Nicole Phelps did not expect to love computer science, but a job developing mobile applications at Oregon State got her hooked, and it turned into passion that propelled her into a career in software development.
Although logic and math were her favorite subjects when she was home schooled, computer science never struck her as a career option, even though her dad was a software engineer. So when she started college at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., she chose athletic training for her major.
“Absolutely none of my female friends were interested in engineering, so I never even considered it before my father suggested that I take a computer science class,” Phelps said.
By that time she had transferred to Oregon State University and was looking for a major that would be more of a challenge.
“After programming for the first time ever in my sophomore year, all of the logic and critical thinking problems I enjoyed so much when I was younger came back to me,” she said.
But her passion crystallized when she wrote her first app, OSU Connect, at her job with Oregon State University Central Web Services. Having never programmed in the required languages, she learned many technical skills through the experience and gained practical knowledge about how to manage a project and interact with clients.
The opportunities and mentorship Phelps received in Central Web Services helped her focus her interest on mobile app development and she sought out more opportunities to write apps. At an Oregon State App-Hackathon she won the prize for Most Commercial Potential for her app called JustRipe. She also participated in a Portland Startup Weekend competition where her app idea, DownTheLine, was selected and she led a team of 12 to develop it. She became one of the leaders of the OSU App Club, and co-organized OSU’s App Challenge for her senior project. To top it off she did a 6-month internship at Maps Credit Union where she wrote an app called BuyLocal that was featured in the Credit Union Journal.
“My experience at OSU has been invaluable to me. I was able to discover who I am as a person, as a student, and as someone in the workforce,” Phelps said.
Her experiences translated into a job before she even graduated and she worked remotely as a lead mobile developer with Bioniq Health, a California based startup company, while finishing school. Currently she lives in Portland doing freelance iOS development, for a broad range of clients she established through her connections at Oregon State and in the Portland startup community. In a project for Mash, madewithcode.com, she helped developed a site to encouraging young girls to learn about coding, which also fits in with her broader goals.
“I hope that one day I will be a prominent figure in the software world and help influence middle school and high school students, especially females, to get some early hands-on experience with programming and design,” she said.