Ep 68: Pamela Metivier: You Don’t Have to Be Exceptional to Be Equal

Diva Tech Talk was happy to interview Monsoon Strategy Partner, Pam Metivier, Co-Creator of STEAMTeam ®5, a children’s book series focused on getting girls excited about STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math.

Not to give TOO much away, Pam considers this not just a book series but “the beginning of a movement.” The books tell the stories of five amazing girls (Sandia Scientist, Treeka Technologist, Evelyn Engineer, Ariana Artist, and Mattie Mathematician) who comprise STEAMTeam® 5.  They use science, technology, engineering, art, and math to accomplish their goals. Designed to inspire and teach, the series and Pam’s career are both directed to an objective near and dear to @divatechtalks:  inspiring girls (and women) to join, stay and lead in the field of technology. The series can be acquired on Amazon (www.amazon.com) or on its own website (www.steamteam5.com).

Pam was always a tech maven. “As a child I always liked to take things apart.  I took apart my favorite Christmas gift: a Timex watch, when I was about 8,” she said. “And I’ve also been interested in writing my entire life.  So, I got a degree in technical writing” from Oklahoma State University (https://go.okstate.edu/).

Influenced by her brother, a software engineer, Pam’s early career focused on writing technical and design specifications. “I sought out software organizations.” Her first job was as a senior tech writer at hospitality software company, Sulcus Hospitality Group with an office based in Arizona.  “I started out writing manuals. I had to use the product(s) to write about them,” she explained. “In doing so, you identify opportunities to make the product better.”  Her next logical career step, then, was into product marketing. “For me, it was twofold. I became very interested in a role contributing to product features and usability. And in 1995, I was working for a software company (First Data Corporation: https://www.firstdata.com/)  that decided it wanted to create the first online banking application. I taught myself HTML.” Pam was subsequently recruited into First Data’s product development team, writing this breakthrough application. “At that point I was defining requirements, and stuff like that.”

In 1997, Pam moved to Silicon Valley, as a technical writer, for Vantive, a company whose main product was a software suite created to integrate call centers and help desks with field service personnel.  (Vantive was subsequently acquired by PeopleSoft, then swallowed by Oracle Corporation – www.oracle.com -  in 2002.)  From technical writer, Pam was promoted to direct Vantive’s Website development.  “Then I moved to co-found my first startup, and it was a little scary but very exciting.” She headed product marketing at Clip2, her company, one of the first social bookmarking sites.  There she realized: “I’m really a product person at heart, so even through to today, a lot of my activity is connected to product marketing, and technology marketing.” Pam said that “I can always use the tools that I recommend my clients should use.”

She is highly enthusiastic about STEAMTeam®5.  “My business partner and I created this series.  He invented it while he was playing with his daughter.  He wanted to infuse education into their playtime.” But the real breakthrough came when Pam attended the Washington D.C. WOMEN’S MARCH in January 2017 (https://www.womensmarch.com/). “I left there wondering: What can I do to contribute in a positive way to the issues that I care about most, which are education, science, women and girls, and their equality?”  STEAMTeam®5 was her answer.  Her hope is that girls reading it would “identify with role models, who are young and fun and someone they would like to be, someday.”

Having founded two companies, Pam’s advice for entrepreneurs is “you have to be in a position to ‘go all in’.  Watch your budget; downsize if you have to. But you can’t do it, halfway.” As a product marketing consultant for 15 years, Pam has seen what she calls “game changers” in tech marketing:  search and email in the earlier days; and today, the power of social media, remarketing and social advertising.  She avidly uses technology daily.  “I use 5 to 7 pieces of technology to promote the STEAM5 project,” as an example.

