Women Technology

Ep 8: Rising Up with Sue Schade and Kate Catlin

In this episode, we spotlight two diverse women leaders helping build and support a strong community of women in technology. Kate Catlin, millennial founder of Women Rising, a new and exploding network of women in tech, invited us to attend a fireside chat with “Baby Boomer” Sue Schade, CIO of the University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers. We share the mission of Kate’s new program and Sue’s equally inspiring story focused on a career that spans three decades.

Like many women, Kate first entered technology by accident. While working as a community manager for Grand Circus, a tech training institute in Downtown Detroit, she decided to try out a coding class. She loved learning how to code and soon after entered Detroit Lab’s apprenticeship program to further develop her skills.  Around this time Kate began looking up to a friend and mentor, Erika Carlson, co-founder of Girl Develop IT Detroit. She learned how important mentorship is for women, sparking the idea for Women Rising.

Women Rising is an online-based platform with an algorithm to match women in tech to appropriate mentors, monthly. The group also hosts frequent events bringing leaders like Sue Schade to the community. Kate shares how Women Rising works and what she hopes women in tech get out of it in order to “rise up.”

What’s one thing Kate would like to see women get from her platform?

“Greater ‘Ballsy- ness’,” said Kate. “There’s a certain gumption that it takes to rise up. You have to be really willing to put yourself out there and fail. You have to know that other people have your back.”

She hopes Women Rising helps women in tech know there’s an entire community here that has your back. It’s free to create a profile and get started connecting inside their network. Check out Women Rising online at: http://www.womenrising.co/

Next we spoke with Sue Schade, CIO of the University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers, who has spent over 30 years in the world of technology management and shared some great tips on leadership. Sue started as a developer but a year later moved into a business analyst position. She then was asked to move into management and lead a newly-formed team, before becoming a regional CIO.

How did Sue make the leap into management? The first thought that came to her when asked to manage was: “I don’t know what these people do!” She quickly realized that was okay, as long as she could ask the right questions and oversee the work. She learned a lot along the way, including the following crucial management tips:

  • Be very genuine and authentic as a person

  • Be clear about your values

  • Lead by example

  • Think strategically and execute

For women leaders she says it’s not easy. You have to recognize your own strengths and be true to yourself. She wants women in technology to know they don’t have to manage like men to be effective, but develop their own unique styles.

Sue says she “grew up” in an organization over a 12 year period where she eventually became a regional CIO. During this time she took a number of courses to help develop her skills. In her opinion, you can learn skills, but you have to develop your own personal leadership style.  She now has a large role as CIO of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health System, frequently named as one of the top 10 healthcare systems in the United States.

More recently, Sue has been very actively speaking out on women in technology. A diverse workforce she believes is vital for competing in a global economy, and the numbers around women in technology and STEM are way behind. But Sue says that it is not just about the numbers, it’s about the applications and innovations that come from diverse people collaborating. Do we have a balanced viewpoint from the perspective of both women and men?

You can learn more about Sue Schade by visiting her Health IT Connect blog at www.sueschade.com.

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Ep 7: Carrie Thorpe: Evolutionary to Revolutionary Image Sizing

At the 2015 Midwest Technology Leaders Conference, the premier regional tech conference, the Diva Tech Talk team met a phenomenal female duo who launched a startup in Detroit called sizzlepig. In this interview, Co-founder Carrie Thorpe shares her story about getting into technology and launching sizzlepig’s new and very effective image sharing tool.

Carrie Thorpe’s very first job was a jump into the (then) brand new world of digital advertising. She was the first digital traffic person at Ogilvy & Mather, a large global ad agency. She saw a lot of growth potential in digital advertising but some pushback from customers.

“We were still getting the reaction that the ‘whole Internet is a fad’ at that point,” she says, describing managing budgets for big brands like Ford.

Carrie had to learn all about the new technologies while working in the ad world. In 2009,  she broke out from the agency world to start her own company. Right away her team started to run into problems with projects. Several of their clients had thousands of images and would keep changing the image specs. The amount of time spent on editing and sending files was pulling their creative team down. They used this first-hand experience to create a solution.

“We thought there had to be a better way to handle this, so it wasn’t so manual,” she said.

There weren’t tools for what Carrie and her team wanted to do, so they created sizzlepig's cloud-based tool that allows you to resize multiple images without batch scripting. Carrie describes batch scripting as working too much like an assembly line. If you don’t like the results you have to go back and manually edit the image, so it’s not always helpful. As a growing creative agency, they had to take a risk to put resources into the new technology which they first called “Bacon.” They delegated a team to start working on it because they felt it was so needed in the industry.

The tool allows users to shape and send images for all different sizes. An agency can sign up for an account, choose their folder, send where images should go, and use their blue print screen to choose the sizes and shapes. There are templates for social media graphics, and the ability to create custom templates.

