F5 Field Trip with Evergreen Middle School

On January 25, 2024, students from Evergreen Middle School attended an IGNITE Field Trip at F5 in downtown Seattle, WA. This event provided a unique opportunity for IGNITE Students to explore the F5 Tower, get a behind-the-scenes look at a major technology company, and learn about digital encryption.

The day kicked off with a tour of the F5 Tower, revealing stunning spaces like the top floor with panoramic views of the Seattle skyline, game rooms, multiple kitchens, coffee bars, a studio space for video and audio production, and the server room with colossal fans to keep equipment cool. Everyone was blown away by the space and amenities!

For the activity portion of the event, students were joined by Volunteers from Code.org, who have office space in the F5 Tower!  F5 is a force for a better digital world and secures important things like financial transactions, healthcare records, digital shopping carts, and much more. Students got an inside look at encryption and why it’s so important—and complicated—to secure digital activities. Jessica Kulwik, Software Engineering Manager at Code.org, asked students to think about sending a postcard through the mail. With no envelope, your message is wide open for anyone to read. That’s how unencrypted digital communications are! Students brainstormed ideas for keeping postcard messages secret: writing in another language, using invisible ink, or using a secret code. Then they got to experiment with some digital encryption tools, starting with cracking a Caesar Cipher and then working their way up to cracking a Random Substitution Cipher.

Following the educational activity, the students enjoyed lunch and had the chance to interact with a panel of professionals who work in a variety of roles at F5 and are in different stages of their careers, from recent college graduate to senior executive. The panel included Kara Sprague, Chief Product Officer, Ruva Chimedza, Data Governance Analyst, Kris Hayes, Sr. Director, Security Engineering, Katie Newbold, Software Engineer III, and Peggy Mathison, Director, Business Operations.

It was helpful for students to hear how different the panelists’ paths have been and learn how each speaker’s hobbies helped them in their journey. Several were elite athletes, which instilled discipline and teamwork, and classes like drama were important for building confidence and public speaking skills. The students were particularly intrigued by the panelists’ insights into job opportunities, salaries, work-life balance, and the earning potential in technical fields.

The panelists encouraged students to be confident and seek support when needed and emphasized the importance of using their voices. They also recommended taking a variety of classes in school and trying new things, as well as utilizing the internet for self-learning and skill extension.

The event was an opportunity for students to learn about different pathways to STEM careers and to witness a diverse work environment and the positive impact of diversity within the company and industry—all from the spectacular F5 Tower!
A special thanks to Peggy Mathison for coordinating this incredible event! Thank you also to Jamila Conley, Estelle Jochel, and Feda Fitian for greeting the students and helping them feel welcome, to Jason Dardis and Tiago Silva for leading the amazing tour of the F5 Tower, to Nimisha Mondal, Jessica Kulwik, and the Code.org team for the engaging activity, and to panel facilitator Charissa Upcroft and panelists Kara Sprague, Ruva Chimedza, Kirs Hayes, Katie Newbold, and Peggy Mathison for sharing their stories and advice. Additionally, thank you to IGNITE Educators Charissa Eggleston and Gil Simmons for encouraging their students to find their passion for STEM.

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

This event made me feel so confident.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“I enjoyed today’s experience; it was very interesting to look more into a STEM career and how important and fun it can be. My favorite thing that I learned today was how things can work and how this company has different tech jobs.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today inspired me to try new things. It also helped me realize how many options I have in life. The servers were cool, too.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

By making me feel hopeful in what career I want, it helped me think more about my future. My favorite thing I learned today was the differences in jobs people have and what they do. Also, I loved how people explained to us different things and showed us different stuff.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

Today showed me the different careers in STEM I could do in the future. How they work together as a community, caring for every person’s voice. My favorite thing I learned about today was encryptions, knowing there are different ways to decipher writing and connecting it to the ways of the internet.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event inspired me to try new things and not limit myself. The encryption was very interesting, and the servers were cool to learn about.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today was very interesting and fun. I loved the activities we did and learning about the workers’ personal backgrounds. My favorite thing was when I saw the servers and when I took a tour around the tower. I learned that jobs at F5 can be really fun and can make a good living.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event inspired me because I was able to learn about the salary possibilities. I love money, but I love engineering too; it’s so captivating and interesting. I also leaned that you can have millions in your bank account.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

It has really inspired me to join STEM after hearing about the many women who work here and how much money they make.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This event made me think about my future and about what I want to pursue. My favorite thing I learned today was about all the different jobs that go into this company.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

This showed me that there are a lot of parts to STEM, and you can get paid a lot. I loved the view and I loved how welcoming the volunteers were.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student
“I was so excited to come; the view was amazing, and people here are amazing as well. The place is beautiful. I hope I could come back here again. It was great hearing the panelists talk about how they were sporty, and about their life.” – 8th Grade IGNITE Student

About F5:

F5 is like a superhero for the internet! They make sure websites and applications are fast, secure, and always available for you to use. Plus, they fight off bad guys trying to cause trouble online. Pretty cool, right?

About IGNITE Program Field Trip Events:

IGNITE Field Trips offer a memorable, behind-the-scenes look at STEM in action and the wide range of career opportunities at the host company. Company employees interact directly with the students through an office tour, hands-on STEM activities, and IGNITE Panel and Q&A discussion.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at www.igniteworldwide.org.

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