Inspirational profiles of women in
leadership roles in the tech scene.

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17 Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech

As part of our Lead(H)er series, we have had the great privilege of interviewing so many incredibly talented women who are founders or executives at some of the fastest growing companies in the vibrant startup scene.

They’ve told us about everything from the challenges, successes, and surprises of their careers, so take a look at our list of the talented women we’ve spotlighted this year.


Sue Nolin Wasabi

“For women in tech, or for women looking to break into technology, remember that you don’t need to be an expert before you start the job.  This isn’t a new message but it’s worth repeating. Trust your foundational skills and trust those around you. Your colleagues, your leaders, they want to see you succeed. Your success influences theirs.

Check out the full Article   View Wasabi's Jobs


Kady Srinivasan Klaviyo

“I never thought I would be in a CMO/head of marketing role. It used to bother me that I didn't know what I wanted to do esp when I saw the clarity my peers had. However, I have realized that not knowing has given me a richer background, and frankly has been more fun. A big secret right now is, I have no idea where I will be in 10 years!”

Check out the full Article   View klaviyo's Jobs


Lauren Lowman Ordergroove

"As I reflect on how I’ve progressed in my career, I attribute a lot of my success to saying “yes” to new opportunities and additional work responsibilities. I’ve always tried to play the long game when it comes to my career, meaning filling in gaps in responsibilities, even if it's not technically a part of my role and thinking of them as opportunities to learn something new.”

Check out the full Article   View ordergroove's Jobs


Erin Byrne Recorded Future

“Aim high, take risks and work really hard. Most importantly, earn your keep/respect, don’t be entitled!”

Check out the full Article   View recorded future's Jobs


Zoe Silverman Yesware

“I think just be open to anything -- there are so many jobs and experiences that could contribute to a future in People Ops, you don’t necessarily have to start there (I didn’t). ”

Check out the full Article   View yesware's Jobs


Jen Waldron CareAcademy

“I didn’t know I would be in this role specifically. But I did always want to be able to do something meaningful that really improves people's lives. I love that what I do helps other people grow their careers, makes them better at their jobs and ultimately improves their lives of older adults. ”

Check out the full Article   View careacademy's Jobs


Evadne Cokeh ButcherBox

“Patience, communication, empathy, and the ability to persuade are also skills that have gotten me to where I am today. I’ve spent many years honing those skills, they certainly are not skills you develop overnight. The variety of my work experiences really helped me with these skills too – which says a lot in terms of not needing a “traditional” career path to get where you want to go. ”

Check out the full Article   View butcherBox's Jobs


Heather Bentley Mimecast

“I often tell people that their career paths won’t be linear. It’s important to be open to new opportunities, roles, and industries. Gain as much experience and knowledge as possible and if you are no longer passionate about the role or work you are doing, try something new! "

Check out the full Article   View Acquia's Jobs


Jennifer Armstrong Duck Creek Technologies

“Second, find a good mentor(s) that you trust to help you on your career journey. A mentor doesn’t always have to be someone you have a direct mentorship relationship with. I have had people that I would consider mentors that I just watched how they interacted with people or handled situations. Everyone in your life/career can be a mentor informally. It is also important to find advocates for you outside of your direct management chain.”

Check out the full Article   View duck creek technologies' Jobs


Shital Whitmore SmartBear

“Treat people the way you want to be treated. Titles don’t matter. People are people. Work with people. They will help you, and you will help them.”

Check out the full Article   View smartbear's Jobs


Hillary Wyon EF Education First

“There is no job below you. You can learn something from everything you are tasked with. You may just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes it won’t be the big cool challenge you are looking for but they are all steps towards that.”

Check out the full Article   View EF Education first's Jobs


Brittney St. Germain Forward Financing

“Focus on finding work that’s interesting and puts you in the company of interesting and smart people, the rest will come together.”

Check out the full Article   View forward financing's Jobs


Dafna Sarnoff Aura

“Work hard, be proactive, reach out and get to know people and the company, figure out how to help your manager, bring ideas and solutions not problems, ask for and act on feedback, be someone others want to work with.”

Check out the full Article   View Aura's Jobs


Daria Marmer Alyce

“Feedback is a gift, but it's often wrapped up in stinky old newsprint instead of a cute bow. Being able to discard the wrapping but still keep the gift will help you grow and bounce back from adversity faster. ” 

Check out the full Article   View alyce's Jobs


Lisa Schneider Framework

“I can’t count how many times I have been the only woman at the table, the only woman in the room. I have literally had vendors sit down and try to explain the interwebs to me before pitching their service, or ask me for the wi-fi password and then turn away. I am definitely aware that I have had to work harder, perform better, just to be considered. It can be really hard to persist, but you just do it. And then you reach a hand down and help the person behind you.”

Check out the full Article   View framework's Jobs


Suzanne Glick Gilfix Applause

“Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out as of yet. Find good people to learn from either in your job or outside of it and ask lots of questions of how people got to where they are. As noted above, find mentors that do what you think you strive to achieve and then figure out how they got there. ”

Check out the full Article   View applause's Jobs

Lead(H)er Profile - Dafna Sarnoff, Chief Marketing Officer at Aura banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Dafna Sarnoff, Chief Marketing Officer at Aura

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Dafna Sarnoff, Chief Marketing Officer at Aura.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I was born in NYC, and we moved out to a rural area in Westchester when I was in middle school. My mother described me as “determined” on my nursery school application. I cared a lot about school, and my high school math teacher was a life-changing mentor. When I wasn’t at school, I was at the horse barn. I rode competitively, but the biggest lessons learned were from my coach, who demanded a work ethic that included mucking stalls, stacking hay, grooming and caring for the horses, and much more. But I think my friends (and some of my teachers) would also have described me as someone who laughed and joked around a lot.

Dafna Sarnoff Aura

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school? 

In college I majored in mathematics. I remember considering majoring in English, and having a conversation with my Dad who suggested if I was on the fence then maybe I should consider that math might help me out a bit more later in my life. I was annoyed but took that advice, and I’m glad I did. My first job after college was at Bain & Co, when management consulting was much more generalized than it is today. There were over 100 of us right out of undergrad who started in the Bain office together. I was so lucky to have had that as my first formative job-- both for the training and data-driven orientation that stuck, but also for the smart fun people I met, who are my closest friends even today. I also got to work in all kinds of different industries: information services, packaged goods, healthcare, heavy truck wheel manufacturing, and more. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

Truthfully, a lot of my early career path was not particularly planned. I applied to business school from Bain, figuring if I got into HBS I would go-- so I did. Most of my job changes came from relationships with people I’d worked with before, including American Express, where I started as a manager in the Consumer business, and had several different jobs over 10 years, eventually joining the executive team for the Small Business division. Amex is a well-run, marketing-led company, and was a great training ground in that respect, and for understanding the value of a great brand. 

Another truly formative experience was the four years I spent at Yodle. I joined as a VP of Performance Marketing, and eventually reported to the CEO running Marketing; I was part of the executive team that pitched and eventually sold ourselves to Web.com. Yodle was my first experience in a tech start up. I learned so much from our CEO about operating a company around agile product development, as well as how to create a demanding, fun, and values-driven culture. 

My CEO at Intersection was a ranked poker player, and among the things I learned from him was perspective on risk, and taking failures in stride as part of what is necessary to ultimately succeed.

