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Defying Expectations – Alana Frome, engineer and globetrotter

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Alana Frome is a fiercely independent world traveler and start-ups enthusiast, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with a degree in Computer Engineering. When I asked this 27 year old what prompted her to study computer engineering, she said, “Well, I was always interested in Math and Science. Computer Engineering seemed to be an interesting route to take.” Alana admits that she didn’t really know what it would be like to study Computer Engineering in college. “It’s hard to go into it blindly, but I was confident about my decision and I was always open-minded, which is important. So I was glad I did it.” After college Alana worked as software engineer developing web-based projects, until she began to feel creatively stifled at her job. Her desire to study a second language and find a new train of thought for a while led her to France, where she taught English. “I believe that sometimes taking a step back from what you know, and trying something completely new can give you a fresh outlook that is really critical, both personally and professionally.” After traveling to 40 different countries on 5 different continents, and working in countries from South Sudan to China, Alana returned to the U.S. to work for Evisors, an exciting New York start-up that connects people and allows them to share expertise with one another by way of consultations. After working in many different roles all over the world, she was able to come back with a stronger sense of what her interests were – that is, entrepreneurship. She loves the challenge of working with a start-up, where something new is always happening. “Its long hours and a lot of hard work, but you learn so much and you feel real ownership for what you’re doing because you’re so close to the end product.” Talking about the tech industry in general, Alana admits that it is very male-dominated, but says that this never really bothered her. “Engineers are a pretty nerdy, straightforward group. We don’t have many macho, sexist men, thankfully!” She likes engineering because it’s so scientific and “no-nonsense”, as she puts it. One of the best things about it for Alana, though, is the flexibility that it gives her. “Every company will at some point need a software engineer – so you can work in any industry you choose. Also, because our work is so internet based, we can really do it from anywhere in the world.” Thus she was able to travel and work at the same time. While Alana loves her field, it is not without its challenges. She recognizes that it can be difficult to differentiate one engineer from another, when the work is so technical and there’s so little room for adding a personal touch to it. “You also have to avoid being pigeon-holed – you don’t want to be just an engineer sitting in a room with no idea about the company you work with. It’s important to try and be more involved in the business side and be recognized for more than just your technical skills” she tells me. When I asked her what she would say to women seeking to pursue a career in computer engineering she said, “It teaches you a lot of great skills, like how to tailor yourself to new environments because you could work for companies that are so different.” Alana has successfully combined all the things she loves – traveling, engineering, and now entrepreneurship – into a way of life that has worked wonders for her and turned her into a talented, independent engineer.

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