Kimber Lockhart was one of those Stanford kids who starts a business while still in college.

When Increo, a company that helped users collaborate on documents online, launched in 2008, Lockhart went for the business end of things, taking the title of CEO. Yes, she was studying computer science at one of the best computer science schools in the country, but her co-founder, Jeff Seibert, had been doing Web development since he was a kid, so why not give him most of the technical responsibilities?

In 2009, cloud storage company Box gobbled up Increo, and the Increo founders with it, for an undisclosed sum. Lockhart was suddenly at a fast-growing, engineer-centric start-up that was big on ideas and short on the programming talent to pull them off. Lockhart knew it was time to step-up.

"One thing I haven't ever felt the need to hide was when I first came to Box, moving into that technical role was quite intimidating, because I had been on the business side for awhile," Lockhart, 27, says. But she asked a lot of questions and put in a lot of time and mastered the specific skills she needed to contribute at Box.

Stanford had prepared her well -- for the technical challenges, of course, but also for the realities of working in a male-dominated field.

"There is a lot of unnecessary, not competitiveness, it's more people showing off, that occurs in some of the introductory classes," she says. "The school is trying really hard to prevent it, but it can be a really challenging factor. It certainly was for me. It doesn't seem to be fair to be competing against people who have been coding since they were 12."

Male people, mostly, who'd been coding since they were 12. No doubt showoffs can isolate those not prone to showing off. But women in computer science face another isolating factor: Only about 17.6 percent of the computer science degrees in the country go to female graduates. All of which means if you're a woman in computer science, you're just not going to see a lot of other women in your classes.

"You just got very used to being one of two or three women in large lectures," she says. "That was pretty much normal. I still remember a class when I think there were two or three women enrolled to 150 men."

But Lockhart says there is something those few women -- the ones learning alongside the men who've been coding since they were 12 -- should know. The skills gap closes very quickly once women begin studying CS. By the time the life-long coders and the women new to the game are ready to be hired, she says, the difference is almost imperceptible.

Oh, and Lockhart should know. As the director of engineering at a fast-growing startup, she hires a lot of engineers.

Contact Mike Cassidy at or 408-859-5325. Follow him at