“As an agency, it’s all about time. Image production is not a well loved task. You can take a look and quickly adjust and output images,” Carrie said. “It saves our clients 90% of their time.”

For that very first project that inspired this new tool, it would have saved their team 20 hours of work, diminishing that time to less than half an hour. Carrie tells us this is not an evolutionary tool, like Adobe Creative Cloud, but a revolutionary tool offering a new approach to image editing and sharing.

For other women technology entrepreneurs, Carrie offers great advice. Launching a new product is challenging, but for Carrie focusing on how much value and help the end users receives motivates her to get through the tough times. She also says having a strong partnership with your founders and team is key to building the company. What makes a strong partnership? Carrie says the best characteristics for her are trust and having a reliable work ethic. Also, she says no one should be brought onto the team that can’t fit into your work culture.

Working at sizzlepig, Carrie says, is more about honesty in what you’re doing.

“We strive to be honest with ourselves and our clients,” she says. Carrie also says that it is essential that you find a personal mentor. This should be someone who can call you out and tell you when you’re overreacting or underreacting.

Learn more about this new tool sizzlepig here at www.SizzlePig.com and the annual Midwest Technology Leaders Conference at http://mtlevent.com/.

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Ep 6: Christina Mathes: Propelling Innovation at Rocket Speed

On this episode we spoke with Christina Mathes, Vice President of Client Experience for Rocket Fiber. Rocket Fiber is Detroit's newest, exciting Gigabit Internet provider serving residents and businesses with 100 times faster Internet speeds.

Christina has a degree in Psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy, but was uncertain what to do with it!  So she started off in a position in mortgage banking at fast-growing Quicken Loans, where her career evolved over the past 15 years. About four years ago she moved to the Mouse Trap team, the “innovation arm” of Quicken Loans. Then she moved this past year to Rocket Fiber.

When Christina first made a move into technology, joining Mouse Trap, she was excited to learn and bring her first-hand business experience to the tech team. She loved being in a setting that supported positive breakthroughs. Mouse Trap helps Quicken Loans with vetting new ideas to propel innovation, in both technology and other aspects of the business. Her team also helped lead “bullet time,” a four hour weekly session on Mondays for technologists to learn new skills or work on new projects.

When one of the co-founders of Rocket Fiber submitted a concept to the idea portal of Mouse Trap to get Google Fiber to Detroit, they explored it. The Mouse Trap team conducted feasibility studies to see if the concept was viable in Detroit. Google wasn’t interested in entering the market, so Rocket Fiber was spun off about a year ago, to make the idea a reality.

Why is Gigabit Internet vital for Detroit? Christina said that it helps both new entrepreneurs and the  growing cadre of second stage companies in Detroit. For her, it is a “no brainer” that faster online connections can significantly help with the city’s growth trajectory! Christina pointed out that everyone has to have Internet these days, and she’s excited to provide a better client service experience for those accessing it. Rocket Fiber plans to use online tools, community events, and more to empower people to use the Internet.

“I’m excited about bringing our customers something they deserve. Folks are pigeon-holed into just a few options, and have poor experiences,” she said.

Bringing 100 times faster speeds will help residents save time, and businesses execute faster. For Christina, she likes to remind others it’s far more about what getting online speedily does for humans, and their endeavors, than just using the technology.

Christina shared some great advice for women entering or staying in technology fields:

  • If you want to try something, just try it.

  • It can be easy to achieve a good work / life balance if you focus on achieving it.

  • Surround yourself with others who share similar interests and challenges.

  • Meet everyone you can. Ask others what they’ve done.

  • Keep your head up, look around and meet people.

A noteworthy organization that helped Christina was We Build Character --- a program devoted to pairing emerging professionals with top-notch mentors.  WBC helped her meet diverse colleagues, and receive constructive feedback from her mentors and others in the program.

Christina is Vice President of Client Experience at Rocket Fiber :http://www.rocketfiber.com/

Christina mentions and recommends the following technology organizations throughout this episode:

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Ep 5: Rosemary Bayer: GodMother of Good Data

On Episode 5 of the Diva Tech Talk Podcast, we visit with Rosemary Bayer, an engineer by training and a leader by nature.  Rosemary is the co-founder and Chief Inspiration Officer for ardentCause L3C, the first low profit, limited liability company in Michigan, a "for profit company with a non-profit soul." She is also a founder of The Michigan Council of Women In Technology, the premier non-profit association/foundation supporting and inspiring women in technology.

Co-founding ardentCause L3C in 2009, as one of the few women-founded and women-owned technology companies in the Midwest,  Rosemary and her team have exclusively served major nonprofit agencies, funders, and educational groups. ardentCause helps nonprofits measure their impact, utilizing online data solutions to achieve better outcomes, through innovative software for data collection, analysis, visualization and communication of information.   With a background that includes product invention for major computer companies, and leading large business operations,  Rosemary is ardentCause’s primary force behind the invention and implementation of innovative technology solutions to help nonprofits succeed.

