Women in Technology: Elise Alley

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Support Supervisor for iThemes, a Liquid Web brand, on creativity, kindness, and self-expression in tech.

WIT Elise Alley
“I love being the person between customers and developers. I can translate jargon for customers who don’t have technical skills. I like to think of myself as an interpreter of sorts.”

If Elise Alley could spend all day curled up with a hot cup of tea and a book, she would. A lover of literary classics, she is drawn to page-turners. “I love a good mystery, fantasy stories—any good story, really.” Alley’s well-traveled childhood seems itself to be out of a book. Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, she spent her early years as a military brat, moving all over the world every 18 months or so until she started junior high school. “I spent most of my early years in Europe—England and Germany specifically,” she says. Though she doesn’t speak German anymore, she was once quite skilled with the language. “I still remember a couple words, but just things you’d expect from a little girl like butterfly or dollhouse.”

It was deeply important to Alley’s parents that both she and her brother experienced the culture wherever they were living. As a result, the family didn’t live on American military bases during their time abroad. “I went to the local school in Germany, which is how I learned the language. I was the only one in the family who spoke German, so even though I was very, very young at the time, I did most of the communicating.” She went to the local school in England, too. “I had the uniforms and the whole stereotype! I loved living overseas and would love to retire to England sometime in the distant future.”

Living in England in the late 80s and early 90s made a mark on Alley’s sense of style, too. “Punk was huge there at the time. It was really part of London’s culture—and I loved it.” She jokes that this was probably worrisome to her parents, as she was still in elementary school. Her lingering love of punk and its influences on her style and creative expression are, happily, welcome in the world of tech. “It might seem odd in another workplace,” she says. “But I really love working for a company that gives me creative freedom with my appearance.”

Alley’s love of creativity is a part of what brought her to the field of technology to begin with. “I love the actual tech itself,” she says. “I love that it’s constantly changing. I love that there’s always something new to learn.” After completing a Web Design & Development program, Alley took an internship with iThemes and fell in love. She’s been a part of iThemes in one capacity or another ever since. “When I first officially started at iThemes, I was the Office Wrangler, so I did the shopping and cleaning, whatever needed to be done. I was happy to help with anything as part of the company. Eventually, a spot opened up on the support team and they offered it to me. And I’ve been there nearly 9 years now!”

As the Support Supervisor at iThemes, Alley is proud to assist the team that supports the customers. “I make sure they have everything they need to do the job—whether it’s equipment or training or time—and when they need additional help, I’ll jump in to answer tickets as well. Whatever the team needs, I do my best to provide.”

While she doesn’t work directly with customers as often as she used to, Alley loves seeing the lightbulb come on for a customer when she has helped them figure something out. “That ‘aha!’ moment is so cool to witness,” she says. “And I love being the person between customers and developers. I can translate jargon for customers who don’t have technical skills. I like to think of myself as an interpreter of sorts.”

Much of her success, she attributes to her parents. “They both instilled a strong work ethic in me. No matter what job I’ve had, I’ve given it my all. Now that I’m in a job that I love, that just pushes me even harder and farther.” The most influential person on her career journey, she says, has been her father. “My dad was a professor at Oklahoma Christian University and taught computer animation. Dad always gently tried to nudge me toward the tech industry, but I resisted for a long time.” When her father passed away, Alley was in a place in her life where she was ready to make a change. “I happened to hear about a Web Design & Development program at Francis Tuttle, a vo-tech here in Oklahoma, and that was that. I know he’d have been proud of me no matter what I was doing with my life, but it makes me smile any time I accomplish something knowing that if he were still here, he’d be so excited and proud.”

Another lesson she learned from her father is that a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Once while she was in college, members of the janitorial staff took the time to reach out to her father, a professor at the university, to let him know how much they appreciated her taking the time to simply smile, say hello, and ask how they were doing. It’s something she hasn’t forgotten. “For them to go to the effort to track down my dad and let him know how much that meant, it shows how such a small act of kindness can be so meaningful. So I try to remember the little things. I try to always thank others, to ask about a team member’s family or what’s going on in their lives. I look for little ways to let my team know how much I care, how much I appreciate them.” She’s an enthusiastic amateur baker, as well, a hobby which she says makes her popular in the iThemes office.

Alley continues to try new things and to push herself. “At 38 years old, I decided to strap on roller skates for the first time since I was little and join a roller derby team. COVID put a stop to it for now, unfortunately, but I did start training!” A volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, she’s also an aunt to her best friend’s three boys, as well as a huge proponent of caring for one’s mental health. “Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need,” she says. “And that goes beyond the workplace.”

As someone who understands the power of innovation and imagination, Alley wants young people to realize the myriad possibilities that are available to them should they pursue careers in tech. “There are so many opportunities for everyone. We need people who can code, but we also need ‘interpreters’ like me who are the go-between for customers and developers or developers and management. We need people in marketing and the business side of things. And if the tech side of things interests you, any field you’re excited about is going to need a techie in one way or another! Getting into tech doesn’t necessarily mean working for a web company—though that’s great, too! Getting into tech might mean one day working for your favorite musician or designer! The sky’s the limit in tech.”

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