Liquid Web’s Senior Engineering Manager on her time in the Air Force, great advice, and achieving your goals against the odds.
Lisa Clark’s passion for coding started early. “The Logo bus came to my elementary school and that’s when I learned how to make a spider move across a screen. Amazingness! Then, when I was in the fourth grade, my father brought home a Commodore 64/128 combo and I recall poring over the black and white Basic manual while writing my first text-based adventure game,” she says. “Coding the branches of logic for a 100-floor elevator gave me my first appreciation for code reuse.”
The coding bug bit and through high school and college, Clark took the limited computer classes that were available, further fueling her passion. While in her freshman year of college, she considered joining the United States Air Force. “I met with a recruiter and discovered that there was a career field for Computer Programming. I tested and qualified for this career field,” she says. “I was disappointed when my Air Force recruiter cautioned me to not take this position.” The recruiter told her it was a male-dominated field, that she’d be stuck in a chair, and that it wasn’t an exciting career choice.
She turned to her father for advice. “My father asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to be a programmer. He told me to go back and not to accept anything less than what I wanted.” In 1995, at the age of 19, she did just that and began what is now a 24-year career in tech, one that has been far from boring.
During her first 9 months on the job with the USAF, Clark worked with a small computer shop that supported Air Force personnel offices. “What I enjoyed about this first detail was the varied range of responsibilities I had. I answered help desk calls, built management systems for the security forces and personnel offices, and contributed to the installation of a LAN in a new personnel building.” Clark was one of a few airmen that could easily fit up in the raised ceiling space, and she recalls fondly that she “ended up meeting many Air Force personnel while sitting in the ceilings with my combat boots dangling down as I pulled network cables across rooms.”
Clark’s IT career began at 19 — she had completed a year of college before starting her career in tech. “I found myself very early in life juggling the demands of a full-time job and the desire to continue pursuing an education and a degree. When I earned my bachelor’s degree, it was six years after having started my career in tech.” Although the balancing act of working full-time in tech while pursuing a college degree was challenging, it was extremely fulfilling and she wouldn’t trade that for a traditional college experience. “This is one of my proudest accomplishments. It taught me very early in my adult life that those things one wants most to achieve can be achieved with hard work and perseverance, regardless of the challenges you perceive to be in front of you,” she says.
Now, as a Senior Engineering Manager at Liquid Web, Lisa Clark leads the development and testing efforts for Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress and WooCommerce products. She loves how exciting working in tech can be. “Every day brings a new challenge. There’s no such thing as monotony in tech,” she says.
Clark is encouraged by the coding and STEM opportunities available for girls today and believes that exposure to technology at early ages is creating more pathways for future women in technology. “When I was a child, I was fortunate to have a father that nurtured my interest in technology,” she says. “That early exposure to computers helped me to recognize my passion for programming.”
Clark keeps her father’s advice close— to go after what she wants and not accept anything less. “Anything is possible. You just have to figure out a way to make it happen.”