Aura has also been an incredibly rewarding learning experience. Our CEO, Hari, combines true entrepreneurship with a deep understanding of capital markets. He attracts a huge network of partners and investors and brings his own hands on personal experience with taking companies public. He pushes all of us to move fast with an eye towards big things; he generates a sense of us being destined for greatness.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m the CMO of Aura as well as the D2C business leader. I run Marketing, Inside Sales, and Customer Service for the company.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I never had a specific career objective, but I knew I wanted to continually take on more responsibility and learn new things in each new job. It feels great to be part of the leadership team of a dynamic company aiming for greatness, with a mission to create a safer internet for people as our world grows increasingly complex and reliant on digital transactions.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Advice that I keep trying to give people (including my kids!) who are new to the workforce:

  • Learn as much as you can outside your own area-- it will help you do a better job for the company.
  • Actively cultivate relationships with people at all levels across the business. They might be the people who get you your next job!
  • Learn what your manager is doing that you can do for them.
  • Keep a solution-oriented mindset. If you bring a problem, bring a way around it, even if it’s wrong. This distinguishes great people from good people.
  • Speak up with your ideas-- the best ideas can come from anyone, and aren’t necessarily tied to experience level.
  • Solicit feedback and make a commitment to act on it, from your manager and from your mentors. 
  • Remember that a strong work ethic, and being someone that others like to work with, will take you far.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

The most important skill I need to do my job well is the ability to attract, retain, develop and motivate great talent, and to get our team to work well as a unit, and with other teams across the company. If I can excel at that, I can staff to any of my own personal weaknesses, which is critical for any leader. Of course, it’s also important to have a strong library of experience to draw from across different Marketing challenges.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with my direct report team, learning from each other, and creating opportunities for everyone to grow and succeed. It’s magic when the team chemistry kicks in. It’s also really rewarding to crack a tough problem using data and creativity, and see the results in the P&L.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My proudest professional accomplishment is to have re-entered the workforce and continued to grow significantly after taking 8 years out to be with my 3 boys when they were little. Eight years is a long time to be out, and the first year back was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done professionally. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’ve been making room for my yoga practice a few times a week for 25 years, so I’m committed to keeping that going. I love walking around NYC. On the weekends I try to take serious down time, and spend time with my husband and sons, and the rest of my family. My husband does the cooking in the family, but the pandemic really brought out the baker in me!

How do you manage stress?

See above!

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Zero! I drink water.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?

In New York City, I love The Hudson River Park, and I walk there all the time. Also the Highline and Central Park. One of the best things about the pandemic is realizing you can really walk anywhere in Manhattan.

I lived in Boston for eight years, and my favorite spots were running the bridges along the river. Also love the Gardens, the Commons, Beacon Hill.

Amazing spots in both places where everyone can go!

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

My husband, Geoff Rodkey is a comedy screenwriter and also an author. I recommend The Tapper Twins series for middle-grade kids (fun-to-read books about boy/girl twins in Manhattan). His first adult novel, Lights out in Lincolnwood, (a dark comedy about a suburban American family coping with a global calamity that upends all of modern life) comes out this July. The influence of our lives and our kids are present in much of Geoff’s work, including Daddy Day Care, his first produced screenplay, which was inspired by his staying home to take care of our oldest son when I went back to work at American Express.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

See above. To summarize: Work hard, be proactive, reach out and get to know people and the company, figure out how to help your manager, bring ideas and solutions not problems, ask for and act on feedback, be someone others want to work with.

About the
Company

Aura is a technology company dedicated to simplifying digital security for consumers.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Daria Marmer, VP of Product & Design at Alyce banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Daria Marmer, VP of Product & Design at Alyce

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Daria Marmer, VP of Product & Design at Alyce.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Massachusetts. I don’t know - how does anyone describe themselves as a child? Immature?:) 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied Economics and Math and I was sure that I wanted to go into finance. I had two internships with Lehman Brothers and graduated with an offer to join them full time after graduation. Less than 6 months after I started, Lehman declared bankruptcy and I was laid off. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do if it wasn’t finance -- and in early 2009 there weren’t many finance jobs still open. I applied to a variety of roles… I considered marketing, recruiting, sales, everything! I applied to a business role at eBay and one of my interviewers was a group product manager, Thad, with an opening on his team. At the end of the process, the folks asked me if I preferred the business or the product role. I had absolutely no idea what product management was and I asked Thad which one he thought I’d be better suited for. He said that I’d be a great product manager and I decided to jump for it. Thad is one of my mentors to this day!

Daria Marmer Alyce

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m the VP of Product and Design at Alyce. We are a fast growing startup, so a lot of my time I’m setting the vision and culture for the product and clearing any roadblocks for my team. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this product leadership?

Certainly not! When I was a sophomore in college, I wrote myself an email to be delivered 5 years later where I wrote something like, “by this point, you will probably be in business school after 2 years in an investment bank.” When I got it, I was in product and I never ended up going to business school. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Seek out other people’s feedback, but make space between the feedback and your self worth.  

Feedback is a gift, but it's often wrapped up in stinky old newsprint instead of a cute bow. Being able to discard the wrapping but still keep the gift will help you grow and bounce back from adversity faster. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Listening. Building software isn’t brain surgery, all of the answers are available if we’re able to listen for them from our customers, team members, and data. Two ears, one mouth and all that!

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

Probably the toughest thing is to manage my own emotions (ugh. Is that too touchy feely?) Being really honest, as a leader, the “easy” problems are solved by my team. Once they reach me, they’re the difficult ones. I can’t let my brain fall into any one rabbit hole of a problem and bring that negative energy back to the team when I’m trying to advise on the next problem. Creating that space is something that I work on regularly. 

Every Friday, I leave the week on a good note by publishing the “good stuff” that happened that week. When I sit down to write it, I’m still thinking of all the challenges and hard situations that we’re in the middle of solving. Once I start writing though, my mood improves dramatically -- looking back at all of the amazing challenges we solve, that retrospection is the most rewarding. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Building my team at Alyce is definitely the best thing I’ve done. I am blown away regularly by the insights that they bring to our conversations and having a great team makes going to work not feel like work. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

Right now no, but once my kids get a little older I look forward to it!


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

When I’m not running after my 2 kiddos, I’m playing guitar (poorly), running or rowing (not that long), or cooking (actually pretty good at that one). 

How do you manage stress?

Finding time for myself is really important for me. I made a new years resolution that every day I will either row 1k meters or walk/run 1 mile and so far I’ve done it every day but 1! I need a goal to keep myself accountable, and being physically active really helps me stay grounded.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

0.001 - I never really got into the coffee habit, but I’ll have one if I’m out at a coffee shop with someone else. 

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

Does my bedroom count? Just kidding. I went to college at Wellesley and the trail around the lake is definitely my happy spot. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

How much time do you have? I switch off reading business books and fun books and I’m in the middle of Ben Mezrich’s Once Upon A Time in Russia and it’s very good. Basically anything he writes is great! I’m not big into podcasts though. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates hoping to find a career in Product?

Find some way to build a software product -- it can be as a side hustle, a team project, a small web app, really anything that can show an employer that you’ve gone through the steps of Discovery / Development / Delivery before and have the battle scars to prove it.  

About the
Company

Alyce is creating personal connections at scale - transforming how businesses grow & engage people through our AI powered platform. 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Framework banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Framework

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Framework.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I moved around a lot, which definitely helped me become adaptable and also means those “what regionalisms do you use” quizzes are very confusing for me! I was a bookworm kid and didn’t get in trouble in 6th grade for reading under the desk in math class when the teacher pulled out the book and saw that it was Jane Eyre … but she did ask me to put it away.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I majored in English Literature, which seemed at the time a great scam to get in on: they would give me a degree for reading books and writing what I think about them? Sign me up! I didn’t have a plan for where that would take me, so like many English majors I went into marketing. My first job was in the communications department of a Fortune 100 firm writing copy for brochures and newsletters.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I was the Marketing Director at Bridal Guide in 2001, when many magazines were still just launching their websites. We outsourced the building of our site, but then realized someone needed to sort of manage the thing. I was super curious about the possibilities in digital and volunteered. We turned the website from a “companion site for merchandising banner ads” into a highly engaged community destination that was a pioneer in sponsored content, paid social engagement, and online contests. People at the time thought I was crazy to switch career focus, but I think it was a pretty good career move.