In discussing tech equity: “The problem starts with girls younger than we thought.  We need to start with girls when they’re very, very young --- even preschool age.” While STEAMTeam®5 was written for those from 7 to 11 years of age, the audience for the series can be kids as young as 3, with their parents reading to them.    She said “I think that children are born innate scientists. They should be taught that things they do in their typical play, in their typical day, all use STEAM skills.”  Pam stressed that if a parent or teacher connects simple things to engineering and science, children will understand that “science is fun!” She suggested that parents point that out, consistently, because “kids will be less intimidated later.”

Pam emphasized: “You don’t have to exceptional to be equal.  I think that is a message that young girls need to hear. My goal is to normalize seeing women and girls in STEM/STEAM courses at school, and in tech careers.”

As a busy Mom and entrepreneur, Pam said that she takes it “one day at a time.  Did I balance on that particular day?” Also, “I take little breaks from work to check in with my child to just make sure that he is engaged; or we’ll do something fun together.”  Additionally, she said: “I’m working really hard on putting my phone away.”

Pam Metivier can be reached on Twitter at @metivier.

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Ep 67: Eboni Mack: Always Forward-Thinking

Diva Tech Talk was delighted to interview Eboni Mack, Senior Manager, Analytics, at GTB (www.gtb.com). In high school, Eboni originally had her eye on a thespian career, but instead decided to specialize in communication studies in college (“the way people think and how they consume media.”).  The firstborn in her family, she feels lucky because “I had two amazing parents who encouraged me to be what I wanted to be, do what I wanted to do and figure out what my passion was. The sky’s the limit.”

During her college years at the University of Michigan (www.umich.edu), Eboni benefited from a public relations internship at Lapides Publicity Giragosian, a media internship at Fox 2 News (http://www.fox2detroit.com/), a writing stint at the Michigan Daily (https://www.michigandaily.com/)  and an internship at Radio One (https://urban1.com/radio-one/).  “I accrued a lot of experience with the media field,” said Eboni.

Post-graduation, her first job was working as an account executive for the advertising and publishing division of AT&T (www.att.com). Simultaneously she went back to school for her MBA, with a dual concentration in marketing and management, from Wayne State University (https://wayne.edu/ ).  Two years into her tenure at AT&T, Eboni moved into a market analyst position, a role she held for four years.  She then shifted to MRM McCann (https://mrm-mccann.com/), a large advertising agency (part of the global MRM Worldwide Group) that specializes in helping large companies effectively convey their brand value and deeply connect with customers.  That agency focuses on six interrelated specialties:  marketing technology and its use, relationship marketing, data and analytics, e-commerce implementation, search engine optimization and website development.  Eboni’s first MRM McCann assignment was as senior data analyst for behemoth General Motors (www.gm.com).  Initially she dove into CRM (customer relationship management) analytics, dissecting email campaigns for Buick and GMC.  Then Eboni moved to a senior site analyst role, evaluating consumer behavior across all GM brands, including interactions with their individual brand websites, and GM’s owner center website (for instance, www.chevy.com, www.cadillac.com etc.) “I spent a lot of time on GM’s owner center website, since that was the time of the recall crisis,” she said.

Eboni migrated to Team Detroit, for an analytics opportunity, working on the Ford Motor Company (www.ford.com) account. Team Detroit subsequently went through a brand change to GTB (which stands for Global Team Blue) and is proud of their heritage as a full-service agency.  “We have creative, project management, strategy and a huge marketing science unit, that has different analytics disciplines from media to online search to attitudinal and survey.” Eboni exclaimed.  “Bringing all those disciplines together to serve our singular client,” is GTB’s key differentiator in the competitive advertising world.  Eboni’s current role is concentrated on website optimization. “My team executes all of the personalization, audience targeting, and A/B testing across the communications around Ford.com” (the Ford Motor Company global website).  “As an example, if you were to come to Ford.com as a first-time visitor, you would typically would get a very generic experience. But let’s say you decided to shop for a specific vehicle, the next time you would visit the site, you would get a very vehicle-specific experience,” explained Eboni, describing outcomes of her current work.

