Agricultural and Mechanical University - B.S. in Electrical Engineering
University of Pennsylvania - M.S. in Telecommunications and Networking Engineering
As a nationally recognized tech-life expert, Stephanie Humphrey can be found weekly on local TV or Ebony.com, breaking down technology for the average person. She’s also busy with various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) speaking engagements, voiceover work and on-camera gigs.
Stephanie’s tech career began outside of the public eye years earlier. She earned a B.S. and M.S. in engineering, then worked as a senior systems engineer for Lockheed Martin for more than 12 years. After modeling for a friend’s fashion show, Stephanie was approached by an agent. From there, she fused her love and knowledge of technology with a career in media.
Three years ago, Stephanie created the blog, A Matter of Life and Tech, which helped established her as a tech-life expert. The one rule she lives by? “Be fearless.”
To be fearless doesn’t necessarily mean to be impetuous. Have a plan, execute it and don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back.
You left your job as a senior systems engineer for the exciting, yet unpredictable, world of entertainment communications. Can you describe that transition?
I actually never considered a career in media and entertainment. I can’t say I was shy as a child or was afraid to be in front of a camera; it just never occurred to me that television was an option. I had always associated TV with “Hollywood,” and since I never wanted to be an actor, I didn’t see all of the other options in media as a possibility. And if I’m being honest, I think as an engineer I considered the entertainment industry to be a bit frivolous (I now know better!).
I started the transition when I did a favor for a friend and modeled in her fashion show. There was an agent there that said I should consider it, and the rest, as they say, is history. Modeling led to on-camera work, which eventually landed me on television.
Can you talk about your first media gig and how you got it?
My first real media gig was as the back-up on-air traffic reporter for CBS3/CW57 in Philadelphia. I had decided to seriously pursue television hosting as a career and was producing/hosting my own show on a local access station in the Philly area. I made a reel from some show clips and sent it out to the networks in the city. It took almost two years, but I finally got the call to do traffic.
Three years ago you created A Matter of Life and Tech. Can you describe your blog and how it’s helped establish you as an expert in the field?
A Matter of Life and Tech was started to help take the mystery out of technology for the average person and show them how it can make their life easier. It’s been my experience that most people don’t necessarily care about the details of a particular gadget or technological advance, they just want to know how it works for them, so I break tech down for everyone to understand. Through my blog posts, I was able to secure more high-profile writing gigs. With all of the constant daily research I do for my weekly column for Ebony.com and my weekly appearance on Fox 29, along with my educational background, I feel that I’ve established myself as an expert in my field.
What does a normal work week look like for you?
If it’s a Monday, I’m up early for my “Good Day Philadelphia” hit. I’m back home by 9 a.m. and writing and/or researching article ideas or segment ideas. I do voiceover work full time to pay the bills right now, so at 2 p.m. I’m off to that job until 9 p.m. daily. If it’s a Friday, swap “Good Day” with “on-air guest at QVC” and it’s about the same.
Any other day of the week usually starts with the gym, research/admin/writing work, possible meetings and then the voiceover gig. Since I do work full time, the base part of my schedule doesn’t change much, but I could see more on-air QVC time at certain times of the year. I also still have a talent agent, and that work happens more often in the fall/winter.
With that schedule, how do you manage a work/life balance?
I can’t say that I have the balance that I’d like, but I understand that I’m making that sacrifice temporarily to achieve a goal, so I make it willingly. After I run errands on Saturday, the rest of the day is usually reserved for absolutely nothing, which helps me to recharge. That’s about the best I can do right now!
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!”?
I don’t know that my personality will ever allow me to feel as if I’ve “made it,” but it was very rewarding to finally land the Fox gig, as it was something I’d been working on for more than six months. In my mind, there’s always more work to do.
What are some of the challenges of working in this business?
It’s a challenge to constantly think about what that next step is and how to make it happen. It’s difficult when you feel like you’re working without a net and there aren’t a lot of people around you that can really understand the realities of this business and what you’re going through. However, I believe it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” I just happen to be very impatient!
Do you have any personal mantras?
Only one: Be fearless. It’s printed on my checks, I have it on Post-its around my bedroom and if I were into tattoos, it would probably be somewhere on my body! It is, in my humble opinion, the only way to live.
Understand though, that to be fearless doesn’t necessarily mean to be impetuous. Have a plan, execute it and don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your roles as a tech-life blogger and reporter?
I think you have to have a genuine interest in how technology works and an ability to take that information and break sometimes complex topics down into easy to understand pieces. You need a commitment to daily research to stay up-to-date on tech trends and decent writing skills as well. And as a woman, you also need to be comfortable enough to persist in a largely male-dominated field.
How can we get more women interested in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—careers?
There is a dire need to change the mindset of young women. At a very early age, girls are taught that math is hard and boys won’t like you if you’re too smart. Young ladies need to be exposed to women in STEM careers early and often as mentors. I also think the way math and science is being taught in schools could stand to improve as well. Economically, it just makes sense for women to pursue STEM careers and this also needs to be stressed. Men can do their part to be a bit more welcoming in the space and also act as mentors and supporters of this effort.
What advice do you have for women looking to forge a similar career path?
I would say that even if this career path was something you were only considering right now, start establishing yourself as a thought leader through blogging, writing for other media outlets or just using social media to get ideas out there. Think of yourself as a brand from the very beginning and make sure your actions always align with that brand. Network as much as possible across different areas of the industry, because you never know how an opportunity will present itself. It’s very challenging, but finding a mentor is critical as well. And most importantly, be fearless!
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Five years from now, I see myself as the technology correspondent for a nationally syndicated television show. I’d like to take my workshop on social media responsibility across the country to present to students nationwide. Lately, I’ve been feeling like there’s a book in my immediate future as well. My hope is that I’m still showing people how technology works in their lives and inspiring young girls to pursue STEM careers.