Looking back on my career there are two factors that were major influences.
First, my dad was a self-described “database guy” he worked at Epsilon Data Management, and I would delight in his stories of solving impossible customer problems with large IBM systems and how technology would save the day (or sometimes the systems crash). When the first Macintosh SE came out, my database-guy dad thought we should have a computer at home so my sister and I could learn about computers. I would go on to spend hours on dial-up boards and later the Internet.
I was hooked.
Second, I played competitive team sports from an early age. At age 7, the only team sport that I could walk to from our apartment was baseball. After some negotiation with my mom, I was the only girl on the Angels little league baseball team, and I played on the Boston Commons every day after school. Later, I played many sports and eventually played soccer in college. While I was not destined for the women’s world cup, I developed a passion for being in and eventually leading teams and winning.
I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, but I am a commercially minded nerd. I love the possibilities that technology creates to solve some of the most challenging problems we face. And I’ve always been a team-oriented competitive athlete.
My first job was in a startup where I was promoted to a manager just a few months into the job with no management training. I learned that I had a lot to learn about both technology and leading. My second job a year later, I thought it was crazy that I was now managing MBAs from Harvard and MIT Sloan. I felt I was in way over my head, but my practical, commercially minded approach combined with a focus on team helped us be successful. Our team was creating some of the first websites using technology to solve business problems. We won a few early web awards for our efforts. In the early web days, we had so many challenges: system problems, poor testing practices of this new technology, and incomplete strategy choices. All of these would remind me of my dad’s database stories and I that knew if we learned and improved from these setbacks, it was just part of the process. I was fortunate to have exceptional mentors who coached me, held me accountable, gave me very candid feedback, and challenged me to think differently, accept failure, learn, and then do better.
I later joined SAS where I developed an appreciation for the value of analytics at scale for large enterprises. As I rose through the ranks, I had the opportunity to build out a high performing global team, create large scale programs, and work directly with customers. Customer work especially helped me gain an even deeper insight into what constitutes technology driven business value.
Today, as the Chief Product Officer at Teradata I am fortunate to lead a diverse, wicked smart (as we say in Boston), high performing team. I deeply believe in what we do—Teradata transforms how businesses work and people live through the power of data. Our future is bright.
As part of my reflections during Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day (March 8), I want to encourage other women to tap into your professional potential. Here are some rules I live by that could help you, too:
- Evaluate your core strengths; lean into them and decide what you can improve upon.
- Offset your weaknesses; surround yourself with team members who have complementary strengths and seek input and advice.
- Be a lifelong learner. I read books and listen to podcasts and love to interact with people who are passionate experts.
- Raise your hand for interesting work. Work that scares you a little and will challenge you.
- Ask questions and seek to understand.
- Be empathetic. At the end of the day, I believe people are good and want to do the right things. Assume good intent.
- Give back, I am deeply committed to paying it forward through mentoring. I take on mentees from early to mid-career. Frankly it is a two-way street I learn at least as much as my mentees do in our discussions.
- Help the next generation, as a mother of two teenage boys, I know part of my job is to raise allies and thoughtful contributors to society. Our dinner conversations and debates are forming their critical thinking and views for their futures.
Someday I hope and believe “Women in Technology” won’t be a special topic, it will just be how the world is; but today we aren’t there yet although we are making progress.