In evaluating her career success to date, Eboni catalogues key strengths as diligence, drive, and inquisitiveness. “I am always looking to learn,” she said. “Technology is an industry that is always changing. You need to constantly be feeding your brain with knowledge and information just to keep up!”  She recommends brainstorming, reading white papers and publications, to keep the brain sharp, and information current.  Eboni also admitted that “I like process and structure. The fact that I have been very organized has helped me in my career.” She said that “being a woman of color has definitely shaped my experience.  Throughout my career, there have been many times when I have been ‘the only’ in a room! But it has shaped my experience in a positive way and has allowed me to bring a different perspective to the table.”

Eboni is ambitious.  “Within a few years, I see myself moving into a director role, where I am leading a division or department. Long-term, I see myself exploring entrepreneurship.”  She understands that the technology-oriented skillset she is continuously developing has value to a wide range of customers, aiming to grow their businesses.  She also plans to get her PhD, at some point in the future, with the aim to teach at the university level, later in her career.

For Eboni, “happiness is about being fulfilled in whatever it is I am doing.”  Her current sources of happiness include her stimulating career, strong relationships with friends and family, and traveling the world.  “That criteria may change as I enter different parts of my life.”  Eboni acknowledged, matter-of-factly, that “I have a fear of failure. In life, there will be adversity; there will be disappointments; there will be challenges. It’s really about how you deal with those things and learn from them,” she said. “But my greatest fear is allowing my fear of failure to hold me back. When I leave this earth, I want to know that I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. I don’t want to miss out on anything because I was afraid to take a risk.”

As an aspirational leader, Eboni’s advice to women destined to lead includes:

  1. “Always be in a constant state of learning.”

  2. “Don’t be afraid to ‘think outside the box.’  Some of the craziest ideas turned out to be the most successful for me.”

  3. “Give back along the way.”

In terms of her own giving back, Eboni said “I have been very fortunate to work with leaders who supported me over the course of my career.  So, for me, I want to be able to provide that support for someone or a group of people” mirroring the mentoring she has received. Eboni has served as an advisor to the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated (http://www.deltasigmatheta.org/educational.html).  “I also studied abroad, in South Africa, so I did a lot of volunteering with youth, including the St. Philomena’s Children’s Home, an orphanage.  And I volunteered for an organization called LoveLife, a health awareness organization geared toward youth in South Africa.”

Reflectively she said, “What I would tell the ‘younger Eboni’ is that you don’t have to have it all figured out. I literally thought I was going to be ruling the world by 25. When that didn’t happen, it was a little disappointing. I had held myself to this unrealistic standard of perfection. Now I would tell myself to ‘allow yourself to be human.’  You don’t have to have all the answers. And that’s ok, because life is really about the journey, and not the destination.”

Eboni’s axiom for living, from her dad, is to “keep your eyes on the prize. Always be forward-thinking.”  The best way to contact Eboni J. Mack is through her Linked In Account.  

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Ep 66: Chris Rydzewski: Believe In Yourself

Diva Tech Talk was thrilled to interview Chris Rydzewski, long-time tech veteran, now serving as Executive Director for the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (www.mcwt.org).  Like many of our other “divas” Chris did not originally plan a path in technology.  “Ironically, I stumbled into it,” she said. Matriculating at the University of Michigan (http://umich.edu/ ),  “I loved math and stats,” she said, “but I wound up with a degree in marketing.”

Having lived in Texas for a while, Chris returned to Michigan and joined Compuware (www.compuware.com) in the early 1990’s. “Ironically when I interviewed with them, I hadn’t been following them.” Chris soon discovered that Compuware was a leader in application lifecycle and performance development/productivity solutions, particularly on mainframe computers; and she got hooked.    “They had 5 lines of business, and were really big, at that point.” For eight years, Chris sold Compuware solutions, supporting the Rocky Mountain states (Colorado, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Nevada – “lots of travel!”), primarily in the financial institution and state government vertical markets. She subsequently moved into covering parts of the Midwest until 1998. Then she became an international product line sales director responsible for coaching both direct and channel sales teams in South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. “It was one of my favorite roles since one of my personal passions is travel and culture. But it was also one of my most difficult jobs because of the language barriers and time differences,” Chris said. “I would be out on the road for a couple of weeks at a time. You’re constantly working when you’re doing that. Didn’t have a social life because I was always traveling.  As much as it was fun, when I came back I felt so disconnected.”