I spent the next dozen years in various digital leadership roles focused on product development and strategy, and another critical moment was when I got a call from a recruiter asking if I would like to look at a job at Merriam-Webster. Remember, this is a bookworm kid so yes, yes I would like to work at Merriam-Webster! As Chief Digital Officer & Publisher I led a digital transformation that turned the brand from a “dusty book on the shelf” to a timely, relevant resource and commentary users turn to every day; worked with super smart, creative, wonderful people; and we won about 18 awards including eight Webby Awards. I learned something new every day from the lexicographers, and actually became less judgy about language as a result.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m now Chief Growth Officer at Framework Homeownership, a social enterprise organization focused on building strong communities through the stabilizing force of homeownership. In other words, making the world a better place. We have a really stellar Homebuyer Education course which is a valuable resource to help correct the information asymmetry in the home buying market, and to give people the power and confidence to make good financial decisions around homeownership and advocate for themselves throughout the process. It has a 96% satisfaction rating but is the “best-kept secret” in home buying—obviously I aim to change that! And we have a new platform, Keep by Framework, focused on support for homeowners. The reality is that new homeowners express regret that they were unaware of the true costs of owning and maintaining their homes. Our goal is to provide the resources and support to get people into their home and help keep them there. 

I’m responsible to identify areas for growth and innovation, and then create the strategic and executional ecosystems to make those happen. I’m still in my “first 90 days,” though, so more details to come.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

My job didn’t exist when I was in high school—so it certainly wasn’t always my goal to be in this position. I have had a lot of luck in my career, and I definitely credit being curious and maintaining a learning mindset for helping me evolve and grow. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

I’m a big believer in STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Being an English major is still relevant to my career, even though I’m a technology executive. For example, I think the skills I developed analyzing literature are what help me find stories in data that are relevant and actionable; I can communicate well and use storytelling to convey concepts; and if you read literature written across hundreds of years you learn that human psychology hasn’t changed. This is really important to remember when organizations get distracted by shiny new technology. The technology is just a tool, the people are who you connect with.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

I am a real believer that the “product mindset” is so helpful for anything you are working on, not just literal product development. Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing it? What is the user journey? Where and how can we improve it? Where might things go wrong? How will this benefit our business? Who can we partner with? How can we amplify this? The ability to ask—and answer!—these questions, to play out the chess game and not just focus on immediate tactics, is really where you break through.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love that it is a combination of creativity and analysis, and that it’s always changing. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

There are so many, since I’ve been lucky to work with amazing teams and do good work together. Sometimes it’s the big resume-level things, sometimes it’s the small wins, and it’s always about the relationships you build. But getting handed a Webby award by Will Shortz live on the Webby stage was a huge thrill.

Lisa Schneider Framework

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I am incredibly indebted to the women of CEOX, an organization focused on getting more women into CEO, board, and other c-suite roles. I’m part of a smaller support cohort and my colleagues there just blow me away and provide incredible inspiration and guidance.

I volunteer and am on the Advisory Board for ACP an organization that matches U.S. military veterans transitioning into civilian life with professional mentors. (My husband is a combat veteran of the U.S. Army.)

I’m an executive advisor for the CPO Accelerator, a sort of “bootcamp” for upcoming CPOs (Chief Product Officers). It’s awesome because I get to share my experiences with people coming up in the product space, and also get to learn from my co-panelists at our seminars.

And I’m a speaker/mentor for the OU Impact Accelerator, an organization that identifies and incubates start-ups in the community non-profit sector.

What does homeownership mean to you?

The first thing that comes to mind is security, a place to just be. I became incredibly aware of the importance of this at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, when I looked around and realized how lucky we were to have our safe space during this time. But homeownership isn’t secure for everyone, since so many people are one financial surprise away from really hard decisions about which payment to make. Having said that, it’s still one of the best routes to building generational wealth, and I think everyone should have the path to homeownership smoothed for them. That’s why I’m so happy to be part of the Framework mission.

When you hear "breaking glass ceilings " how does that impact your everyday life? How do you help break down such barriers?

I can’t count how many times I have been the only woman at the table, the only woman in the room. I have literally had vendors sit down and try to explain the interwebs to me before pitching their service, or ask me for the wi-fi password and then turn away. I am definitely aware that I have had to work harder, perform better, just to be considered. It can be really hard to persist, but you just do it. And then you reach a hand down and help the person behind you.


Q&A

As a distinguished word nerd, we have to ask what is your favorite word?

My favorite word is ‘why.’ It’s not the word people expect me to say in terms of being impressive by way of being particularly obscure or mellifluous, but it’s amazing. ‘Why’ solves problems: why do you need that? Why is it important? Why does this thing bother you? It’s the best negotiation tool ever. Don’t underestimate the power of small words.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

As a working parent I don’t have a lot of that, but obviously I like to read, and I like to exercise—run, spin, weights, yoga. It’s the closest thing we have to a magic bullet for long-term health, and in the meantime I feel better and sleep better.

How do you manage stress?

I work out, I drink (reasonable amounts of) wine, I talk to my spouse and my friends. I bought a LOT of books during the pandemic, and justified the clutter to my minimalist husband by pointing out that it was cheaper than therapy. Also I try to keep perspective, which is slightly easier to do as you get older. I wish I could gift that to my teenage daughter, but we have to get there on our own.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Usually two. It used to be none. I am sort of a coffee heathen, and just drink instant coffee with milk and Equal. I can appreciate really good coffee when I get it, but I don’t make a Thing of it. As a working parent I’m pretty sure it’s mostly about the caffeine.

What's one of your favorite places in the New York area?

I live pretty close to JFK airport, which tbh is nobody’s “favorite place” but right now I would love to be able to go there because it would mean we could travel and discover other places again!

Any book or podcast recommendations?

My favorite business book of all time is Getting to Yes. It’s the book that taught me the power of ‘why.’

My default go-to book is Pride & Prejudice. The book and the movie are downloaded on my phone at all times in case of emergency.
Recently I absolutely loved Circe, by Madeline Miller. It’s mythology meets #MeToo, turning the focus of these well-worn stories to the evolution of a woman finding her strength against formidable odds. Ms. Miller’s attention to detail is pitch-perfect, and her prose rolls and resonates like poetry. I didn’t want to put it down.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Screw 30 Under 30 lists. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And finally, what’s something that motivates you.

This is a bracelet my teenage daughter made me. I keep it at my desk as a reminder and talisman: the fact that she sees me this way, and because I work she thinks she can do anything, means everything to me.

 

About the
Company

One simple idea, a dedicated team, and a mission that connects us all. 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause.


Suzanne Glick Gilfix ApplauseWhere did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Central Massachusetts to a family of 3 generations on my street. I was high energy, climbing trees, doing gymnastics and keeping up with my older brothers.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied government (political science) in college. I had some good summer jobs, first in high school at the local car dealership where I learned the value of customer service and in later years at the Attorney General’s office, and in DC for a lobbying group, both of which helped direct my law school career. My first job after law school was at a large law firm in Boston. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

After two years at the firm, I sought more direct experience in court and with my clients. I also cared deeply about the public interest given extensive volunteer work I was engaged in during the mid-90s around civil rights in Boston. Becoming Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division (Massachusetts AG’s office) was a defining moment in my career trajectory. There (among outstanding colleagues), I helped to enforce the state’s civil rights laws and the fair housing and employment laws. Representing the public interest was meaningful and rewarding and led to my becoming a diversity consultant and launching an anti-bullying training effort in area schools in the early 2000s. I remain grateful to the AG’s office for being a flexible employer enabling me to work part-time while I had my 3 children. Being able to grow my family and career at the same time stands out as a critical time in my life. I am fortunate to have a true partner in my husband who has supported these aspirations and career shifts.

