Meet Stella Shannon, currently a Product Manager at Google who's reshaping the Chromebook experience. Raised in Montana with a flair for the arts and languages, Stella's journey to tech was as unconventional as it is inspiring.

What Brought Stella to Tech?

It was the blend of creativity, community, and innovation that drew Stella to the tech industry. "Interest in building with a close-knit team, innovating to solve a problem I care about," she recounts, brought her into the tech space. Despite a background steeped in literature and arts, Stella didn't let the challenge of breaking into a highly technical industry deter her.

 The challenges were there: a woman with a degree in the arts moving to tech-heavy San Francisco, few connections in the industry, and the initial typecasting that came with her unconventional background. "While my double major in Comparative Literature and International Security honed skills in critical analysis and strategy, I knew I wanted to become more quantitative and technical when I graduated," Stella reflects on her professional path. "So I immediately took a job with a quantitative hedge fund and dove head first into learning about investing and statistical analysis." 

Her path to Google was paved with self-education and a strong support system, a testament to her resolve and the power of how a supportive community can lift up people to achieve their goals. "I self-taught fundamentals in computer science and data analytics, identified a supportive network, and built the knowledge and skills I needed over time," she explains.

Lightning Learnings

Stella's story can inspire students aspiring to tech careers through the following messages:

  • Set Concrete Goals: "Know that the future is defined by where you want to go, not where you come from," says Stella. She champions precise goal setting and the power of dedication.
  • Self-Learning is Key: Stella's own journey of self-teaching is evidence that with the right resources, anyone can master tech skills.
  • Build Your Support Network: Identifying a supportive community can propel your career forward. Stella's success underscores the value of collaboration and mentorship.

Stella shares some of her top resources for individuals looking to self learn and pursue a career in the tech industry:

  • MIT Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python on EdEx - View Course ↗
  • Cracking the PM Interview - View Book ↗
  • System Design Interview - View Book
  • Reading outside of work to keep your thinking sharp - some of her favorite recent reads:
    • Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Things Worth Making - View Book ↗
    • You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why it’s Making the World a Weirder Place - View Book ↗
    • Crossing the Chasm - View Book ↗

Forging Your Own Path

Stella's background in Comparative Literature and International Security uniquely shaped her approach to product management. She explains, "The skills I built in strategic thinking, critical analysis, and research - including the conviction that people and their stories matter, is useful in the job I have now, every day." Stella applies these skills to empathize with users, understand their needs from various angles, and rally her team around innovative solutions.

Stella Shannon's journey from the arts to the forefront of tech innovation at Google exemplifies the power of determination, continuous learning, and the application of diverse skill sets in the tech industry– exemplifying the power of leaning into what makes us unique rather than letting traditional paths define our narratives.

Close the Gap believes that our unique journeys help shape who we are, and when paired with a growth mindset this belief can create amazing results. Stella concludes: "curiosity and critical thinking are the underlying traits important for any job whether it is critical literary analysis or driving a product team. And you can hone these skills through any field as long as you apply yourself fully.".