This led Chris to her next decision to move to BMC (www.bmc.com), “another big company”, she said.  She spent 5 years at BMC focusing on sales to large Michigan-based corporations like Kmart, the automotive companies, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan etc.  And then subsequently, she moved back to Compuware as a strategic sales manager for key “named accounts” that interested her, regionally. “I always loved working at Compuware,” she said; and the move allowed her to explore other products the company had developed including product portfolio management and change management offerings.

In 2013, Chris moved over to Compuware’s application performance management division, a growth segment for the company. “A company called Dynatrace was acquired and a lot of good technology came with it.” Within a year, Chicago and San Francisco-based private equity investment firm, Thoma Bravo LLC purchased Compuware for $2.4 billion. Under the agreement, Thoma Bravo split Compuware into two separate companies: the mainframe software business (under the Compuware name) and Dynatrace (www.dynatrace.com), continuing to focus on real-time software management and maintenance. Chris stayed with Dynatrace, selling for them for the next four years.  “One of the things I really loved about my whole sales career was identifying relationships and where the business drivers were. It was always about solving problems.  That’s what I love about technology.”

In the summer of 2017, changes at Dynatrace spurred Chris to leave the company. “I ended up doing some soul-searching,” she said. She asked herself questions like “what is my gift?” and “what is it that I should be doing, moving forward?”  As it happened, she was “tapped on the shoulder” to consider an opportunity with the Michigan Council of Women in Technology. “For the previous 12 years, I had always been a volunteer,” Chris said. “I had been on the Board of Directors, and had handled fundraising for many, many years.  I so enjoyed it and was super-passionate about it. There were many aspects of the organization that I loved and helped build!” So, Chris assumed the role of Executive Director. “We were at a point where we had grown so fast. There needed to be improvements from an operational perspective.”  In her new role, Chris is responsible for full MCWT P&L management with oversight over the organization’s fiscal health, its budget, fundraising, staff, and much more. She is laser-focused on “operational improvements and efficiency.”

With a mission to “grow and inspire girls and women in the field of technology in Michigan,” MCWT consumes most of Chris’s energies. As a successful sales leader, ironically, “in my career, I was always one of the few females with teams of men” she lamented.  “This is the ‘give-back’ time for me.” MCWT runs 35+ large and small events each year; has given over $1 million in scholarships to college-bound and post-college women and girls pursuing technology careers; will run 10 summer tech camps for 5th through 8th graders this year has 13 after-school girls’ high school and middle school tech programs; hosts an annual Website design contest for high school and middle school girls; a mentorship program for mid-career women, and much, much more.  While still small, compared to other nonprofits, MCWT “has lots of programs and stakeholders,” Chris said.  And she is now responsible to work closely with the Mission Officers, Infrastructure Leads, Staff, Volunteers, and the Boards to help drive success for all of the programs and events!

In looking at herself, Chris’s main personal strengths, thus far, are relationship-building skills, her penchant for problem-solving, and affinity for staff career growth.  She likes to “develop folks.” Chris has been grateful, too, to observe “many great leaders over the last 12 years” of her volunteerism at MCWT. “Everyone had a different style and approach, and I really learned” from each of them.  Key leadership lessons that Chris cited include:

  • “Be passionate” about whatever you choose to do.  She commented that at one point in her career, her volunteerism at MCWT became a “platform” for her and help cement her identity as a leader in her own company.

  • “Be open to new opportunities” Challenging opportunities may just appear, provided you have worked hard, and consistently have done your best.

