My Fight Song: Women In Technology

“This is my fight song…” I am pounding out my run in the rain listening to Rachel Platt’s new song. Hmmm…I start to eye roll and suspect this will probably be the next Disney Warrior Princess theme song…But for now…

It’s mine.

“Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion”

“Big waves”…I laugh remembering how big waves started so small for my career. Because in full disclosure, I was a geeky college co-ed chemistry major trying so hard not to get organic chem lab experiments gone wrong on my clothes (and coming home reeking from them so badly my roomie was ready to lock me out). It was the 4th-year college calculus & physics that knocked me down though. No college mentor to help me hang on. No strong college advisors to help me. I decided I couldn’t cut it. I switched to a business (amidst hearing my father rant about the change).

Now don’t get me wrong. I love business. It’s a massive chess game that thrills me and lights me up! I’ve been fortunate to be successful in it because I had also had a great life mentor in my mom who was a CEO and built healthcare businesses. She showed me what great leadership for women in business & consulting looks like since I was a kid. I love this journey. It’s truly my passion…but I do wistfully miss the technology and STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) brain food. I have consulted and sold highly complex technology projects for 20 years and love it. But I wanted something more. And I didn’t even know what “more” could be.

In a 1:1 with my leader, KarlieJessop, asks “why don’t I call our SVP of Development at @ADP and see if you can start a stretch assignment in our Big Data project?” I was stunned. Did she know I was considering outside career offers out of boredom? I loved my job; but I wanted more and I truly didn’t know what “more” was. I didn’t have the coding background so there was no way I could apply for tech jobs internally. How does a passion for tech and a thirst for learning translate to real business value? I figured she was “checking the box” on something HR was forcing her talk to me about. Boy was I wrong! She set up for me to meet with Rich Wilson, SVP for Development at ADP, (think Wizard of Oz on BigData Steroids). That spark ignited and he opened doors for me to be part of his core innovation team in analytics. This was an invitation to work alongside other great leaders such as Marc Rind, Chief Data Scientist. “It’s a win-win,” Rich shared with me in a 1:1. Rich, Marc and the incredible Analytics teams across the world listen regularly to my consulting experiences and the client voices I hear and represent. They want to ensure usability and impact with their consumer fluidly (in addition to their client user groups). This IS the “more” what I was longing for. This passion they have ignited has now launched me to formal education via Johns Hopkins Data Science program. And Marc Rind (my mentor) has my back helping me deepen knowledge in machine-based learning, coding in R, as I learn and even publish one social profile I didn’t expect: my GitHub for codeshare.

Wicked cool?

Without a doubt.

On the heels of a provocative TalentCulture Radio Show and #TChat from Cork, Ireland, I am reminded that we have such an everyday opportunity and responsibility as leaders to drive more women & diversity in technology. Notably, we have to lead every day with this in mind:

1. Listen to your workforce

This is more than workshops and posters. More than emails from HR and twitter tweet bytes. This is everyday coaching and engagement strategy every leader must lead with like it’s oxygen. MOOCs and other learning opportunities can provide insight into helping employees start to explore new interests that the business could harness. But this is on every business leader across the board to own.

2. Offer ideas & Uncover Rocks

Listen and understand a career path for the individuals in your workforce not forgetting to balance with outside interests and inquiring about their own interests. It’s amazing how listening intently to employees interests and thoughts can open doors to ideas one may not have thought of. We have a female administrative assistant now excelling at learning SCRUM project management from another informal conversation. Uncover all rocks.

3. What If…Be Receptive

Rich & Marc were receptive to a nontechnical professional joining their team. Many would be incredulous at this and resistant. Why would leadership in technology spend time with a non-tech professional? Because diversity promotes innovation. It is a catalyst for disruptive ideas and thoughts. The top Innovators focus on diversity not just for great philanthropic sound bytes: but because this actually translates into financial ROI. As leaders, we must ensure we drive more to be competitive in business. And with the shortage of women and diversity in technology, this is just the start. “There’s a pressing need for talent in computing and engineering. Such positions represent 80 percent of available STEM jobs and are a hugely growing area.”

In our talent challenges in the workforce, this represents a new way businesses will win over competitors. “There will be a war for technical talent,” (General Motors CEO Mary Barra). Barra says it is crucially important to get more women into tech roles.

All because of one conversation. One leader who listened and opened a conversation and a senior leader was receptive and see the value of diversity in innovation. It’s up to leaders to change the conversations and recognize not only employee engagement opportunities, but finding new ways to drive women & diversity in technology.

And for this innovator, I’ve never been happier.

Let’s make big waves.