Continuing to Break the Glass: A Q&A with Female Leaders in IT
All throughout the month of March, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records, National Gallery of Art, the National Park service and other organizations are celebrating the study and observance of the vital role women have played in American history. In the spirit of this occasion, we are honoring the women making history today within our own walls and getting their advice for women who aspire to careers in technology.
Q: As a leader who is active in the Federal Government marketplace, how do you feel the industry has responded to welcoming women in technology over the last decade?
A: I firmly believe the federal government has become extremely welcoming in the past decade to women pursuing careers in technology. Women are now developing technology policy for their agencies; they are frequently invited to be presenters or moderators at high-level conferences and summits; and author articles for industry and government publications. My sense is the federal government may even provide women better opportunities for more rapid advancement in technology positions than the private sector.
I think our culture and our government has undergone a sea of change when it comes to technology, and the role of women pursuing careers in technology. The educational system now gives much greater emphasis on courses in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and more women are pursuing careers in these associated fields. The federal government has also adopted flexible time schedules and telework policies favoring women that choose to work from home. Federal training and leadership courses are also increasingly geared to women, and women are specifically encouraged to participate. Most notably, women in technology positions have an established system of mutual support and mentoring to assist each other in achieving career goals.
Q: Where have you personally seen this shift in the DC Metro area?
A: I have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of women in federal technology positions featured as speakers or moderators at conferences such as AFCEA, MeriTalk, GovLoop and the Digital Government Institute. This creates an opportunity for women in government and industry to provide a directional voice. In essence, this increase has created a dynamic where female leaders in this business are being sought out for their insight and advice now more than ever. This leadership is standing at the forefront of our industry helping to lead the charge in implementing new policies and processes. This in turn opens the door for all women in this business to participate in the conversation.
Q: What would you say to a young woman thinking about a career or starting out on a career in technology marketing?
A: I encourage young women looking to start a career in IT to focus on honing their ability to pivot and adapt quickly as the IT market rapidly evolves. They have to develop a great sense of curiosity – always asking questions, always looking for new/better ways of doing things. And they must embrace the dynamic essence of IT, always seeking to learn and train on new developments in the industry especially around the use of data analytics and driving metrics. The women in our history who have made an impact always looked beyond what was in front of them to what was possible and that drive and curiosity is the key.
Q: Did any one person, event or idea inspire you to get into the Technology field? What was it?
A: I have great admiration for Jean Edwards, Director of Business Development and Program Capture, Dell EMC Federal. I’ve always been inspired by Jean’s passion for her job, her ability to embrace change and her constant quest to challenge and push herself. She is a strong member of the IT community, a huge supporter of STEM and a steadfast mentor and advocate for women in IT – especially in her current role at Dell EMC. Women like Jean have carved a path for all women in technical fields creating an environment where young women can see the possibilities in front of them and feel supported in pursuing them.
Q: What excites you most about leading new technologies to market?
A: When we bring new technology to the market, it’s inspiring to know that these solutions are solving a problem – and that the right technology can truly enable an organization to achieve its mission and serve their customers. Technology is only as strong as the people behind it and when we can help people implement custom solutions that solve very complex problems, you feel like you’re making a difference.
Q: Have you had key mentors (either men or women) who have consistently supported your decision to stay within the financial domain of a growing IT organization?
A: I am a big believer in mentorship. I have gained several mentors throughout my career and their guidance has and continues to shape how I lead my own team today. Mentors come into your life during different phases, sometimes when you least expect it. I remember the moment when I realized that I had my first mentor. It was not evident until I stepped back and saw the bigger picture he was painting with me. He helped me implement certain practices and set up efficient structures to teach me the activities in which I should regularly participate to ensure my future was successful.
Q: What is the most exciting part of being engaged with key leadership on critical decisions regarding corporate finance?
A: The complexity of IT and ViON’s unique mission that impacts the data safety throughout the U.S. government is an underlying force that drives me to do my part within this organization. The dynamic and sensitive nature of the industry, though challenging, propels me to contribute strategic financial initiatives and to be a trusted advisor so that we can continue serving this important mission to support our government as they serve every citizen.
Q: How have you mentored other women internally and externally in their venture to be in the technology field?
A: I find it most valuable to leverage the personal experiences that a mentee has had in their life. I like to dig into their goals and aspirations and show them how they can shape their own conversation. Using their thoughts and ideas, I guide them towards positively branding themselves in the workforce and illustrate how it can be translated into their every day lives.