  • “Believe in yourself.  Have confidence.” (dropped the Nike comment that was here)

  • “Be relevant.”

For girls and women of all ages, Chris exhorted them to “take some risk!  You are not really going to know what you are good at, until you try different things, and see what bubbles up to the top.”

Chris said that being a woman leader in a male-dominated technology workplace can be “a good thing.  I think women have different characteristics. I think we listen better. I think we communicate better.”  Some of her former colleagues “would be amazed at how I could pull out information” when she was making joint sales calls with them.   She emphasized that “you have to make yourself heard” particularly when you are in the minority in the workplace. “It is still, sometimes, a struggle for women to be in leadership roles,” she said. But she also noted that persistence and tenacity when attacking that struggle is key.

A self-admitted “workaholic,” Chris admits to occasionally having a problem balancing family, and work.  She has deployed a few practical tactics to address this. “My husband and I have ‘date nights,’ because if you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen,“ she said.  She has also tried to make the time between dinner and when her teenage daughter went to sleep the time when everyone focuses on family. When she is driving her daughter anywhere, she turns her phone off.  As a family, they also plan big trips that all of them can take, together. “You should not always have your work drive you. Your family is super-important; there is so much more,” said Chris.

“Technology makes everything relevant” according to Chris.

She can be reached through the new and improved MCWT website (www.mcwt.org), and chris.rydzewski@mcwt.org.

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Ep 65: Jennifer Charters: Inspiration From An Iron Woman

Diva Tech Talk was delighted to interview Jennifer Charters, Chief Information Officer of Corporate Technology for Ally Bank (www.ally.com), one of the first online-only financial institutions in the United States.  Now boasting over 5 million automotive customers and 1.4 million retail banking customers, award-winning Ally has provided 24 hour/7 day a week Internet-driven financial services for its clients since 2009.

Coming from a modest background, Jennifer’s technology fascination began in middle school thanks to Commodore Computers. “My family purchased a VIC 20 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_VIC-20),” she said. “It basically looked like a keyboard, that you connect into your television.”  At first, Jennifer played with inbuilt pre-programmed applications but then began to create her own programs.  “I taught myself how to use Basic. I created a ‘choose your adventure’ program.” Jennifer fondly recalled going to work with her Dad, a lithographer, and “he showed me the computer room. He probably recognized that computers were becoming the future.”   In high school, Jennifer moved on to use Apple IIe (www.apple.com) computers and realized “I had a knack for the logical nature of coding. It came easy for me.”  She matriculated to Michigan State University (www.msu.org) as one of “less than a handful of women” in the computer science program, attracted by the fact that tech jobs “paid very well.”  She was also delighted that the university offered the opportunity to minor in two additional disciplines. “I chose Psychology and Business,” she said because “technology, just for technology’s sake, doesn’t necessarily make sense.  When you apply technology to a problem,” it does, according to Jennifer.

In college, Jennifer was fortunate to obtain internships at IBM (www.ibm.com).  Her first summer was spent in North Carolina, second summer in Rochester, Minn. and third summer in Chicago, Illinois. “I got experience trying all these different companies.” Also, as a member of the Society of Women Engineers (http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/), (where she found a lot of “like-minded women interested in technology”) she had numerous recruiters swarming. “One of the companies was Accenture (www.accenture.com),” Jennifer said. “It was Andersen Consulting at that time, and they talked about a career path with a lot of variety.”  Jennifer was hooked. “That idea of being a jet-setter and traveling all over the world and getting that opportunity to explore different areas really appealed to me.” Jennifer sold her car and moved to Chicago. “I started off as a programmer,” she said. “It evolved into project and program management; and gave me a lot of exposure to a lot of different companies, and roles within companies.” On average, Jennifer spent 18 to 24 months at each Accenture client she served.  She began in the telecommunications vertical market, then specialized in the field of Internet service providers. “That gave me the chance to work globally,” with stints at Deutsche Telekom (https://www.telekom.com/en) in Germany and Grupo Telecom (http://www.telecomitalia.com/tit/en.html) in Italy.  For Jennifer, the “exciting part was the startup aspect” of each of the challenges she tackled.  Then “In 1999, there were a lot of startups” based on massive adoption of the web. “My husband and I were presented with two different opportunities at startups, and we debated: who was going to do what. We decided only one of us should go the ‘startup route’. “

