By Taylor Phillips, CCL Student Staff
In her junior year, Ashley Gentles faced a dilemma. After a long-time fascination with technology and computer science, she found herself frustrated with the industry. To Ashley, the tech industry had failed to understand and reflect on whether their impact on the world was harmful or helpful. These ethical concerns were not covered in the computer science major at Rice, but Ashley could not stop thinking about them. That year, through a pilot program at the CCL, Ashley Gentles saw that she could harness the power of tech for good.
Ashley spent a year with the Department of Housing and Community Development as an intern, working on projects using Geographic Information Software and bettering the data collection so that housing applications could be efficiently processed. Through this experience, Ashley discovered how public service and computer science could intersect. The following year, Ashley took part in the CCL Capstone and developed an app with LINK Houston so that Houstonians could see where public transportation is fastest in order to better plan their daily commute. Now, Ashley works in Atlanta with ThoughtWorks, a software consultancy, where she continues to be driven by finding ways to create technology with marginalized communities and ethics in mind.
To Ashley, the Center for Civic Leadership has made her aware of her core values: service, diversity, and an “iteration” to change. Ashley uses these values as a blueprint to building her new life in Atlanta. During her job search, she emphasized the importance of finding a company that matched her values of service and reflecting on points of failure. She has now also found a community with her church where she serves and continues to search for other service opportunities.
Some advice she has for future graduates is to know your values and who you want to surround yourself with. “When you know what you want out of a community, it’s easier to find them.”