I then joined my first in-house counsel role for a sports franchise start-up and realized I enjoyed the diverse work in-house work brought me: employee issues, contracts, compliance. I didn’t purposefully choose tech, but it chose me at EMC (now Dell) where the legal department hired me to fill in for a team member’s maternity leave. The rest was history as it was a natural fit. With my energy and enthusiasm for learning, I asked for various projects and grew my in-house tech career. One opportunity led to another and when EMC launched a new company, Pivotal Software, and I was fortunate to take on a global management position which really accelerated my career and my passion for managing a team. All of these diverse roles best prepared me for my current executive role.

Suzanne Glick Gilfix Applause

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am General Counsel & Vice President at Applause, the worldwide leader in enabling digital quality. As part of our executive team (where I get to partner with so many innovative and strong leaders), I manage the company’s worldwide legal process, including ensuring compliance with laws, creating and enforcing policies for all employees and personnel, protecting our IP and handling risk mitigation alongside general corporate matters throughout our global offices. My role also includes cross-functional initiatives to improve ESG (environment, sustainability and governance). I enjoy how varied and challenging each day is and the opportunity to tackle important strategic business initiatives along in addition to legal compliance. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I can’t say that it was always my goal to be a General Counsel. But as the years progressed, following my entry into tech, I realized it was an aspiration to aim for. I had been a leader when I was younger (whether on sports teams or in the community organizations in which I was involved), so it was certainly something I sought to attain.

I had great influences early on in my life that helped to establish and nurture my interests in the fields of law and business. My grandfather was an attorney and my dad ran a car dealership, so I was able to see how both could make an impact in people’s lives. From them, I learned the values of fairness and equity, and the importance of customer retention and employee loyalty. These early influences helped to shape my interests and goals of becoming a tech lawyer.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Tactically, I think the sooner you can join an in-house team of lawyers, the better. Some say that law firm is necessary to advance your career in-house, but I don’t think it’s necessarily linear nor mandated. Find a way, even if it’s project-based or summer work, to spend some time in a law firm to learn the discipline, rigor, and training it provides. Then, find mentors in-house or through network associations where you can gain a perspective of what a company does and how it operates. Then go for it.

Once you land an in-house role, get to know the product or service the company sells inside out and meet key stakeholders and leaders. Surround yourself with people who share your values. 

Match your actions and your words to your intentions and be prepared. There’s a sports adage – success is 9/10ths preparation. If you put in the hard work and focus on the details your career can build on small initial successes and continue to accelerate. I devote ample time to study up and get ready for big presentations or negotiations or court appearances. Some say I made it look easy but that’s because they didn’t see all the hard work I put into my preparation. 

Along your career path, find mentors and ask them questions; be curious and chart your own path. I strongly believe that direct sponsorship and mentorship is the best way to advance the professional development for women in tech and business. But don’t be surprised if your path is not linear. Mine wasn’t a straight line and where I wavered, I grew. Volunteer in organizations or companies where you think you may want to work. I have always been engaged in the community and there are so many benefits by being active. When you reach a place where you can help others, become a mentor to inspire others.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

On the professional side, I’ve been involved in the New England Corporate Counsel Association and look forward to serving on their board.

Because I have had some influential mentors who shaped my professional development earlier on in my career I’ve become involved in the Global Good Fund, where I’ve been able to pay it forward and mentor younger attorneys and professionals. 

I’ve also been involved in several non-profit organizations (mostly related to civil rights work) over the last 25 years. One of the most impactful is co-founding and leading a non-profit called the Tyler Foundation, where we partner with Children’s Hospital of Boston to provide financial assistance to families (who have non-covered costs) impacted by neurological disorders such as severe epilepsy. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

In law school, you’re taught to question everything in order to understand the facts and apply the law consistently and fairly when analyzing a situation. Being inquisitive is key to this role, but it’s important to inquire with thoughtful attention to elicit the facts and not dissuade people from surfacing issues. In that regard, it’s necessary to be a trusted advisor, and an excellent verbal and written communicator, to understand the core business of your clients, and build trust and empathy with key stakeholders in all parts of the business to ensure that people will be held accountable on general compliance and doing the right thing. I think building those relationships internally has helped me succeed over the years and land at a company like Applause that places such a high premium on doing the right thing and ensuring our executive team leads by example. Finally, I’d say a love of learning is a necessary ingredient as the law and technology continue to evolve and it’s important to stay curious and dig in to do the research to ensure the company is complying with applicable law. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love how broad my role is: from IP protection and enforcement to complex commercial negotiations, to HR issues to data privacy, no two days are alike. The most challenging aspect is knowing I’m valued as a generalist but that I wish I were an expert at all. I also love tackling large global initiatives to streamline efficiencies in our offerings and make our processes more efficient. Getting into the weeds on the business side and bringing value to our customers is also very rewarding as is seeing our growth and positive feedback from our customers.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Other than landing this awesome opportunity at Applause, I was very proud to be on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in April of 2019 as part of a small team that helped take Pivotal Software public. It was very exciting to be part of the launch of a new company in 2013, and then play an important role in our growth, IPO, and ultimate acquisition, especially alongside dear friends and colleagues.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy yoga, meditation, reading good books, hiking, tennis, pickleball, spending time with family and friends in the mountains or the beach, or a live music event, and as time permits, engaging in community work.

How do you manage stress?

Yoga and meditation.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

1-2 cups of Decaf. I am pretty high energy so Decaf works for me.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I love any view of the Lenny Zakim Bridge in Boston. I collaborated with the great civil rights leader for whom the bridge is named (in his memory) and it brings me back to what really matters – building bridges of understanding among diverse communities. I also love Fenway Park and the North End, for their respective storied histories.

Any book or podcast recommendations?  

Recent books I’ve enjoyed include: All the Light We Cannot See, Untamed, Becoming, American Dirt, The Mandible, Rules of Civility, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Appreciate that your first job is likely not your dream job, but figure out if it helps you shape what you like and don’t like about the role, company, or field of interest. How can it help develop skills that will best direct you to where you do want to go next? What do you care about? Take those passions and combine them with your career path – then you’ll ensure you’re not “working”!

Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out as of yet. Find good people to learn from either in your job or outside of it and ask lots of questions of how people got to where they are. As noted above, find mentors that do what you think you strive to achieve and then figure out how they got there. 

About the
Company

The crowdtesting, usability and research company. Helping brands deliver great digital experiences to their customers – from web & mobile to IoT & beyond.

 

 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Jennifer Armstrong, VP of Engineering at Duck Creek Technologies banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Jennifer Armstrong, VP of Engineering at Duck Creek Technologies

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Jennifer Armstrong, VP of Engineering at Duck Creek Technologies.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Lake Zurich, Illinois and I would describe myself as a quiet tomboy. I had two older brothers and a younger sister (who was 8 years younger), so I pretty much grew up with boys at a young age. I would play different sports or was running around outside until it got dark. I thought if my older brothers could do it I could as well. Which lead to a few injuries but also a fundamental belief that nothing could stop me if I wanted to do something.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

When I was growing up, I was always interested in the STEM classes. I knew I would eventually be focused on something in that space. When I started at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study math or computer science, but I eventually settled on computer science, but took a lot of math classes for fun. I eventually graduated with a bachelor and master’s from DePaul in computer science. 

