WiSE Poster Series

DeDee Smidt, Principal Financial

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What is your educational background?

Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems from the University of Texas at El Paso

What field do you work in and what sort of activities do you do in a typical day?

I work in Information Security as a Security Analyst for Principal Financial Group and every day is different!

Some of the activities in a typical day include:

  • Meeting with project teams and business partners
  • Participating in conference calls with vendors
  • Researching vendors and/or products for businesses solutions
  • Answering questions for business partners related to risks, compliance and retention
  • Collaborate with other areas of the company like Corporate Relations, Privacy. Legal and Compliance to ensure we understand and follow all the rules

What is your favorite part of your career?

My favorite part of my career at Principal Financial Group has been the many opportunities I have had to move around within the company and do/learn different jobs. In my 20 years with the company, I have had the chance to work as a:

  • Developer/programmer
  • Systems Analyst
  • Systems Programmer
  • Team Leader
  • Security Analyst

Who or what experience(s) inspired you?

There are really two people in my life that inspired me. First my mom - a single mom with three kids, holding down a full time job and going to college in the evening. She showed me by example that if you really want something you have to work hard for it.

The second person was a close family friend who helped me stay in school when I thought I might have to sit out a semester. With his support and encouragement, I learned how to believe in myself and accept help from others; everybody needs help sometimes...

Why do you think it's important for women to enter STEM fields?

I believe that women bring different skills, strengths and perspectives to STEM fields. We have different approaches and can contribute to STEM fields in unique ways that can only make projects, companies and results more successful. Everybody wins!

Many women initially pursue STEM careers to make a difference in the world (e.g. make things safer, clean water for everyone, finding cure for cancer, etc...)  Describe how your current work/career/position/company is making a difference in the world or your industry/field.

Information Security is about protecting data and understanding risks associated with technology. There is a lot of sensitive information out there about each of us in various systems/applications. One of our main jobs is to ensure that data is handled and stored in a secure manner, and shared only when needed.

How does this make a difference? It helps protect that data so that others cannot misuse or abuse your information. Think about identity theft where someone could collect enough information about you to actually “appear to be” you. How would this affect your life, your credit, your ability to get a loan, buy a car or house?

Was there an educational experience during college (internship, study abroad, research) that impacted your career goals?

When I first started college, I was working toward an Accounting degree. As part of the curriculum, I was required to take a computer class. Then I took another and another. I soon realized this was something I was interested in, even though I had no prior exposure to computers at all. That's when I decided to change my major and make a career out of it.

What can girls/women do now to prepare for a career in STEM?

There are many ways to get involved with technology. Join clubs, visit free programming websites, talk to a computer teacher or someone in the field. Find a way to learn about the different types of jobs in STEM fields, get an internship or job shadow someone. I believe young women today would be surprised at the opportunities available to them in STEM fields.

Knowing and having experienced all that you have, what is one piece of advice that would have been encouraging or helpful to know when you were in school?

There are many opportunities out there. Begin by asking yourself what you are passionate about and then see what impact technology and computers have on that field. I doubt there is anything out there in today's world that is not touched by technology in one way or another.

Learn more about other women featured in the WiSE Poster Series:

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Mary Rukashaza
Pella Corporation
Colleen Becker
Rockwell Collins
Kendra Frazier
Dupont Pioneer

Want more information on finding a STEM career? Check out these links:

For more information contact:

Lora Leigh Chrystal, Director
Program for Women in Science and Engineering
218 Carver Hall
Ames, IA 50011-2060
(515) 294-4317