How Dr. Sharon Jones tackles the extreme work life balance of being a woman in STEM during COVID-19

Penny Bauder
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readApr 13, 2020


The biggest challenge has been to find my rhythm with completely moving online. As much as I love and use technology to run, implement, and innovate my work, the immediate change to just being online has been tough. It has required me to use my skill set in an entire new way and connect and build relationships via a screen.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sharon Jones.

Dr. Jones is an award winning, computer science educator whose passion is serving teachers, students, and parents. She and her organisations connect the dots between real world applications and computer science. She is married and has two children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I am an 80’s baby and grew up watching the magic of the walkman, portable boombox, the personal computer and of course AOL. However, we actually did not have a computer in our house until I was a junior in high school, and it was a hand down at that. I learned how to peck on the keyboard and write my senior project in Microsoft word. We had technology classes at our high school but I did not take any of them as I was just not interested or so I thought. When I went to college, my sophomore year I was asked to create a PowerPoint for our project and I clearly remember turning to the person next to me and asking, what is PowerPoint? And that is the pivotal moment that really changed my direction in technology. I taught myself PowerPoint and realized how much I enjoyed the learning. Fast forward a few years, and I go to East Carolina University to work on my masters in education. There I enter my first programming class, Visual I had never programmed before and mind you had just figured out how to do the Microsoft suite of products. However, I read, worked, failed many, many times and finally mastered my first two projects of Hello World and turning the light bulb on and off! It was so empowering and I knew then if I could master by continuing to try then I could teach others. I received my masters in teaching in Business and Information Technology and started my teaching career teaching in Career and Technical Education high school in Apex, NC and then back to my home city of Charlotte. Over the years, my teaching career has been so rewarding as I have adapted learning technology to real world applications. My background of not being a technology native and instead seeing technology as a way to enhance, has allowed for rewarding collaborations, project development, and continued learning.

I am self taught in all of the programming languages I know and have continued to learn from my students, in professional developments and continued my education to earn my doctorate in Adult Education. I have always thrived in learning and academia but that has also been because I use my street smarts to blend academics with the real world applications.

Education and technology are a beautiful mix of continued learning and innovation and I have been honored to be a part of the journey. My path is a bit traditional and then a bit untraditional as I have leveraged my innate ability to see connections to content, tech, and computer science to develop new curriculum and experiences for students and adults.

I have been a K12 educator, a secondary education professional, a corporate trainer and now a business owner. My work has been a wonderful path of discovery, failures, and finding my true passion.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

There have been so many adventures or these past few years. We have grown from my idea and dream to a two person team, to a five person tem and that has come with excitement and challenges. But the most exciting and rewarding story is being honored by our peers at the Charlotte Inno on Fire Awards as an Opportunity Champion. It was truly an honor and a privilege as that is the ultimate reward, provide space for all to grow.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Our continued commitment to the integration of community, academics, and business drives development of projects and content. We continue to create learning for students that connects the dots between the academic platforms, community and industry. Our camps this summer are rich in computer science content, connections, and community experiences. We are working on creating an immersive experience whether we need to do our camps virtual or are able to do in person.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are several.. Of course my grandmother, Mama D. or Dorothy Rose Moore, my campianes are named in her honor. My mom and dad who are my rocks and role models. But if I am to choose one, I had a mentor/supervisor when I was teaching and she was truly a game changer for me. She believed in me in a way that I did not believe in myself. She encouraged me to go after an administrator position that before her, I would have never even considered. So I interviewed for the position and it was a move that changed my career path. I am thankful to Gale Collins each day for her encouragement, pushing me outside my comfort zone, and supporting me to reach my goals.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We have pivoted our workshops for the spring and moved all of them to an online platform. This spring we are offering a GamerZ series, Virtual 3D Printing, and an XBox challenge. We are enhancing our online platforms and creating new and innovative content to leverage students working to create using technology versus just consuming. Our partnerships continue to grow and as we find ourselves in a new normal we are leveraging our unique genius to elevate content for online delivery.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

The biggest challenge has been to find my rhythm with completely moving online. As much as I love and use technology to run, implement, and innovate my work, the immediate change to just being online has been tough. It has required me to use my skill set in an entire new way and connect and build relationships via a screen.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

To address the new challenge, I have invested time in video with mobile lighting, utilizing my screen recording software and creating inviting lunch time learning opportunities via online platforms.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

This time has been challenging to say I have found a balance would not be the truth. Each day is filled with new emotions and change. To bring some sense of stability, as a family, each evening at dinner we recap the day and then create a plan for the next day. In our plan we account for school work, mommy and daddy working, and one thing we each want to accomplish the next day. The accomplishment is not monumental but rather a task we would like to see get completed. And I challenge us all to think of something to look forward to the next day.

Each day we complete our school work but then do what we do best, think outside the box. The kids create forts and draw the plans before building, collect data as they play hide and seek, collect yard materials to create multi dimensional art, each of them are participating in my online coding sessions, baking, and lots of drawing. We are always looking to be creative in how we apply our learning.

As we develop our schedule for the kids, then I work to implement my work schedule.

Each day is a new day.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?

I find my strength in faith, family, and fellowship. I lean on my faith, hugs from my children, and knowing we will have dinner together each night. Listening to the kids laughter when playing amongst the fear we feel as adults gives me hope. My favorite quote so far has been from my husband.. “Well I guess I will change from my night time pajamas into my working day pajamas :) “ I laughed out loud.. And I decided I would put on some makeup :)

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. My grandmother,Mama D. (Dottie), once said to me there are three vows that come down a road and two always fall in the ditch. Meaning, we often are faced with many overwhelming challenges but often they are not all as bad as we think and we are strong. This pandemic has thrown many obstacles in our path but we are strong and will find a way to survive.
  2. Acts of Kindness- our best selves come out in times of need. The ability for us to give even when we are unsure is
  3. A creativity boom- new hobbies, doing something you haven’t tried before, learning and failing forward. In addition, it has been really incredible to see how we are coming together to be creative in continuing our connections with our hobbies either via live calls, Facebook live, memes, and letters through the mail.
  4. Evaluating finances and creating a plan to be more financially fit — working to better understand where your money is going each month and how you can better prepare for returning to normal and to increase your savings
  5. Take this time and turn it into an opportunity

From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

My mom has always said when you get down to give yourself something to look forward to each day. It does not have to be something big, it can be a piece of chocolate, dinner with the family, a glass of wine, reading with your children, or you reading a book, cooking dinner, anything that brings you joy. When I have been in my lowest of the lows, finding one thing to look forward to each day has gotten me through and tough time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When any changes happens, it takes a year to adjust to the change, so stay the course” — my mom, Jan Torrence

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook & Instagram @dottierosefoundation

Twitter @spotonthedot

Pinterest @DottieRoseFoundation

Linkedin @dottie-rose-foundation



Penny Bauder
Authority Magazine

Environmental scientist-turned-entrepreneur, Founder of Green Kid Crafts