This article originally appeared in the print edition of the  Madison Daily Leader, February 21, 2019, pp. 1-2.

Award ceremony honors students


Staff Reporter

On Tuesday afternoon, the collaborative center at the Beacom Institute of Technology on the Dakota State University campus was filled with the glowing faces of young women who were being recognized for their interest in computing and technology.

Among them was Celina Rowland, a freshman at Madison High School, whose mother Pam Rowland helped to organize the NCWIT 2018-19 Award Ceremony. “I know you are all aspiring to greatness,” Pam Rowland told the young women. “We want to honor that today and to celebrate.”

Thirty-five high school students from North Dakota and South Dakota were being recognized with an Aspirations in Computing award, a Rising Star award, or with an honorable mention from the National Center for Women and Information

Technology. NCWIT is a nonprofit chartered by the National Science Foundation which focuses on creating a community for meaningful participation of women in the field of computing, especially in the areas of innovation and development.

In addition to recognizing the students, two educators received awards. Family and friends joined the award recipients for the ceremony.

Among the speakers was Cynthia Hetherington, founder and president of the Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing and training firm. A press release indicates she has led national and international investigations which have

recovered millions of dollars in high-profile corruption cases. In addition, she trains more than 2,000 individuals in federal, state and local agencies on best practices in conducting investigations.

In a dynamic, forthright manner, Hetherington shared personal stories and encouraged the young women to show initiative in realizing their dreams. “I am an intelligence officer,” she said. “Investigators can tell you about what happened. An intelligence officer will tell you what is going to happen. They get in front of the problem.”

She talked about her career path, about beginning as an electrician and becoming a librarian before getting interested in technology. Each position shapes the way she does business now.

“In library science, we share information,” Hetherington said. This is not the way the military or the law enforcement agencies with which she works operate, she added.

“We need to change this paradigm. We need to be inclusive,” she said.

She encouraged the girls to contact her if they had questions and to contact companies for which they wanted to work. She advised them to ask for guidance in preparing for employment.

She talked about starting out as an electrician, wiring buildings and laying cables. She was interested in this field because her dad owned an electrical company and her brother had apprenticed with him.

“I said, ‘Dad, I want to come out and be an apprentice with you’,” Hetherington said. “Do you know what he said to me? ‘No’.”

She recognized that he was protecting her because some of his company’s projects were not in the safer parts of town, but his refusal also fueled her desire to become an electrician.

In speaking about her experiences, she noted she has been mentored and helped by others throughout her career. However, she also explained why others have played this role in her life.

“Every step of the way, there was a man or woman supportive of me. It’s because I showed initiative, ” Hetherington indicated. She encouraged the girls to also show initiative.

“I don’t want to hear you talking about it. I don’t want to hear you stressing about it. I just want you to try it,” she said.

“You are the promise we gave ourselves,” she told the young women, explaining that women working in computer and cyber sciences want them to succeed. “We promised ourselves you would be good at our jobs.”

Hetherington encouraged the girls to pursue their interests.

“Believe it or not,” she said, “once you find something you’re interested in, you’ll be good at it, and then you’ll become great at it.”

She told them they didn’t have to feel locked into a career field, that they would have the opportunity to change paths, just as she has. However, she emphasized the importance of getting an education.

“Nobody can take your education away from you,” Hetherington said.

She reiterated the importance of showing initiative, saying it is a key component to becoming successful. She reminded the young women that they had won the Aspirations in Computing award because they had stepped up.

“A lot of times, your ambition will get you in the door. Once you’re there, you’ll have your goals, you’ll have your dreams and you’ll have your future,” she indicated.

Hetherington redefined what it means to be confident and in control as a woman. This includes being aware, being informed, being oneself and taking credit for one’s accomplishments.

She concluded her presentation by making reference to her first professional disappointment, when her father would not let her become an apprentice.

“Turn the chip on your shoulder into the fire in your belly. That fire in your belly will help you succeed,” Hetherington said.