Their decision was that Jennifer’s husband should join his startup and “the funny thing about that was that in a year, his company was essentially defunct” although, ironically, the opportunity that Jennifer turned down successfully blossomed. “It was a really fun time to be in technology!”  At Accenture, Jennifer then focused on other startups including Focal Communications --- later acquired by Broadwing, which was acquired by Level 3 Communications (http://www.level3.com/en/), in an acquisition flurry. When that project ended, “it was a scary time.” Jennifer moved to a project at AT&T, in New Jersey, right after the World Trade Center was decimated by the events of 9/11; worked on that for two years; then decided to move back from Chicago to Michigan. “We decided to move closer to family” but still traveled each week. “Ultimately, I got pregnant,” and both she and her husband landed jobs in Michigan. Jennifer switched industry specializations to the automotive industry and then to an insurance industry project with The Automotive Club Group (www.aaa.org).  “What I was most interested in was staying local, then” said Jennifer.  This assignment became her entrée into the world of fintech. After having her first child, “I ended up on the road, again,” traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to work on another insurance industry customer. “Then I got pregnant with my daughter,” and had an epiphany. Her emphasis shifted to achieving a work/life balance. “That is when I began to look for other opportunities” outside of Accenture.

Jennifer obtained a project manager position (“a step down to achieve work/life balance”) at GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors (www.gm.com). “It was an interesting change of pace. But I didn’t realize what a change that would be,” she said.  She had her second child after having joined GMAC, and when she returned from maternity leave, GM had sold the financing arm to Cerberus, (http://www.cerberuscapital.com/),  a private equity company. “I found it exciting. It was a huge kind of shakeup, re-looking at our processes; and trying to find ways to make them more efficient. Fast forward another year and a half, and the worldwide financial crisis hit. I felt like I was in the crosshairs of it all. It was a financial company linked to the automotive industry, and those were the industries most affected. We were in real trouble, on the verge of bankruptcy.”  

The U.S. government bailed out GMAC, reinventing the entity as a bank holding company.  “It meant we had more regulations, but it also gave us the opportunity to start a bank --- an online bank: Ally Financial.” The key lesson for Jennifer?  “In crisis, transformation happens.” And Jennifer thrived because “with change is progress.” In that environment, Jennifer was promoted to program manager and then a director. “I felt like there was career momentum.” Eventually, she took her current promotion to Chief Information Officer, Corporate Technology, with responsibility for seven direct reports, and a large organization numbering over 180 colleagues.  “Banks had not always been very friendly.” With pride, Jennifer feels that online only Ally fundamentally has changed that. “We care about our customers. Our motto is ‘do it right’. Customers are really responding.”

“At a young age, my mom made it very clear that girls could do anything,” Jennifer said. Her personal strengths include confidence, based on taking many chances and tackling challenges throughout her career; a penchant for flexibly embracing inevitable change; a focus on what is truly important in life; and an enthusiasm for life-long learning.  “When I try to hire people,” Jennifer said, “one of the things I look for is learning agility: somebody who has curiosity, is continually ‘sharpening the saw,’ and looking for opportunities to stay fresh. In technology, it’s constant change.” Despite her strengths, she occasionally fears “that I am not spending enough time with family. I don’t ever want to look back and have regrets.”  To achieve balance, she relies on tools including her calendar and meticulously blocks out time for both work, and personal/family activities.

