E1 - Lexie Cooper at Blue Origin

Maddy Norris
Lexie Cooper

By Maddy Norris & Lexie Cooper

On the very first episode of our spin-off series on The Route to Networking, Maddy Norris a Senior Networking Consultant here at Hamilton Barnes was joined by Lexie Cooper, the Avionics Integration Engineer at Blue Origin.

At 18, does anybody really know what they want to do? For a long time, Lexie wanted to be an Author which led her to take an English Literature degree at university. She soon realised it wasn’t for her when she left and chose to go down the legal route. She moved out to Austin, Texas to work as a Legal Assistant before her Networking career began and it actually turned out to be quite an ‘insane’ yet very eye-opening learning experience. It was at this point she started to feel ‘othered’ as a woman.

After that imploded, she moved to a non-profit position. She was there for several years but she realised she wasn’t that great at the role. It took a lot out of her, Austin was starting to become expensive, and she wasn’t making a living wage. She needed a reset, so she quit, moved back in with her parents, and decided to go back to school. She wanted to take some general IT classes because she didn’t know what was out there. Branching from that, she took an ‘Introduction to Networking’ class and it absolutely blew her away due to her being completely unexposed to it.

On the first day of the ‘Introduction to Networking’ class, there were roughly 55 people in the classroom and only 4 of those people were women. The first class completely turned her off doing Networking as the lecturer singled out the women by making comments about women to the men. It was not until her second class, that she was introduced to her instructor, which was a huge turning point for her. She believes if she had a male instructor, she thinks she would be less inclined to have joined Network Engineering. Her instructor was around her age, spoke like her, was super approachable and took in all of her questions, she was relatable and made her experience comfortable.

One day, her instructor texted her and said there was an opening where she worked for an Overnight NOC Technician position and asked if she was interested because she wanted to recommend her. She took the opportunity with both hands, applied for it was successful and she is sure she got the job through the recommendation from her instructor.

Her position at IBM taught her a lot. She cannot stress enough how much she learned because, before the role, she had never touched hardware. With her first ever role in Networking, they were a company that was incredibly inclusive but unfortunately, there are situations where you cannot know if every man in the room can work well with women. The vast majority of men she worked with were wonderful but there are going to be issues as a young woman going into a mostly men environment. The advice she gives is to stand your ground and escalate appropriately.

Coming from such a rollercoaster of a background, her biggest accomplishment to date is her CCNA. It represents so much including heartache, sweat and tears. “It represents a new chapter that I starter out of misery and I was able to thrive, and it means so much”. She still feels a sense of wonder from her CCNA and no matter how many certs she does now, her CCNA is the one that’ll always stand out most to her.

Your technical skills are important, that’s a given. You need to show employers you’re capable of doing the job at hand. But for Lexi, without a doubt, soft skills are the most important. You can teach someone who has a decent personality and can collaborate with women for example. You can teach those people technical skills, but you cannot teach someone to be a decent human being.

She is seeing in general more women in programming but in Networking, she isn’t seeing a lot being done in terms of exposure, which makes her incredibly sad. She hopes the work she is doing by just being visible in the space gets more women to join the industry.

Lexi gives some brilliant advice to women who are considering a career in the industry. Make sure you give the full episode a listen now!