Women in Technology Panel Discussion
As I walked out of the Women in IT panel session at Collaborate16, my first thought was…
That was the best session I’ve ever attended at any conference.
I do not say this lightly. I’ve attended sessions over the past five years at various Oracle JD Edwards conferences. Let’s be honest, we’re not always incredibly excited about every session we attend, right? My manager had asked me to attend the Women in IT panel session, and as much as I hate to say it…I wasn’t incredibly excited. The session was on Wednesday, our fourth day at the conference in Las Vegas, and, frankly, I was tired. Going into the session, my only thought was that I could give my feet a rest by sitting down and get a break from standing at our booth. Let me tell you…I was dead wrong on this one.
I walked in right as the session was beginning, and I immediately sensed the energy and anticipation in the room. This was a well-attended event that was held in a panel format, with 5 guest speakers.
I was instantly engaged as the speakers began by discussing their background stories and how they became involved in IT. I took a moment to look around the room and could see on the faces of the women (and some men) in the audience that they felt the same way. No one was idly checking emails or texts on their phone. In this day and age, that says everything and is nothing short of a miracle. LET THAT SINK IN. No one in the room was looking at their phone.
The panelists took time to do a Q&A session, and I feel like it’s important that I share some of the questions that were posed, and the specific responses that were given.
Beyond the Q&A session, I wrote down several other pieces of advice that I was able to take from the panel discussion. As women, we should:
- Say “YES” to an opportunity.
- Get enough experience to get that job we love, and find different ways to get that experience.
- Never stop learning. We should read, study, and commit to learning our technology field.
- Always work to build our network in order to open doors.
- Never be afraid to say “I don’t know”. Just make sure to tell them that we can learn it!
- Refrain from using gender bias to battle against Gender Bias.
- Stop negotiating. Women have a tendency to drop their salary requirements in order to get the job.
- Know who we are and what we can do.
After the session ended, I took time to reflect on my experience. I couldn’t help but think about my own path toward a career in IT. I cannot remember a time when I haven’t worked in some sort of sales capacity. Over the past 20 years, I’ve gained experience selling a variety of things like high-end retail, real estate, and Swedish children’s shoes! I once had a job selling the advertising space on the side of pharmacy bags! (Ask me about THAT job next time you see me!)
When Megan Rae talked about saying “Yes” to the challenge of taking on W.L. Gore’s globalization project, I was reminded of my transition into Surety Systems, and a career in the IT field. Much like Megan, it is a challenge that I am incredibly grateful for accepting. I was initially hesitant to apply for an Account Executive role on the JDE team at Surety because I knew NOTHING about IT, and had never even heard of JD Edwards before. Surety took a chance on me, and I took a chance on them. Looking back, I’d like to think that we’re both glad we took those chances. But the job wasn’t all “sunshine and rainbows” though… The role was incredibly challenging. Coming from a non-technical background, ERP terminology was like an entirely different language. I was learning a new industry, reaching out to C-Level executives at Fortune 500 companies. (You guys can be really tough to get ahold of by the way!) My first performance review was not good. I just couldn’t quite find my footing. There was just so much to learn, and success wasn’t coming quickly. I was a two sport athlete at the collegiate level (volleyball and softball) and, quite frankly, I don’t like to lose. But I almost quit several times.
And then something changed. I began to look at my role with Surety Systems as an investment of time…a “career” rather than a “job”. I remember putting together flash cards and studying intensely over the first Christmas holiday break. I was not going to fail at this. My focus had sharpened. After several months of hard work and dedication, my resilience started to pay off. Finally validation. I could feel my confidence building with each new success that I experienced. In the summer of 2012, I specifically remember providing the American Blue Ribbon Holdings company with a team of 5 consultants to help them upgrade from XE to 9.0. In that process, I discovered my passion for customer relationship development.
Since that moment, I’ve been able to carve out a role here at Surety Systems where I can focus on working with our repeat customers to earn their continued trust. This is the part I absolutely love. During the Women in IT Panel session, Laura Ramsey encouraged us to know who we are, and what we can do. Customer relationship development is “home” to me. I am thrilled to be part of the JDE Community and have a role that I am proud of at Surety Systems where I can earn a living doing what I love.
The women on the panel drew us into their worlds by telling their own personal challenges and how they became successful. I instantly felt like I had five new friends. I was beyond impressed with their ease of delivery, openness to share failures, and ultimately, their successes. Personally and professionally, the discussion reminded me to continue to take risks and challenge myself to improve. I was reminded of the importance of staying up to speed on the ever-changing JDE platform so I can speak the “language” with our customers. It was also a good reminder of the importance of work/life balance. To those who couldn’t attend, my advice would be to make time next year.
I promise, you won’t regret it.