My first job out of college was as a consultant at a boutique consulting company where I worked for a few different insurance carriers over 6 years. This started my long journey in the insurance space. I always like to say that my soul is technology, but I grew up in insurance.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

The first critical moment was when I decided to take a leap of faith in my abilities as a technologist and move from a role where I felt comfortable, I knew well, and I was an individual contributor with minimal responsibility. To a role that was in a space that was functionally and technically new to me. In addition, I would be leading a team of eight people. The project was an overhaul of a critical system purchased from a vendor that then could be customized for our company. Our job was to learn as much as we could from this vendor to become the experts but also lead this software design going forward. It was a lot of hard work, long hours, but I learned more in one year not only about this software but, more importantly, what I was capable of. I learned that I really enjoyed and was good at understanding the bigger business problem and coming up with the solutions for this problem. It allowed me to grow in mentoring or helping other engineers to guide them in their journeys.

Jennifer Armstrong Duck CreekThe second critical moment of my career was assessing my work life balance and realizing that I couldn’t sustain 70+ hour work weeks and attain the goals that I had both at work and in my personal life. I decided to leave a company that I loved, had great co-workers, and was advancing in my career, to an environment that I was able to truly balance my career and my personal life. After this change, I was able to focus on me, and I got married and now have three wonderful children who are my heart. My family has taught me a lot of good life lessons on compromise, patience, and most of all that you just need to roll with whatever comes your way.  The career change also allowed me to move to a company where I was able to leverage my strong core principles but grow significantly in my overall engineering leadership skills, influence without authority, and customer communication and presentation skills.  

What is your current role and responsibilities?

As VP of engineering at Duck Creek Technologies, I lead teams of over 120 engineers for some of our core products. I am engaged in all aspects of delivering product releases and service ownership of the products.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position? 

This simple answer is no. When I finished my masters, I had fully intended to finish my PhD in computer science and be a professor. I loved being in the academic world. If I didn’t go into academics, I figured I would be a coder for my career. I was and still am an introvert, so being in a position where I had to interact with people constantly was a very uncomfortable concept. I learned that just because I am an introvert doesn’t mean I have to limit what I am capable of. I always mentor people to take a risk on yourself and don’t limit yourself on your or others’ preconceived notions of what you can do.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

First, define your brand. Who and what do you stand for as a professional? Whether it is technology, the ability to communicate well, the ability to see the bigger picture, negotiation, etc.  Your brand will change over the course of your career as new interests are found or new talents are honed. Your brand will help you in any career path you take as it is the foundation that you can fall back on and lean on.

Second, find a good mentor(s) that you trust to help you on your career journey. A mentor doesn’t always have to be someone you have a direct mentorship relationship with. I have had people that I would consider mentors that I just watched how they interacted with people or handled situations. Everyone in your life/career can be a mentor informally. It is also important to find advocates for you outside of your direct management chain.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

The skill that helps me the most is asking questions. Most of the time people will tell you what they want and not necessarily what they need.  I had someone tell me early in my career to ask the 5 whys. If you ask why 5 times, it will get to what someone truly needs versus what they want or think they need. Asking questions allows me to fully understand a situation where I can make the most educated decision I can.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

The most rewarding thing about my work is seeing an idea come to fruition. Watching a simple idea get designed and built out and users start to use it. In insurance, knowing that things I am involved in have a direct impact on companies that their job is to return a person/company life back to normal after an event.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

One of my proudest moments was when we were able to successfully roll out the overhaul of a major critical software at the company I was working at. It changed everyone’s ability to service our customers. The other moment was being involved in building out a program to foster and encourage innovation. In technology, innovation is critical to continuous improvement. This problem was a catalyst to change the innovation culture.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my family, Friday night pizza and movie nights, cooking, reading, traveling, and girls’ nights out with friends.

Jennifer Armstrong Duck Creek

How do you manage stress?

I don’t stress a lot, but when I do, laughter helps. So, I will do something that just makes me happy and laugh and I can usually manage my stress levels.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Probably around three, but nothing past noon otherwise I won’t sleep.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Find what you enjoy doing. You will spend a decent amount of time doing it and if you really enjoy what you are doing in your career, opportunities will become available to advance in whatever ways you want. The second piece of advice I would say is believe in yourself and it is OK to take a risk or leap of faith. If something doesn’t work out, there are always other options.

About the
Company

Duck Creek Technologies gives P&C insurers a genuine path to the future.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Shital Whitmore, SVP of Finance at SmartBear banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Shital Whitmore, SVP of Finance at SmartBear

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Shital Whitmore, SVP of Finance at SmartBear.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I was raised in Methuen, Massachusetts as a first generation Indian-American. My parents immigrated here from Ahmedabad shortly before my birth along with most of my family. Because they had not yet established themselves in the community here, the family stayed close together, so I was constantly surrounded by loved ones, including dozens of cousins around my age. My family taught me the virtues of hard work, so I can remember my nose being always buried in a book. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance with a minor in International Studies/International Finance from Bentley University,  as well as an MBA from Babson College.  

My first job out of school was quite interesting. I was an accounting and finance rep for a small company of about 80 people. As anyone who has worked at a small startup knows, you often have to wear multiple hats, but by doing so, you get the chance to learn so much. 

My role allowed me to work on accounts payable, accounts receivable, and financial planning and analysis, but they also needed me to be the front desk clerk and to collect and deliver the mail!  

During the four or five years that I worked there, there were times I would work until midnight, or even overnight due to how busy things were and because I just wanted to crush it! I’m sure that my husband of 20 years is thrilled that I no longer have any desire to work overnight shifts anymore. That said, my first job experience helped make me into who I am today. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I think being at a small company from a young age gave me the opportunity and experience of working directly with a lot of executives right away. To this day, and continuing throughout my career, I don't get intimidated by titles. I’ve always just treated people like people, and I think that’s one thing that has made my job easier.  

When people aren’t nervous about being around a CEO, a CFO, a Vice President, or a Director, whatever the title may be, it makes everyone’s job easier. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

At SmartBear, I am currently the SVP of Finance. I oversee and manage the finance and accounting team, as well as the company’s licensing team. 

My day-to-day responsibilities are honestly different each day. Those responsibilities include managing our company’s budget, forecasting financials, and helping strategize how we can become more efficient and effective as an organization. I always want to point out that while these might be “my” responsibilities, they would be impossible without my team. I would not be able to do the work I do without them.  

My days include a lot of working directly with our executive team and others here to make sure SmartBear, as an organization, is always in a good place financially. This involves a lot of meetings and collaboration with a lot of different people to decide where our growth should come from, where we should spend, or not spend.  

Without my team, I would not be where I am. I tell them that all the time. I always try to hire smarter than myself. I think that you should never have a fear of hiring smarter than yourself because it only betters yourself, your team, and your organization as a whole.  

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

Yes. My goal has been to consistently highly perform in this position and to reach the title of Chief Financial Officer. 

I have always laid out career goals for myself. I typically keep the goals to myself and my husband .  Goals of where I wanted to be career-wise at 25, 30, and 35-years-old. Believing in myself and working very hard has gotten me to where I am today. I’ve worked in a number of different roles and in many industries over the years and can say that I absolutely love working for SmartBear. My whole team is excited to be here, which is awesome to be a part of. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Learn as much as you can but know your boundaries. If you do not know something, it’s OK to say that! It’s not even just “OK,” people will generally respect and appreciate you letting them know. Hopefully, they’ll also then offer to teach you. When you start your first career, you really don’t know what you are getting into. I didn’t actually know what finance even meant; I had only read about it in a book. But trying your hardest, and making sure you work for someone you respect—and that they also respect you—is critically important. 

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Titles don’t matter. People are people. Work with people. They will help you, and you will help them.  

I would also recommend stepping outside of your comfort zone and absorbing as much as you can whenever you get the chance. You can often take on more at the beginning stages of your career but try and maintain that same mindset and a strong interest in continuing to learn throughout your career. 

