lot of learning in itself. This is also why the community and volunteering initiatives are so valuable, because we all must work together and offer our time without the expectation of something physical in return. When you are strong within, it will show.
Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into corporate relations and 42?
If you were to ask me ten years ago if this is something I would be doing, I probably would have laughed and thought you were crazy. I come from a small town in Minnesota, and only originally moved to Silicon Valley so my husband could continue his education for 3D modeling.
It was only fair, as he worked and held down the fort while I finished school upon returning from military deployment. But I was open to change, and I think that was the most important piece.
I always had a strong pull toward education because I believe it is the catalyst to change. The more you know, the more you are exposed to, the more opportunity arises. A good friend once told me that, “If you don’t at least try to take this big jump, will you be wondering for the rest of your life ‘what if…?’” And he was right – I never want to live my life in shoulda, coulda, woulda land – I want to live my life know I was always at least willing to try.
My position at 42SV was probably the most unique hiring experience of my life. I did not apply for this position, but rather was lucky enough to be working in the same building for my previous company. I had interacted with the 42 staff when they first arrived at a pretty minimal basis, but was my normal Minnesota Nice self, making sure everyone was taken care of. By being a good human and working hard, it led to them reaching out to me and asking if I would be interested in working with them because they felt I represented their vision.
I was so honored to have a potential manager discuss with me how he had watched me work for three months and state, “I don’t need to know a lot of what you’ve done because I see you do it every day.” Once they told me their mission was to make education accessible for everyone, no matter their background or financial situation, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.
Can you talk about how the partnership with FileMaker and 42SV came about?
This is where my students are magical. reached out to us asking to use our space for an event when they were launching a new item for FileMaker, and because we offered use of our iMacs as well, they felt it was ideal for developers to be able to come and get some hands-on experience. We had just opened our doors a couple of months prior, so we were very excited to have an event we could experience with outside developers. Our students were also allowed to participate for the first hour, before opening it to the public, and their curiosity and ingenuity led to immediate fun for both sides.
The Beezwax team was quickly part of the family and were having so much fun with the students that it turned into a shared event with outside developers. We both clicked because of our shared passion for continued learning, helping others, as well as the confidence to try new things and not be afraid of the failure. The Beezwax team then shared this with the folks at FileMaker and we were running with ideas – not only how to help the FileMaker community in terms of employment, but for them to be able to share their extensive knowledge and support with new developers. The exchange of knowledge and experiences keeps both sides on their toes with such a changing industry, as well as giving that extra push to be innovative.
What do you love about the tech industry?
Every day is a new adventure! Technology is not just a tool to make our lives easier – it’s a way for us to explore new ideas and continue to grow.
What is one thing you’d change about the tech industry?
One of the most difficult things I run into frequently is the “make it rich quick” mentality. This should not be your drive. Nothing is free – everything requires hard work, and if you’re willing to not only put in that work but also pick yourself up after failure, then you will have success.
How do you think being a woman affects your experience in the tech world?
As a female combat veteran, I have dealt with my share of bias – but also unexpected support. I’ve learned that just because I’m a woman does not mean I am lesser than anyone, and no one can make me feel that way because I will not allow it.
The military is very much like the tech industry in that it is male-dominated and has been for a very long time. But that does not mean there are not men who are willing to help – it just takes the strength to ask and the persistence to keep going until you find the right people.
There is definitely strength in numbers, and if you work hard together, now you are one team. Some of the most supportive people in my life are men that have reminded me what it is to be human – and that the second you allow your fear to dominate, you have given up on yourself.
What advice would you give to the future generation of women?
Don’t be afraid to try, and when you fail, dust yourself off and try again. Only you can stop you – and only you can make the change you want to see around you. This also means cultivating a strong network that is diverse and always growing. Sometimes you need to reach out to others to help build that confidence or have someone give you swift kick when you need it, but you won’t have any of that if you don’t have persistence.
Have you experienced sexism in your professional career? If so, how did you deal with it?
Yes – and when I was younger, I didn’t really know how to handle it because my network was very small, so those around told me, “That’s just how it is.” I had an interview once in which the manager asked me to tell him a combat story from Iraq, and when I asked why he stated, “Because any female I know that has been deployed comes back crazy because their too fragile.” I honestly didn’t know how to respond, so I politely smiled, stood up and proceeded to leave.
The best part was when I got back in the car (my husband had given me a ride to the interview because I wasn’t comfortable driving yet), I had to restrain him from jumping out the car. And when I told him he didn’t need to worry about protecting me, he said, “I know I don’t need to protect you, but that man didn’t even get to know how good you are – and I want to tell him.”
This also changed my perspective. I hadn’t previously been in a healthy relationship, and not only was my husband supportive of my military service, but he has always pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone. What frustrated me so much about the poor interview wasn’t what the manager had said to me, but that I wasn’t confident in myself in facing that head on.
I will never again allow someone to speak to me in this way, but will not react in anger, but rather through conversation. What’s most important when dealing with bias is to first be strong in yourself – it’s never worth a screaming match when a healthy conversation can actually lead to change. Again, when you are strong within, it will show – and everyone wants a little strength in their life.