I am blessed that tech found me! My family is filled with healthcare professionals, and I intended to pursue a career in pharmacy. While working as a pharmacy technician and attending college, I realized that as much as I loved my science classes, this was not going to be the best career choice for me. I made the decision to leave college and was determined to figure out what I wanted to do for a living. I started researching career options and organizations that I found interesting. I must have submitted my resume to at least 50 different organizations, including Verizon Telecommunications. Verizon Telecommunications had job openings in one of their Small Business billing, sales, and tech support call centers. I was fascinated with the idea of learning about telecom and helping small businesses across the country. I was fortunate enough to land the position, and at 22 my career in tech began.
I love my career in technology for so many reasons. I am a forever student and the fast-paced tech industry, that is continually evolving with new innovations is exciting for me. In information technology we often talk about people, processes, tools, and technology. I particularly love the intersection of technology and people and how we can leverage tech to improve our businesses, lives, and the world at large. From wireless tech to the Internet of Things to RPA and machine learning, tech innovations allow us to connect with loved ones from afar, provide the ability to work from anywhere, remove repetitive tasks from our workloads giving us back time, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In my current role, I get to spend my days building relationships with IT leaders to help them use tech to enhance company culture, create exceptional customer experiences, and much more.
Professional Interests & Drive
My passion is empowering others to reach their full potential and lead a purpose-filled life. I feel a powerful call to do my part to advance equity and inclusion for all women in STEM, particularly technology. As such, in addition to my professional responsibilities, I also champion many community engagements and DE&I initiatives for Bell Techlogix. These efforts include sponsorship and employee engagement with Women & Hi Tech and Techpoint for Youth Foundation. I also proposed the plan and led the efforts for Bell Techlogix to support and sponsor one of the only female Indy 500 race car drivers, Pippa Mann. Bell became a sponsor of Pippa Mann in 2018 and continues support today as a Platinum Shiftup Now sponsor, which has expanded the organization’s support to four female racing athletes.
I am a founding member of the Bell Techlogix Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee, now called Unify, formed in May of 2020. The Unify Committee’s mission is to make sure Bell Techlogix lives up to the idea that every human being enjoys a place of value, security, respect, and purpose inside the company, and that we as a company reflect those principles through positive action in our communities.
Since 2017, I have served on the all-volunteer board of directors of Women & Hi Tech (W&HT), which exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. I was elected as President in 2020. Under my leadership W&HT made many advancements in DE&I including, leading the most diverse board in W&HT ‘s 20+ year history, creating two new Leading Light Awards, Equity & Inclusion Champion and Male Ally Awards, awarding $60K+ in scholarships/grants (the most in W&HT’s history) to a diverse group of females pursuing STEM degrees, and creating our first DE&I Director role.
Mentors & Influencers
I’m blessed to have many amazing mentors both professionally and personally. One of the most influential mentors I’ve had the pleasure of having is Andrew Varsano. In my late 20s I was one of 600 Business Development Professionals in the Verizon Enterprise organization that reported up to Andrew. His leadership style included getting to know his individual contributors and rolling up his sleeves and working right alongside us. Andrew took the time to get to know his team both personally and professionally. And because of that, Andrew saw my leadership skills and other abilities before I even saw them for myself. He was my first professional mentor that took the time to sit down with me and share with me the skills and talents he saw in me beyond consistently achieving my sales goals. His words and the time he spent lifting others up changed the way I thought of myself and how I could help others. He mentored me by including me in leadership meetings, enrolling me in classes with our engineers, and encouraging me to dream big. Andrew provided me the confidence and skills to accept a role as team leader for a geographically diverse team of inside and outside sales reps from Indiana to California. Andrew’s mentorship and sponsorship of me in the early years of my career continue to guide me today. It’s given me the confidence that I can achieve anything I set my sights on. Andrew modeled servant-leadership which lit the fire in me to lift others as I climb. He also showed me at a young age what an inclusive leader looked like. Andrew’s joy came from seeing everyone grow and win. I am a better sales professional, technologist, leader and human being for having him as my mentor.
Beyond it is the right thing to do, mentorship and supporting and advancing the careers of women in technology is critical. The book, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez, helps illustrate why investing in female tech leaders and including women in all places where decisions are made is not just essential but a life and death matter.
Researchers have known for decades that women are more likely to be killed or injured in a car crash, yet nothing has been done about it. A study from NHTSA shows that a female driver or front passenger wearing her seat belt is 17% more likely than a male to be killed when a crash occurs. Why, might you ask? Crash test dummies used by the government, automotive, and insurance industries for testing and safety ratings represent the average adult man. There are ZERO crash test dummies modeled after the average adult female.