Lastly, I‘ve also gotten to where I am today by having amazing bosses, which I’m so fortunate to have had. Not surprisingly, especially in finance, they’ve all been men, as there are still very few women in leadership positions in this field, but my bosses have all been a big part of helping me achieve my career growth. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

A big part of my job is not just running numbers. We do that, but it is more about building relationships. 

I am in finance, but I must acknowledge and always be supportive of the people around me. My team is like a family to me. I know their spouses' names, their kids' names, and I genuinely care about them. To me, the most important parts of my job are caring about this team, bringing them along, and making sure they are always excelling. If I am helping them, it helps us all, and it helps our business to grow. 

So, yes, you’ll need the analytical side, but also make sure to stay customer-centric and genuinely care about your people. Having the business acumen to build strong internal and external relationships will only aid in your organization’s success.  

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

The most rewarding part for me is when people on my team, or people around me, are succeeding. I love to see them grow and climb to the next level.  

It’s also really rewarding when we’re able to come up with different ideas or ways to help the company financially enhance themselves. Our team loves continuing to grow in new and different ways as the result of our own new ideas. Getting that little bit of extra margin is exciting! 

I also don’t just want to be in finance; I want to be a business partner. Not “just” running numbers, but really understanding the business. We can practically run numbers in our sleep. It’s about learning the business, helping the business grow, understanding our marketplace and our customers. How can we change our strategy to continue to enhance ourselves?  

As for challenges, there are all different kinds, and it really just depends on the situation, but whenever there is a challenge, we figure out how to overcome it. 

One common challenge for some women in positions of leadership is around oftentimes being in a board room of only men. I am a very vocal person, and, fortunately, don’t really struggle with that. I just don’t tend to look at people as “man…woman…title…or color.” A person is a person to me.  

At SmartBear, our female leadership is growing, which is great! We continue to diversify our organization and love seeing any and all backgrounds and demographics achieve big things here. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

To date, I would say that my proudest professional accomplishment was when I became a director at a large public organization and managed a $2B budget by the time I was 27. As a young female in the world of business, moving into that level of responsibility was a big moment for me. 

I was learning so much by being a director at a large public organization, reporting directly to the CFO, and managing a budget on my own. During my six years there, I grew personally and professionally each and every day.  

Every time I have moved to a new company, I have not left for a boss. A lot of people leave bosses, but I have left for an opportunity, a different career opportunity. I make sure that if I am leaving, I am checking boxes for my resume and to enhance my personal and professional growth. I recognize every time I have made a change in my career as a significant personal accomplishment. 

Coming to SmartBear, managing all of finance and working for an organization that is growing so quickly has been a huge personal accomplishment. I am extremely proud of all we have done. In the 2 years I have been here, we have tripled our valuation! That and being a part of all the growth, as well as the acquisitions that we have made, are just a few things that are major highlights for me. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

My “volunteering” these days largely consists of constantly running after my two children. My four- and six-year-old boys are my life. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Being raised in an Indian family, I did not ski or do a lot of sports—I actually hated sports! I would try every sport and I would quit. Having two young boys, I am now learning how to ski at 38 years old. I don’t love it, but I am learning. They do black diamonds, and I am still on the green trails by myself and freaking out.  

I now work out a lot and do so many activities with my two boys. Hiking, skiing, and even though I’m not very good at it, I’d also love to be an artist. I do think I’ll stick to my day job, but for some reason, I’ve always wanted to be an artist (I don’t know why)!  

Oh, and I also love shopping. If I could find a way to shop every day, I would do so. 

How do you manage stress?

I actually tend to work much better under pressure. However, my team can tell when I am stressed out because my voice becomes slow and very calm, which may or may not be calming to them. They know what is happening— I am getting stressed out.  

To manage stress, I take a deep breath in…and take things a step at a time. I get more organized. When I know we are under pressure or there is a lot of stress coming, we’re working around the clock, I just get organized, put a list together and I also make sure I rally my team. If I am feeling stressed, they are likely feeling it too.  

For me, taking that deep breath, getting organized, maybe getting in a workout or doing something for myself—even if for just 30 minutes, it helps me a lot.  

About the
Company

6+ million software professionals and 20,000+ companies in 194 countries use SmartBear products to build and deliver the world’s greatest applications.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Hillary Wyon, VP of Product at EF Education First banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Hillary Wyon, VP of Product at EF Education First

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Hillary Wyon, VP of Product at EF Education First.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child? 

I was born and spent my early childhood in Wolf Point, a small town in northeastern Montana on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. When I was 10, my family moved to Brookline, MA as a result of economic challenges in Montana at the time related to drought and oil prices, and to be closer to my grandfather. It was a major culture shock. Montana definitely defines my sense of home but moving also afforded me so many opportunities I would never have had. I have also never been afraid to move around. In many ways, this experience of moving across country and to a new life reflects the kinds of experiences we seek to convey to our customers in my job. Helping people step outside of their comfort zones, see and experience something new, or learn something new about the world and their place in it. As a child, I was a dreamer and a dedicated reader, an extroverted introvert. Largely how I would describe myself still.  

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school? 

I focused on psychology and creative writing in school, after a pre-med stint. I took a circuitous path through college and worked full time while going to school at night. I was an assistant teacher for Beginners Spanish for high school freshmen. I was the Assistant Head of Facilities at an independent school in the Boston area, involved with event management, building and security management, and maintenance and new construction builds. I worked at a children’s book publisher in operations. All that led me to a “many-hats” office manager role at a tech startup that really launched my current career. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today? 

The varied experience I had in roles and the different types of people who I worked with set me up for a lot of growth. It gave me a level of confidence that I would always be able to figure it out even if I didn’t know how to do it in the beginning.  

My role in facilities included a lot of written and verbal communication with a wide audience of people at different levels and in different roles (teachers, administration, parents, vendors, etc.), which really grew my skills in knowing how to change the way I communicated depending on who, how or where the conversation occurred. The experience also taught me to acknowledge and invest in ensuring that the “do-ers” are not forgotten – in communication and celebration and in providing context around what they are being asked to do. This applied to a team of maintenance workers making a school hum, and in later roles, a team of engineers building software to serve the business and its customers, and everyone in between. My work has also included a lot of crisis management, which I have used in every role since. 

When I landed at my first startup, this was really a jumping off point for me. Startups are built around giving people the opportunity to grow and expand their roles - we’re trying to get a lot out of a little! So I took that office manager role and grew it into benefits management, talent management, customer program management and product management. I worked with an amazing group of people who recognized my natural strengths and weren’t afraid to throw a new challenge at me, and who were willing to answer every question I could ask as I learned along the way. I learned there is strength in being open about what you don’t know and demonstrating that you are eager to learn. The relationships created here have stayed with me throughout my career. 

I have taken all of those skills and used them in each step in my career. The non-linear evolution of my education and career has, at times, been an insecurity for me, but it has allowed me to always feel comfortable with the unknown and not necessarily seeing the path before me. This has helped me at the macro level in my life and at the micro level of approaching projects, organizational change and crises with my day to day. 

I have also been very lucky that I have worked at more than one organization that had a mission that aligned with my own values and views about the world. This is something I have prioritized as I have progressed through my career. It is also a major reason why I am at EF now. EF’s mission to educate and bring people together to foster understanding and tolerance through travel and cultural experiences connects so many important dots from my own experience and values.  

Hillary Wyon EF

What is your current role and responsibilities? 

I am currently the VP of Product at EF Education First. I manage a team of product managers and UX designers. In concert with the engineering team, we are responsible for both the internal operational systems needed to run both our domestic and international tours products as well as our customer facing digital experiences for our student focused tours products. I am always looking at how we can best bring value to the business (understanding our business goals and how we work, so that my team can drive value) and my day-to-day activities include being organizationally focused. We are a central department in an international company, so I spend a lot of time communicating and ensuring that expectations are set, and we have alignment and prioritization across the business. The product managers on my team are driving individual requirements and work so I meet with them regularly to ensure that their work is aligned with cross-business strategy and share whatever context I can to help them drive their work successfully and keep their teams engaged.  

