The technology industry is male dominated, but as the industry has grown, so has the involvement of women. At the 2018 Carolina Women in Business Conference, four women in the technology industry shared their experiences and advice to those wanting to break into the industry.
Miriam McLemore (BSBA ’85), director of enterprise, strategy, and evangelism at Amazon, moderated the panel of Katy Sutter (BSBA ’82), client director at IBM; Leslie Pearce (MBA ’90), vice president of inside sales at First Data; and Bridget Wamsley (MBA ’17), marketing manager at Cisco.
Together the women discussed changes in the tech industry, the importance of networking, and the reality of work-life balance.
Changes in tech industry
One of the biggest changes in the tech industry, says McLemore, is that today every company is, in a sense, a tech company. “You can’t run a business without technology today,” she says. “I had Delta Airlines as an account, and they can’t fly airplanes without technology. Almost every company is leveraging technology more and more.”
Another major change is the pace at which work is performed. In the past a team planned to roll out a new product or service in three to five years, says McLemore. Now, teams have more like 12 to 18 months for a rollout and only six months for some cycles. The turnaround on a project is fast, but the fast pace keeps the work exciting.
“You don’t do the job every month, which is very exciting. I love technology just from the perspective of you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring and you have to remain committed to knowing what’s going on in the industry,” says Pearce.
The fast pace of the technology industry raises the question of whether a work-life balance is possible. McLemore answered without hesitation that based on her personal experience it is very possible. “You actually can do these jobs and have a family. I have three children and I’ve been married for 25 years. Katy’s got two children and been married for 30 years.”
McLemore explains that balancing a family and work isn’t always easy, but with all of the resources and technology available today, maintaining a balance is much easier. A shift in work culture has also helped. McLemore reminisced about a time when she had to show up to work at 8 a.m. in a starched shirt, skirt and heels. Now she wears jeans and tennis shoes every day.
“Relationships are extremely important, so keeping connections and building your network is so crucial. The technology world used to be smaller than it is today, but it’s still fairly small,” says Sutter. “You’d be amazed. Every day I’m still running into people that I knew 20 years ago.”
Wamsley offered advice for building a network. When she started at Cisco, she made goals for herself and kept track of who she had met and who interested her. She approaches colleagues to seek their insights and learn about their experiences. So far no one has turned her down.
Building relationships is key. “Genuinely help them with something because networking for the sake of networking to me feels artificial,” says McLemore. “I get a lot of that in this role. If you can do something that helps someone else, that builds a relationship and that’s what you’re actually trying to achieve.”
By Kelly McNeil (BSBA ’19)