Author: Ben Toshio-Williamson and Mila Phelps Friedl

Meet ChickTech: Central Oregon’s Chapter Lead, Lisa O’Brian

With over 24 years of tech experience, Lisa motivates students to see themselves as part of the industry she loves.

An ideal at the core of our mission here at ChickTech is to surround our participants with a diverse range of mentors. Our volunteers and employees cover every nook and cranny within the tech industry; from coding to management, human resources to graphic design. Each volunteer and mentor has their own unique experience within the tech industry and can offer personal insight into what it’s like to work within a predominantly male workforce. 

Lisa O’Brian, Chapter Lead for our Central Oregon chapter, has over 24 years of experience as an employee and consultant for Microsoft. Working as a project and program manager, she was tasked with running large-scale global projects; projects with countless moving parts, unique technical challenges, and bureaucratic difficulties. Among her impressive list of accomplishments and contributions, Lisa was the project manager for Microsoft’s first online store!

But her personal triumphs did not come without resistance. For Lisa, being a woman in the male-dominated tech industry meant “many times you didn’t get the recognition and support you deserved. There were times where I let that hold me back… the culture could be so hard.” However, according to Lisa, some of her proudest moments were also the most challenging and frustrating ones: “If you just do what you’re good at, you don’t grow and you won’t get as much satisfaction out of it. You should do something that scares you every day.” 

Lisa attests that being able to understand failure is a valuable asset for anyone, no matter their career path or goals in life. In every new experience, no matter the result, there is a “nugget” of valuable learning that can be taken away. Through her current work with ChickTech, Lisa tries to instill these strong and transformative values in each participant. She believes an ever-growing population of young girls who are empowered, motivated, and unafraid of failure and challenge will surely change the world. 

Another lesson that Lisa constantly prioritizes in her work with ChickTech is that there are many different paths towards success and fulfillment in tech. It’s often ingrained in our minds that the only way into tech is with a four-year degree in software engineering or coding. However, there are so many different creative avenues to success, many of which have not even been paved yet. This message is especially important for girls systematically underserved by educational initiatives. Girls of color, girls in lower-class households, and girls in rural areas are regularly deprived of opportunity and creative technological outlets. As a response to this dire need, the theme of ChickTech: Central Oregon’s High School program this year is “Oh the Places You Can Go.”

Through sharing her unique experiences and insight, Lisa has been able to give back to a community she cares deeply about. Her value and impact on these girls is immeasurable, and we look forward to facing the coming challenges with open, creative, and empowered minds.