Dominique Riley: From Chemistry to Computing
Realizing Her Calling and Inspiring Others
“I believe that engineers solve problems and I always knew that engineering was my calling.”
Dominique may have known that engineering was her true calling, but her path to getting there began with a curiosity for chemistry. “As a child, I would write down the ingredients of different products around the house, like soap and detergent, and go to the library during lunch and look up and research the ingredients.”
That curiosity guided her to pursue a BS in Chemistry from University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She was considering a graduate degree in Computational Chemistry when she discovered her passion for programming. “When I first started programming, I didn’t even have my own laptop.” But after a generous gift from her boss — her very first Macbook — Dominique was well on her way. “I took a local Ruby programming course after work and aggressively started pursuing my career in tech.”
In 2017, her programming skills combined with the support of WOS (Workforce Opportunity Services) secured her a spot in the GE Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SWEAP). “WOS provides programmers from nontraditional backgrounds, like me, with the information and opportunity to get a job in the tech industry.” That support came at a critical time in her career.
She takes tremendous pride in having been the lead iOS developer on the 2017 French Quarter Festival app. “The app was used by hundreds of people, including my friends and family, to navigate the music, food and much more at the festival. It also was sentimental to me because it was used in my hometown — New Orleans.”
The press attention for the project was encouraging as well.
“It was a big moment for our city of New Orleans and (for) girls who look like me and want to program. I hope my story will encourage more girls to want to learn more about tech and the amazing things women are doing and building.”
Dominique’s passion for learning and building is quickly establishing her as an expert in her industry. After being strongly encouraged by her manager and teammates to apply for the GE Digital Tech Leadership Program, she is currently on her second rotation with Baker Hughes in Houston, TX where she focuses on products related to the oil and gas industry.
“My goal in life is to be of service to other people.”
While a big part of her approach to work is to help the people around her become better programmers, Dominique is especially driven to be of service to girls and women. “My advice to other women in this field is to find others in your field and lean on them. Even if it’s just grabbing coffee or having a 5 min call here and there, having support of other women in very important to not only your network but your sanity of knowing other women are in your shoes.”