In her volunteer life, Jennifer is on the Advisory Board for the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (www.mcwt.org). She also coaches her daughter’s 12-week “GIRLS ON THE RUN” program, where she meets weekly with groups of girls “teaching them to be leaders, be collaborative with each other, and be kind.  At the same time, they also learn to run.” At the end of the period, they run a 5K race.

Jennifer, herself, has recently pushed herself to complete two Iron Man Triathlon Races (http://www.ironman.com/#axzz5BMqBTLsW). “I started that in 2014.  I didn’t know how to swim. If anyone had told me when I started this, that I would enter an Iron Man, I would have told them they were absolutely crazy.”  Nevertheless, once resolute Jennifer began to the process of learning, she got hooked again, using triathlete classes at Lifetime Fitness as her foundation, and inexorably progressing from there.

Key lessons that Jennifer has learned through her career:

  1. “Relationships are key. They come in so many different forms and help you in so many different ways.” Take time to develop them and maintain them. “Having people, you can talk to” is essential.

  2. Take the right amount of time for enjoying life.  “Understand what your priorities are. Take time for them.”

  3. It’s ok to take a step back. (“You actually learn quite a bit,” from taking the occasional break.)

  4. “Managing people is a whole different skill-set and experience. You use influence, since you are disconnected from the hands-on work. It requires trust; and it requires that you have a good team around you.”

  5. “Recognize that your career is your own,. It is what you make of it. You’re in the driver’s seat. Using your own strengths, values, internal compass to guide you will give you the best career for you. Follow your dreams.”

Jennifer can be reached through LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jencharters/

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Ep 64: Holly Rollo: Turning Uncertainty Into Transformation

Diva Tech Talk was thrilled to interview Holly Rollo, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of RSA (www.rsa.com ), a Dell Technologies (www.dell.com) company, offering business-driven security solutions, designed to detect and respond to advanced attacks; manage user identities and access; and reduce business risk, fraud, and cybercrime. RSA protects millions of users around the world and helps more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies thrive in a high-risk world. 

Like some other Diva Tech Talk interviewees, Holly said: “You never know what’s in store,” since she did not originally set out to be a technology leader. The daughter of a Marine who was taught the value of determination and hard work at a young age, Holly’s journey began with a passion for investigative reporting. With an undergraduate degree from Santa Clara University (https://www.scu.edu) in journalism, “I had two job offers, right out college.  One with a paper, and the other as a PR person for a high-tech, semiconductor company.”  She chose the PR job and has no regrets since “what is amazing about marketing is that you’re constantly chasing a story. It’s a creative job. It’s a quantitative science job. It’s a technology job since marketing has gotten more technical.” Her philosophy is that journalism concentrates on telling the truth, and “that’s what we try to do as marketers. In technology we are trying to find the true things that really help people solve problems.”  One of her strengths is her “curious mind.” As Holly got started, she “asked the dumb questions”, including ‘what does this mean for customers?’ and ‘how do they buy it’….” The answers she received helped her ”understand the whole picture” and weave the right stories to promote and strengthen brands, products and services. “As I would drive the discussion to a more strategic level, I became a better marketer” since it helped pinpoint the right customers, the right segments, the right channels/methods of product distribution.

From National Semiconductor, (purchased by Texas Instruments (http://www.ti.com/)) Holly moved up through a variety of marketing jobs, building a substantial career and a wide perspective. “Early on, I was thirsty for as much experience as I could get.” She said that her path, which encompassed stints at Young and Rubicam, IBM (www.ibm.com) Sanrise (www.sanrise.com) Symantec/Veritas (www.symantec.com), Sybase (www.sybase.com), SAP (www.sap.com), Cisco (www.cisco.com) , FireEye (www.fireeye.com) and Fortinet (www.fortinet.com) , was forged by “focusing on what I was good at; what I was interested in. 