Rosemary entered the world of technology in college because she said: “I found it interesting, creative and realized that it changed all the time….and the sector was brand new;  women, at that time, could be a solid 50% of the field!” Years later, she and her partners made a “big leap” into entrepreneurship, after having worked for decades at large companies in the sector in order  to make “giving back” an integral part of their careers. Her partner is our very own Kathleen Norton-Schock.

ardentCause was started to “fix the biggest, baddest problems” that Rosemary and her team could find. Their solutions are focused on the aggregation, analysis and warehousing of data that measure the outcomes and prove the impact that those selfless people working on homelessness, literacy, hunger, mental health, poverty issues etc. are having.  

“What we are turning out to be is a group of innovators:  bringing the use of information to a sector that still doesn’t know how to use it,” Rosemary says. “We’re helping non-profit leaders and staff understand how the use of data can help them make better decisions, and know what’s working and what’s not.”

“To listen to customers, and to hear what they really need is probably the most important skill,” according to Rosemary, for entrepreneurs, leaders, and team members.  As a woman leader, she characterizes her style as one well suited to entrepreneurship.  “It is open, collaborative, consensual.”  However, she also laments that the Midwest does not rival the West Coast in terms of available funding, which is a potential barrier to entrepreneurship.

Rosemary offers four pieces of practical advice to women entering and aspiring to lead in the tech field.  “It is really important to find role models,” she says.  “Develop ‘emotional intelligence’.  You need to be yourself, which means you also need to know yourself.  Oh, and don’t volunteer to make the coffee.”

According to Rosemary, many girls and women don’t enter the computer field because “it is hard for them to see the social value.”  On the other hand, at ardentCause she feels that her team is working for the greater social good every day.  

You can find more about ardentcause at www.ardentcause.com

Learn more about The Michigan Council of Women In Technology: http://www.mcwt.org/

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Ep 4: Fearless Jane Sydlowski: Advice After Two Decades of Tech Success

 

The Divas from Diva Tech Talk recently interviewed Jane Sydlowski, Founder and CEO of AMI Strategies (www.amistrategies.com). Jane is quite unique. There are a handful of women, who created and continue to lead successful technology companies, thriving over 20 years.  The number of those women becomes minuscule, when you examine tech companies in the Midwest vs. Silicon Valley or Route 128 in Massachusetts.  Jane’s Michigan-based company is exceptional, approaching its 25 year anniversary, having carved out an innovative technology niche, serving clients all over the country.

Jane founded AMI Strategies to help the business community make intelligent decisions when it comes to telecommunications expenditures. One of the company’s breakthrough products, temNOW™, is a cloud-based solution, saving Fortune 1000 companies, and smaller businesses, millions in costs.

Jane says "[her] brain is wired that way", as she refers to her love for math/engineering, her personal mission, and the path she pursued in college. When she was an engineer at a major telecommunications provider, she observed the “fat” in the invoices and network architecture, and knew there was a better way to manage expenses and communications infrastructure.  AMI Strategies was born from Jane’s personal conviction that applying technology and rigorous, honest business practices to that problem would help companies significantly save, succeed and thrive.

Over 24 years,  AMI Strategies (staffed by 60% women), survived two recessions, with 50% of the largest clients filing for bankruptcy at some point in recessionary periods.  “Our labor costs doubled, because clients needed us, but funds coming in were delayed,” Jane says.  Nevertheless, AMI carried on, and Jane attributes that to the fact that she is guided by a higher power.  She also says that many of her life lessons have emanated from what raising her three children has taught her.  Jane’s advice to women leaders is to deploy what she calls her learned “football skills:” be competitive, unemotional, and fearless.Her AMI team is very important to Jane.  “I look for people who are willing to take risks, and move forward with conviction.”   

To lead a company, she shares some pragmatic observations:

·       It is easy to lead in good times.  But make sure you are at peace with your higher calling in life to survive the bad times.  Faith, family and enterprise are the three things that inspire Jane, in exactly that order.

·       When you get bad news, inculcate it for 24 hours.  Then, learn and move on.  No dwelling allowed.

·       Don’t “live in the gap.”  While there will always be someone to whom you can compare yourself, and some other levels of success to which you can aspire, don’t pay attention to any of that. Live for today, knowing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.  Choose joy.   

When it comes to women pursuing technology careers, Jane also offers some excellent advice:

1. The technology field is filled with men.  Don’t worry about that. Be yourself.

2. Never be defensive.

3. Always be professional.

4. Win on competence.

And, above all, practice fearlessness.

Jane is the Founder of AMI Strategies, a Telecom Expense Solution: http://amistrategies.com/

Jane mentions and recommends the following women in technology organizations throughout this episode:

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