One to Watch: Vonnie Howard’s lifetime devotion to classroom technology

In our ongoing series, ‘One to Watch,’ we profile the movers and shakers at TI who are making a difference through their extraordinary work.

TIer Vonnie Howard was profiled in the September issue of D Magazine.

(Photo Courtesy: D Magazine)

It is very common for TIers throughout their career to move from one part of the company to another, spreading their skills, knowledge and expertise from business unit to business unit. But that’s not Vonnie Howard’s story. Vonnie’s commitment to creating world class technology for teachers and students has kept her in our Education Technology (EdTech) business for the last 29 years. Little did she know in 1985 when she started at TI, she would become committed to collaborating on and developing industry leading educational products for students and teachers around the world.

She graduated from college with a degree in computer science and engineering before interviewing with our equipment and semiconductor group. Her resume was passed on to what was called the consumer products group at the time, where EdTech was housed.

“When I got the call from EdTech I was very excited because that was exactly what I wanted to do. They worked on educational products, calculators and talking toys, which was the first thing I worked on when I started at TI,” said Vonnie.

Vonnie has come to work every day for the last three decades with the goal to help teachers and students succeed in the classroom. She has seen a lot of changes over the years, from educational toys like the Super Speak & Math to what she works on today, the TI-Nspire line of products. In her current role as a software embedded manager, she and her team focus on creating the common code for all Nspire devices, ensuring the TI-Nspire software will run seamlessly not just on handheld devices, but also on the PC, Mac and iPad applications she and her team has helped to create. She’s constantly energized about the opportunity to make technology that improves how teachers teach and students learn.

“It is absolutely the reason I have been here for 29 years,” she said. “I love working closely with teachers and making our products specifically for their classroom needs.”

While Vonnie is passionate about enabling teachers and students to succeed, she carries that same commitment in her efforts to see female engineers thrive in their careers. Vonnie is a member of our Tech Ladder, the prestigious recognition system to honor some of the best engineers in the company.  She has been very focused on trying to retain women engineers and engage them in the Tech ladder career path.  She joined the EdTech Women’s Initiative (WIN) Leadership team to represent the Tech Ladder.

She wants to make sure current women engineers stay in the technology field, but she is also focused on the next generation of innovators, volunteering to mentor young women in technology fields and participating in fund raising events for High Tech High Heels, the non-profit organization dedicated to getting more middle and high school girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“I couldn’t just sit back,” she said. “I need to participate and do things now to help get and keep more women in the engineering field.”

Vonnie’s dedication to the engineering field and women engineers hasn’t gone unnoticed. Vonnie was one of the honorees for the first annual North Texas Women in Technology Awards by the Dallas Business Journal this year.

As for her dedication to educational technology, that hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Vonnie was chosen to represent the EdTech business for the September issue of D Magazine featuring 40 stories that have shaped the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the last 40 years. The article features the TI-83 graphing calculator.  

All of it comes back to Vonnie’s devotion to the engineering field, the technology she helped to create and the difference it makes in the lives of students and teachers.

“I know it drives my husband crazy, but I’ll be in a store and say, ‘Look. Look. They don’t have the TI-Nspire on the front row, we need to rearrange this,’” Vonnie said. “For me, I feel so honored to have worked with such an awesome team over the years, where we have all been focused on products that make a difference.  That is why I do this.”