Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, Kim Ferrari might not have initially imagined that her career would involve working with the largest players in the aerospace industry and more than 25 years at a national laboratory on the opposite side of the country.
Ferrari has a flair for software – a befitting strength for her intellectual passions.
“I had always been good with mathematics, but even though I was fascinated by emerging computer technology, I was hesitant to go into computer science seeing how male-dominated the field was, especially at that time,” Ferrari said.
Yet, she persisted through highly technical classes despite being the only woman enrolled at times. She said that while she had no inherently negative experiences because of this, the disparity sometimes left her in want of camaraderie. Nevertheless, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, she started her career as a software developer at Lockheed Martin.
Now, Ferrari leads a group of software developers and quality assurance personnel at Lawrence Livermore (LLNL). In addition to offering a rewarding outlet for her expertise, Ferrari said that the Laboratory provides a uniquely empowering atmosphere.
“The Lab fosters a great environment for women,” she said. “I can see that people work hard to ensure the workplace maintains a respectful, collaborative atmosphere as well as a genuine work-life balance.”
A member of the Livermore Laboratory Employee Services Association (LLESA) interest group, Piecemakers, whose members quilt, knit and crochet creations to donate to charity, she finds meaningful connection with the LLNL community both on and off the clock.
Throughout the course of her career, Ferrari said she has been fortunate to feel such a sense of belonging in the workplace. She recalls an earlier time in her career when a colleague, impressed by her work, noted that she was “not just another pretty face” in the field. To the best of her knowledge, much time has passed since she last encountered similar casual discrimination.
Ferrari remains confident that “these antiquated attitudes are on their way out.” Instead, she insists that institutional diversity is a key part to ensuring that unique viewpoints are given the attention they deserve – something that a place conceived as the “new ideas” laboratory should continue to cherish.
“In celebration of Women’s History Month, I reflect on the fact that I’m proud to be a woman succeeding in an incredibly important project at the Lab,” she said. “The software I and my teams support runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year protecting our nation’s assets.”