What inspired you to pursue a career in IT?
I’ve always been a tinkerer. As a child, I tinkered with broken or loose parts and tried to piece them together. As a teen, I tinkered with math and science problem sets and tried to build a sense of logic. As a student of Electrical Engineering, I tinkered with concepts of electromagnetics and built circuits and programmable hardware. All that background came together when I started working in IT. Now, my team and I build cloud architectures that leverage technology and provide the glue to solve real-world business problems.
What is the most challenging part about being a woman in IT?
I’ve been in the tech industry for over 25 years, and in my personal journey, there has been an evolution of both challenges and opportunities. With the benefit of experience, some of the challenges that don’t phase me anymore are: being the only woman in the room,
feeling like I’m being objectified for what I wear rather than what I know, doubting my own worth and avoiding taking risks.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have mentors (both male and female) who have supported me, advocated for me and helped me remove some of those challenges for myself. The part that frustrates me is that 25 years later, most young women in tech (and in STEM-based school/college disciplines) are still facing those same struggles. We collectively all have to solve the challenge of making IT and STEM a more welcoming field for girls and women.
What is the most rewarding part about being a woman in a leadership role?
In any leadership role, the most satisfying part of the job is the ability to scale your impact across your team and influence the trajectories of people’s careers (and lives). Now, as a woman in leadership, I feel that we can add another dimension to leadership by being a visible role model for both men and women. My leadership style is unapologetically empathetic, authentic and vulnerable. I aim to create safe spaces for risk-taking, rewarding ownership, and celebrating bringing your ‘whole self’ to work.
Why is diversity in business important to you?
Diversity is synonymous with Customer Obsession in my opinion. We live in diverse communities, we interact with diverse opinions, we grow through diverse perspectives. How can you achieve truly understanding your customer by having a team of homogenous backgrounds? As organizations, we need to scratch beyond the surface when we have conversations on diversity and also have a strategy for inclusion, equity and accessibility. Only then will we truly be able to represent and understand our customers.
What advice would you give an aspiring female IT leader?
Leadership, to me, is a source of humility and pride. Humility for the self, and pride on behalf of the team. We all have a voice, and in a leadership role, you have the opportunity to amplify the voice of your team. I always mentor and encourage aspiring female leaders to recognize the opportunity given to them to lead from the front. Female leaders act as beacons for other underrepresented communities in IT and help foster the ‘you can be what you see’ attitude in the younger generations. All this ‘responsibility’ sometimes becomes hard to shoulder, and my biggest advice to female leaders is to be kind to themselves. We are often our own worse critics, and as female leaders, it hard to fly under the radar, and so we feel over-scrutinized. That is when you most need to focus on giving it your best, and not really worrying about the rest.
Want to tell us anything else?
We are all superwomen and we are all out to save the world – however, we often forget that our own mental and physical health needs attention too. As someone who went through an arduous 11-month treatment for breast cancer 4 years ago (my journey is documented in my blog), I constantly remind myself and my team (both men and women) to not be caught in the cycle of constant execution. By slowing down enough to be able to step back, look at the bigger picture, and focus on the integration of life outside work, we can all be a lot more effective at work and at being healthy.
BlackHawk Data is proud to be a woman-owned small business. We’re committed to sharing the stories of women in our industry and opening doors for young professionals. We believe everyone should be able to make changes in the tech world.
Learn more about our commitment to diversity today!