How this Georgia Tech Graduate is Overcoming Under Representation Through Her Startup
Khanna Bell - Founder of Pretty Tech
I wanted to be an engineer since I was 5 years old. My father was really supportive of me and always pushed me to go into engineering. When I got into my third year of college, I had to put a hold on my education and become a single mom of twins. I had no support system and I didn’t know a lot of women in STEM. I was co-oping with the national defense organization my freshman and sophomore years and that’s what saved my life. When I dropped out, I relied on co-oping as my source of income. I became a full-time co-oping student and took minimal classes. I turned that position into a full-time tech position and used the tuition reimbursements to go to school at night. I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of North Dakota and my master’s in systems engineering management from Georgia Tech.
Through my experiences of co-oping and becoming a full-time employee in tech, I experienced many biases. There is a lack of support for women and a downright lack of respect for minorities in technical positions. I had a hard time being taken seriously and had a feeling of isolation because I wasn’t able to find anyone in the field like me. Many people don’t know this but when Ford first made seatbelts in cars, they didn’t have many women on the team. When the first cars were rolled out and people got into accidents, the children and women would almost always get injured (or die) but the men would survive. They found out that because they had only tested seatbelts on men, they were too strong and not equipped to handle the lighter weight of a woman or a child. Having women on the team from the get-go would have helped avoid this issue altogether.
I want to have a positive impact on this world. I don’t want to be someone caught up running after paychecks. People don’t realize that they spend their life exchanging time for money and I never want my kids to feel like they must do that. I quit my job in January and started my own business called Pretty Tech and it was the best decision of my life. I am helping young girls gain meaningful work experience and develop jobs skills to get them ready for their careers. I also work with tech companies to help them hire their next generation of employees. I am on my way to creating the largest talent pipeline and advance gender diversity in technology.