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ONE ON ONE


During college she completed two internships with Exxon — one at a refinery in which the work involved monitoring instrumentation. Farmer had taken an instrumentation class the previous semester and found the work fascinating.


“I understood the data readings and how it would be applied,” she said.


Upon graduating at the top of her class with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Farmer was deluged with job offers in a variety of fields. She said she chose the position with AT&T’s Bell Labs because it involved working with hardware and software at a time when “the country was just starting to understand the power of software development.


“I had a chance to be on the leading edge,” she said.


Also the company offered financial support and time off to pursue a master’s degree. (Farmer obtained a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado).


Farmer’s first job with AT&T was as a member of the technical staff working on developing processors for telephone systems.


In her current position, Farmer’s specific responsibility is to support the company’s transformation to a software and platform driven business through the realization of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). In this role, she is responsible for advancing innovation and development of new platforms and APIs supporting growth opportunities for mobility, home solutions, emerging devices, and technology and network operations.


During her tenure at AT&T and BellSouth, Farmer has held positions as research director of an engineering group, director of business development, research manager in the science and technology department and as a technical supervisor.


Farmer also said she’s a “people person” and enjoys collaborating.


“One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to engage other people, brainstorm new ideas, solve problems…working to bring those ideas to fruition,” she said


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She cited the opening of the Atlanta Foundry as one of the highlights of her career.


“The centers are places where our vendors, start-ups and developers come to collaborate about new ideas that they have,” she said, adding that AT&T helps get them connected and advance their ideas through AT&T technology.


At the foundry, the goal is to figure out how best to combine resources and deliver something innovative to the marketplace.


AT&T’s other foundries are located in Palo Alto, California, two in Plano, Texas, and Israel.


Farmer credits her corporate climb to a number of factors.


“I became an engineer back when it wasn’t a particularly popular career for women.”


“Clearly I was in the right place at the right time in an industry that was growing,” she said, adding that preparing herself and recognizing trends and which technology was emerging were also strategic maneuvers in her favor.


Farmer said the engineering field offers tremendous opportunities for minorities and women with strong economic rewards and an array of positions and areas in which to specialize.


“I think it obviously is an excellent opportunity to make a positive impact on our way of life. I encourage young people, particularly those still in school, to think seriously about the field. Explore as many courses in math, science, technology and courses related to problem solving. Look at courses and extracurricular activities that can better prepare them for college coursework.”


Farmer added that the benefits of internships are immense — helping young people to understand real work situations, showing how theory taught in classroom is applied on the job and providing an excellent environment for networking.


Of her decision to go into engineering, Farmer now said, “It was one of the best decisions I have made.”


by Gale Horton Gay, ghorton@ccgmag.com


WOMENOFCOLOR | FALL 2014


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