I spend a lot of time thinking about and influencing how we work cross-functionally, supporting communication and strategic alignment with my team and with stakeholders in other parts of the business, and driving a product management culture across the business so that we are always thinking critically about what questions to ask, what we are really trying to achieve and refining our goals and approach as we learn. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position? 

My end goal was never a particular position, but to be in a role where I helped bring people together. to work effectively and efficiently, to work with smart people who were excited about their mission and to be in a position to help solve interesting puzzles. And to always feel like there was room for me to grow. Even now, I can see lots of different positions that would foster those goals but my current role definitely supplies all of them combined with interesting challenges. 

Though my career experiences have led me to this role, my life experiences have brought me to EF. Both my personal and professional experiences have allowed me to work and interact with all different kinds of people and recognize the value of different perspectives. This has shaped my personal and career growth and this very much aligns with EF’s mission. I also feel like I am living our mission every day on a much smaller scale by bringing different perspectives together and fostering communication all while serving the larger mission of helping spark mutual understanding by uniting people across borders and culture.  

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals? 

I think there are many different flavors of product managers - some more visionary, some more operational. I think a key factor, whichever way you lean, is elevating your communication skills, remembering that the people on your team are key to your success and that how you talk about things - the words you use - matters. I have often thought of the product manager as the translator – between different perspectives, between the business users and technology or the external and the internal. Elevating your communication skills will help get people to buy in, will build confidence with your team and help you drive both the vision and the execution. Because communication and translation is so important to me, it feels great to work for an organization that is also helping people learn languages to communicate in a different way, and offering free resources to help people on their learning journey. 

Don’t be afraid of exposing what you don’t know. You don’t have to be the person who knows it all and sometimes, even if you think you have it figured out, you should ask questions anyway because you may learn something. 

Do the dirty work. Especially as you start out - but even later - you will learn by digging into the details. You will build camaraderie and confidence if you show that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty. Pitch in where you can, it will always come in handy in a different way later on. 

Find an advocate. This could be a mentor or a colleague, your manager or a team member. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well? 

For my career trajectory, it really goes to the basics: Listening skills. Communication skills. Translation skills.  

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s most challenging? 

The most interesting is also the most challenging. Seeing a cross-functional team hum and creating the right solution for the right problem. Taking the messiness of human dynamics, pressures of hard problems and tight timelines and making sense of them - creating a system that allows for creativity and precision. This includes coaching and (hopefully) inspiring. EF fosters the type of collaboration that is required to achieve the right results for the business. And also empowers everyone in the business to step into their strengths and influence the end result and the process along the way. We are a large organization that values thinking creatively. And we aren’t afraid of trying something scrappy to learn our way into the long term solution. Having spent most of my career in startups this was something that was important to me when I joined EF. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment? 

This is a hard one, but all of my proudest moments are reflected in the teams I have worked with. A recent major accomplishment, here at EF, that I am very proud of has been helping to drive through an (ongoing) series of challenges related to business reaction, customer experience and operational systems in reaction to COVID. We amped up our cross-team and cross-functional collaboration. We maintained laser focus on top priorities and “up-leveled" our communication. We delivered meaningful solutions to the business at lightning speed.  

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work? 

Not currently in any in depth. I have participated with WITI in the past. I am definitely seeking new opportunities for this type of work right now. 


Q&A 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I have 2 sons, ages 6 and 2, who keep me very busy. I love hiking with them and just experiencing their little brain gears turning. I also enjoy cooking, reading, and have done a lot of DIY construction over many years so I guess that is still something I enjoy :) 

Hillary Wyon EF

How do you manage stress? 

I really benefit from running, or other forms of exercise where I just have to focus by unplugging and getting out in nature whether in the woods or by the ocean. 

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day? 

1 cup of decaf. I love coffee but only have caffeine on rare occasions.  

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston? 

The Arnold Arboretum in Boston.  

Any book or podcast recommendations?  (professional or fun) 

  • I am definitely a true crime podcast junkie. So any and all.  
  • Song Exploder
  • Heavyweight 
  • The A16Z podcast
  • This is Product Management
  • Hidden Brain 

And more. When I was a kid I loved listening to the radio and would find these radio dramas to listen to so podcasts continue this for me. I love podcasts. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates? 

There is no job below you. You can learn something from everything you are tasked with. You may just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes it won’t be the big cool challenge you are looking for but they are all steps towards that.

About the
Company

Opening the world through education.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Brittney St. Germain, VP of Tech at Forward Financing banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Brittney St. Germain, VP of Tech at Forward Financing

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Brittney St. Germain, VP of Tech at Forward Financing.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. I was a shy kid, studious, but also excited to see the world.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

In college I started with psychology, then switched almost immediately to pursue a B.S. in Communications, probably because I thought it was a means to travel. After that I travelled through Europe, and then tended bar in Harvard Square before taking a job in tech support for a small software company.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I didn’t intend to get into technology as a career, but I always had technically minded friends. I hung out in the computer lab a lot in college. I seemed to naturally align myself with the nerds (Turns out I am one), and that was the beginning of the dot-com era, so that made my entry into a career in technology very smooth and natural. In retrospect that was a critical turning point for me.

For 15 years, I wore all the hats there are to wear, tech support, IT, DBA, software engineering, etc., and then I reached a second critical moment when I turned to what I jokingly call “the dark side,” management. I discovered that I love managing engineers. As it turns out, I intuitively understand the world the engineer lives in, and I get a real thrill from helping them simplify their processes, being their champion, and explaining their challenges and successes to the non-tech world. Great engineers make great products, which make successful companies, so I feel genuinely honored to represent them.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am the Vice President of Technology at Forward Financing, responsible for the company’s overall tech strategy. That includes Product, Design, and Engineering all responsible for building our core products, as well as DevOps and IT Infrastructure.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

No, and no.  The short answer is I always aimed to work on interesting projects with interesting and smart people. The longer answer is: I didn’t plan anything, strictly speaking. I followed the path that was in front of me once I discovered what I was good at. It’s not that I didn’t make any conscious career decisions. Of course, I did, but I think, at the risk of sounding corny, it’s a little more soulful than that, less calculated. I get a great feeling from plugging the right solutions into the right challenges, or the right people into the right teams.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

First, I’d say, “Congratulations! You have goals!”

Joking aside, I think you have to do things for the right reasons. It’s easy to look at career progress as a linear path, but be warned, leadership is hard and not for the faint of heart and shouldn’t be pursued because it’s the “next step”.  Seek out the challenges that light you up and accept where they lead you. Maybe you’ll climb whatever career ladder you think is in front of you, or maybe you’ll just work on a lot of stimulating projects and meet a bunch of great people. I’d say focus less on titles or prestige and more on interesting challenges. The rest will take care of itself.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

I find that I do my job best when I have a team that trusts I have their best interests at heart. Key skills for creating that trust with not just those on my team, but those I work alongside are:

1) Listening - Hear what people are telling you.

2) Empathy - Put yourself in their position.

3) Curiosity - Learn from everyone around you,

4) Discernment - Make good, timely decisions.

5) Transparency - Show your cards, explain why you’re doing something, or why you’re making a decision. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love being the conduit between technology and the rest of the organization, the one who explains and simplifies the technical details, the product and design decisions so everyone else around my team can get the maximum benefit from what we do. I also love guiding product designers and engineers through their own decision making processes.