As we continue to rely more on technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, more women in tech roles are essential. Including diverse thoughts, perspectives, and experiences is vital in creating solutions where machines will be making decisions for humans, such as autonomous vehicles and robotics used in hospital operating rooms across the country. I also believe an opportunity to attract more female talent to tech starts with inspiring the next generation of girls to take an interest in tech at an early age. It’s so important to model and mentor girls and young females to show young ladies what is possible in tech and STEM and fill them with the confidence that they have what it takes and are very much wanted and needed in tech.
Admired Leaders & Trailblazers
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is at the top of the list for me. As the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, that alone is enough to inspire, and yet she spent her entire career advocating for the underserved, for gender equality, and to stop sex discrimination. She used her talents, voice, and position to advance pay equity for women and create a better America for women, the LGBTQTIA+ community, and many other diverse people groups. RBG is inspirational, a game changer, and a role model I highly admire.
Michelle Obama is another trailblazer that I admire and look to as a role model. Her tenacity, drive, and passion for healthy living, poverty, and education – with a focus on empowering women and under-represented people – is contagious. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at a Women’s Fund event, in Indianapolis, and the connection she created with thousands of women and men at the Fieldhouse was palpable – she left us all feeling empowered and inspired to be the best versions of ourselves and to use our time, talents, and treasures to joyfully serve others.
On a more personal note, we have many phenomenal female trailblazers here in Indiana. Laura Larimer has been leading the way for women in roles including, CIO for the State of Indiana, Director of Global Architecture at Cummins, and IT Officer at IPS. Audrey Taylor, CEO/Founder of netlogx, former President of Women & Hi Tech and NAWBO. Meredith Harper, CISO at Eli Lilly. Christine McDonnell, CEO/Founder of Codelisious, creates coding curriculum for K-12. Angela B. Freeman, Partner at B&T and one of only a few American female IP Patent attorneys. All these women are passionate leaders who model for women and girls, “if you can see it, you can be it.”
Advancing Gender Parity
My advice to women who are rising in a tech field and girls is to get involved. Connect with others in your field or STEM in general, get involved in local and national STEM and/or professional women’s organizations, build your network and community. For girls check out the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana which has over 50 STEM badges, Techpoing for Youth Foundation’s coding dojos and robotics teams, and Girls Inc.’s Eureka program focused on tech and STEM. There are so many opportunities for our young people to learn about tech today.
I would also share with all the young ladies and women in tech, you do not have to do it alone. Raise your hand. There are numerous community and nonprofit organizations, professional women, and male allies who are ready and willing to help you throughout your career.
Some other tips that have served me well both professionally and personally include:
- Authenticity and Transparency are essential in all relationships.
- The Why is more important than the What.
- Practice Conscious Listening.
- Adopt an Abundance Mindset – there is always more than enough.
- Network, Network, Network.
- Know your tech – be an expert in your tech discipline and surround yourself with other industry experts.
- Know who/what your tech serves – in B2B most technology solutions are not one-size-fits-all.
- Build your personal and professional Board of Directors.
- Be courageous. Ask for help when you need it.
- Network, Network, Network (Yes, it’s on the list twice.)
- Own your seat at the table – you’ve done the work to get there!
Leading the Next Generation
I believe the greatest challenge that needs to be overcome in technology that will lead to gender equity in organizational leadership is those in power today need to realize that we as humans, are better together. To attract and retain female talent, I recommend that the men in charge make room at the table for women, including diverse women, from the top down. Organizations need to create and live cultures of inclusion and belonging where diversity of gender, background, race, sexual orientation, thought, perspective, experiences, etc., are wanted and appreciated. Inclusivity and equity for all must be core values to the individual leaders and employees and the organization’s vision, mission, and beliefs.
Practically, I say if the men in charge of tech companies want to attract female talent, they should go where the women are. I suggest supporting and getting involved, beyond writing a check, with organizations like Women & Hi Tech, The Startup Ladies, Pass the Torch for Women, Dress for Success, Black Girls Code, Executive Women in Finance, Indianapolis Professional Association, and NAWBO. Far too much time is spent on keeping those different from ourselves out instead of empowering all and giving everyone a seat and a voice at the table.
I also believe inspiring the next generation of girls to take an interest in tech at an early age is imperative. I invite the men in charge of tech to help bring tech education and learning opportunities to our K-12 girls. Help in all the ways you can. Join school boards, create curriculum change, advocate for tech education, help fund, start, share your expertise, volunteer at non-traditional K-12 schools like Rooted School and Purdue Polytechnic High Schools. Launch internship programs for high school girls at your companies. Fund and volunteer to lead all-girl coding and robotics teams.