“What I am really interested in is major shifts or transformation.” So rather than working in status quo situations, Holly was motivated to take on “big, hairy problems.” Some of those included repositioning companies or older brands to take advantage of new markets, effecting full company turnarounds, positioning organizations for hyper-growth, or rationalizing and organizing hodgepodge tech product portfolios.  “I like jumping into the middle of chaos and making order out of it!”

Her career has also morphed, as her priorities changed. Holly said that life stages can surely affect your career choices.  For instance, starting out, she said, “the brand that you work for, ‘speaks’…” and choosing it wisely can determine your career trajectory.  “After that, there are different things that are important,” she noted. One of her career changes was inspired by a desire to “work with a woman who could mentor me.” Then, “later, as I had children, flexibility was more important,” she said. “Now, what I have learned is that I want to work with people who are amazing, people to have fun with, every day.”   

In making mission choices, Holly thinks that what instinctively drives decisions can be different for women than men. “Sometimes, what’s important is the money. I think women are sometimes uncomfortable with that idea.”  Holly also stated, “there are tradeoffs.” She cited the example of choosing a startup with exciting potential, great experience and an impressive title versus working for a larger, more established company at a higher compensation level. “You have to be your own advocate.  And you need know what you are advocating for…” When making key career decisions: “do the introspection; understand what’s important for you, at any point in time. Get as much information as you can; know what you want; know what your boundaries are.” She recently finished reading Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss, a book germane to this topic, as well as other areas of business mediation, and then gave it as a gift to her daughter.

Holly also suggested, for personal peace of mind, “there has to be a conversation, at home, about tradeoffs.  You have to know what you can balance, at home, in that workload,” to construct the right career road. In collaborating with her family and children, she also tried to be transparent; “when you must miss something, it’s important to explain to them what’s going on. They’re going to be faced with the same challenges in their lives. They are going to have to make tough choices, too.”  Her daughter is 22, and her son is 20. “He’s going to be a husband someday. My expectation is that he’s going to do half,” so she has been setting an equity foundation and example for her children through her actions, conversation, and counseling.

To achieve balance, in times of stress, in addition to yoga and hiking, Holly reminds herself “it’s one day at a time, one work week at a time.”   The tech industry is unpredictable so “this can all change tomorrow. The best I can do is just focus on what’s right in front of me and take it in bite-sized chunks.”  She uses the same approach with her team, when facing gargantuan, challenges, and then they “do things they never thought were possible --- amazing, epic, incredible things.”

Holly is grateful to be in the security field. “There’s a bigger mission. Particularly in the current environment, you can really understand how what goes on in the digital world impacts us all. It’s about how you detect and respond, managing risk to your bigger business mission.”  The security issues are so massive according to Holly that “I constantly feel like we are behind.” To address the quickly-rising level of crime and malicious activity, “we have a lot of catching up to do. It’s not just information technology’s job. Everybody has to think about risk to the organization.”  She notes that the rise in security breaches is also affecting marketing technology, an exploding field. “There are over 6000 martech companies,” she said. “And half of those companies are less than two years old. Complexity is the enemy of security. So, marketers now have a role in opening up companies to data privacy issues and data risk.” She recommends that people read: Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World by Marc Goodman, for a better understanding of the future  security issues potentially facing our world.

Holly noted that there is “a massive issue in technology employment,” and “everyone is going to be needed. We need all kinds of talent.  We need more women in engineering; we need more women in leadership; we need more women in storytelling positions.” With the advent of the “Me, Too” movement and more progressive societal influences, she thinks that “a lot of behavioral changes are going to happen” to assist in breaking down diversity barriers. “We have the power to vote with our feet, and choose not to work for a certain company, or a certain manager, leader or CEO.”  The biggest issue in Holly’s mind that needs to be addressed is “the pay equity piece.” She noted that each individual manager can change that. “Every year, we go through reviews. We have the power to address the pay gap” then. Her perspective is that pay equity is solvable, “if we chip away at it, little by little. Everybody can play a role.”

Holly can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hollyrollo/ and on Twitter at @HollyRollo.

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