The proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ exemplifies the journey Kathleen Foley Malone ’96 VSB took to her current career position as founder and developer of the Sitterberry App.
Malone’s first job after graduating from Villanova with a degree in Economics was as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. There she discovered that she had a talent and interest in programming and through tuition assistance from the FRBNY, she earned a master’s degree in Information Systems from New York University.
In 2000, she moved to Silicon Valley, Calif. as technology start-up companies grew. When the tech bubble crashed, she started working for Hewlett-Packard as a solution architect working in the Education and Consulting divisions. In 2003, she returned to the East Coast with her family for opportunities in New York City. During her time in NYC, Malone worked as a freelance web developer and dedicated much of her time to raising her young children and doing volunteer work for the Junior League.
Ten year later, an opportunity became available in Philadelphia. As she prepared for the move, she was unable to get a babysitter for her kids for her going-away party. This sparked her idea for Sitterberry – a way for babysitters and families to connect.
After the move to Philadelphia, Malone began researching a way to make Sitterberry easily accessible through an iPhone app. Without experience in this technology, she took the free iPhone Development course offered by Stanford University through iTunes U. A prototype of Sitterberry was developed in November 2014 and by April 2015 the app was available on the iTunes Store.
It has been exciting for Sitterberry ever since! In January 2016, her application was submitted to FbStart, which is a program from Facebook designed to help early stage mobile startups build and grow apps. Sitterberry was accepted and received a $30,000 investment. This March, Sitterberry was selected as one of 10 companies to pitch at TechCrunch's Pitch Off NY at a night club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sitterberry made it to the final three for audience choice. She has also been accepted into UIF.org's Entrepreneur Education and Development Program in Devon, Pa. The non-profit helps local entrepreneurs by giving them office space and access to mentors and college interns, which has been helpful with the UX/UI of the app and the marketing. Sitterberry is well-recognized in Silicon Valley and is currently working on growing its user base.
In a span of just two years, Malone was able to take an original idea and turn it into something others benefit from. Through her experiences, she has seen first-hand the lack of women in technology and computer science. She praises Villanova University for its gender diversity, particularly in the computer sciences department, and acknowledges the changes the university is making, highlighting the achievement of the Department of Computing Sciences through its participation in the Building Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) initiative. The BRAID initiative is focused on growing the percentage of computer science department undergraduate majors that are female and/or students of color.
Malone would like to see more females in her profession. In her opinion, being comfortable in your professional field is an important consideration when people select a profession. Many see the lack of women in computer science as a barrier to entry into this field which is a male-dominated. By encouraging more females to obtain degrees in this field and removing the stigma of not being smart enough, this barrier can be overcome. She learned the importance of feeling comfortable during her time with the Junior League in New York. By working closely with a group of supportive women who were raising kids, managing time, and doing good for the community, she learned how to be comfortable in a leadership role and improved upon her personal skills. The Junior League was the network where she gained mentorship, support, and found a safe place to grow as an individual.
With an aptitude for computer science and hard work, technological success is attainable. The positives that Malone highlights from her tech career are her ability to be creative and make whatever is desired. As the technology field continues to grow, there is also job security in computer science, making the industry more desirable.
When asked about her advice to women either starting or involved in their careers, Malone suggests not being afraid and taking advantage of opportunities. Since women are underrepresented in the workforce, particularly in technology, there are plenty of career opportunities. Her story proves that motivated and self-driven women can learn the skills required for success when the chance is taken.
With so many new and exciting events in Malone’s life, what’s next? She already has two teaching opportunities lined up for this year focusing on teaching children programming. The first is the Alexa Café through iD Tech Camp over the summer where she will teach children ages 13-17 years old how to write in Java. The other program is a volunteer opportunity in the fall through code.org where she will teach Scratch, a programming language with visual and interactive components, to third, fourth, and fifth graders.