The most challenging part of my work is integrating all the personalities into a coherent team, but that’s also super rewarding.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

There are three things: watching the careers of those I’ve managed, past and present, continue to grow, having people that have worked for me reach out to tell me how they used a tool I gave them, or they thought back to how I managed a situation when they find themselves in something similar, and finally, knowing I’m playing a small part in creating some of the best technical leaders out there. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I am a member of CHIEF, a women’s leadership group.  

I also run a neighborhood exercise group, called Suffer Club - we meet early in the morning before the sun rises to get our workouts done and our motto is “We suffer a little more in the hopes that others can suffer a little less”. Every dollar collected to take a class goes directly to a local charity that the group designates.  We regularly raise about $750/month!


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Running, hiking, paddle boarding, walking with the dog.

How do you manage stress?

Exercise and meditation. Spending time with my dog.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Two, in the morning and that’s it. I’d love to have a cup in the afternoon, but then I don’t sleep.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I love to sit on the steps of the Institute for Contemporary Art in the summer and watch boats come in and out of the harbor. I love our local woods, where I walk the dog. And I love the North Shore beaches.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I nerd out hard on podcasts!

If you want to be inspired as a leader, you can’t go wrong with "Dare to Lead with Brene Brown"  If you only listen to one episode, I would recommend the episode with Abby Wambach and The New Rules of Leadership.

A lesser-known podcast that I totally geek out on is DarkNet Diaries with Jack Rhysider. They’re true stories from the dark web, wildly fascinating and also great for me professionally as I need to stay up on InfoSec trends.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Probably a repeat of what I’ve said above. Focus on finding work that’s interesting and puts you in the company of interesting and smart people, the rest will come together.

About the
Company

We are a Boston-based fintech company with the mission to build a world-class fintech company so that our people and our small business customers can achieve their full potential.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Sue Nolin, VP, North America Sales at Wasabi banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Sue Nolin, VP, North America Sales at Wasabi

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Sue Nolin, VP, North America Sales at Wasabi.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Chicopee, Massachusetts. I have four siblings, thirty-three first cousins and I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids. There was always lots of activity and competition. Pickup softball, kickball and a crazy version of dodgeball called bombardment were commonplace. 

I have lots of extended family in Quebec and in various parts of the U.S. Annual family reunions were also common. They always involved breaking into teams and playing physical and brain teaser games into the evenings.  Remember the potato-sack race in the movie Meatballs?  Yeah, that was us. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job in tech?

I have an English degree from North Adams State College, now known as the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. I met my husband there and am very grateful for the lifelong friends I also met there.

I was in my early twenties when I landed my first job in technology on the customer service team at Motorola Codex. At the time, I was simply looking for a local job. Luckily, tech is strong in Massachusetts, so I discovered a world that was new to me, and truly challenging. 

Those early days at Motorola introduced me to professionals who I admired and who gave me the opportunity to begin a high-tech career. I learned about networking. I also learned valuable lessons about how tech businesses run. When I left Motorola, I had spent time in customer service, sales, and marketing roles and met the colleagues who would introduce me to the exciting world of startup companies. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

My career path is an evolution of first understanding technology and then understanding startup businesses.

I left college with a solid liberal arts degree, but not a clear understanding of what I wanted from a career. I was raised by parents who demonstrated the importance of hard work, self-reliance, creative learning, and fun. They always emphasized that it was important to be kind, honest, and especially to do my best. Wherever I worked, I was driven to do well. 

The startup world is fast-paced and usually has “just enough” resources. While sales became my preferred role, working for startups afforded me the opportunity to contribute to many parts of the business at once. I especially came to learn that I enjoy understanding complex topics and effectively communicating those topics in simple ways. Also, I really like competing. Emerging startup technology satisfies all those interests well. 

There were various critical moments that made a difference in my career path. 

I’m grateful to the manager who convinced me to leave the stability of Motorola for the riskier world of startups. I was a member of, and eventually led, early stage inside sales teams. I was also very lucky to join several startup companies that succeeded, especially when there are so many that fail. I came to learn about the delicate balance of things needed for successful startups.

Lastly, my career would not be where it is today without the people who have trusted the work I do and who gave me such amazing opportunities. I met, Marty Falaro, Wasabi’s EVP and COO, back when we were a lot younger at a startup called Altiga. Altiga was eventually acquired by Cisco and became their main VPN technology. Marty has trusted my decisions here at Wasabi and he encouraged me to move from the role of Inside Sales Director to VP of North America Sales. I am humbled that Marty and others along the way recognized my ability and are taking me along their journey to success.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am the VP of North America Sales at Wasabi, the hot cloud storage company. I oversee Account Executive and Inside Sales teams who manage channel and direct sales relationships with Wasabi’s fast-growing number of partners and customers. 

When I joined Wasabi in 2017, I was Marty Falaro’s first sales hire. Marty is growing worldwide Sales and I oversee the rapidly growing North America team. I am extremely proud of how hard this team works. While COVID-19 has changed our day-to-day interactions, the team continues to produce outstanding results. Daily, they demonstrate that they enjoy this crazy, fun and fast-paced startup world as much as I do.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

Not at all. The younger me thought she would eventually be a schoolteacher. The path that led me here started by chance, but when I discovered emerging technology sales, I was hooked.  This industry allows me to constantly learn. I am never bored.

I recently found a journal from my freshman year of college that said, “I can’t imagine staying in the same job for more than 5 years. It sounds so boring.”  Ironically, startup technology changes rapidly and is never ever boring. So, while this career wasn’t my defined goal, I am very happy to be in the position I’m in today. It gives me the opportunity to educate my team and my customers on new technologies and that satisfies my desire to teach. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

For young people looking to get into tech sales, I recommend spending a year or two at a public tech firm that provides formal sales training. A startup will gladly train you on their unique technology, but they’ll want you to hit the ground running and won’t want to teach the skill of selling. Build a strong foundation. It will help you throughout your career. 

Also, do not be shy about approaching people you admire in your networks. These people take pride in helping you succeed and can become great resources later on. 

For those who are considering a career with startups, be sure to research the company you’ll work for. We often compare a startup company to an airplane that is being built in flight. That airplane has a much better chance of flying successfully if the pilot, the engineers, the mechanics, the flight crew, etc. have done it before. I’m blessed to have that here at Wasabi.  

If you’re thinking of joining a startup that’s launching a hot new product (a “fancy new airplane”) and it has a less-experienced crew, be sure that crew is getting loads of advice from those who have done it before. 

For women in tech, or for women looking to break into technology, remember that you don’t need to be an expert before you start the job.  This isn’t a new message but it’s worth repeating. Trust your foundational skills and trust those around you. Your colleagues, your leaders, they want to see you succeed. Your success influences theirs.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Communication. It’s such a simple word, but it’s loaded. Now more than ever, prospects and customers communicate by email. So, it is critical to have proper spelling and grammar skills. I recommend taking a business writing course. This will teach you how to write short but effective sentences that resonate. My teams understand that they will never land a meeting if they start an interaction with a poorly written email.  

Additionally, listening is the strongest part of communication. It is important to listen well and prove that you are listening by repeating what you heard and respectfully addressing the questions asked. Your customer’s agenda is far more important than your own agenda. So be sure to listen. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

There are several rewarding factors to my work. 

Most of all, as a manager, I love seeing my team succeed and I love to help them grow. It’s a great feeling to see sales representatives close big deals or receive a promotion. It is truly awesome to celebrate these wins with them.

I also enjoy having a strong impact on the success of the company I work for. It feels good to know that the work I do makes a difference. 

The most challenging is that there are not enough hours in the day. I laugh about this because it’s self-inflicted! Wasabi strongly encourages a healthy work/life balance. I love seeing our progress and success, and since my work makes a difference, I tend to do more of it. We’re just a little crazy about doing more around here. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

As mentioned earlier, I am most proud of being able to help young people succeed. It’s a heartwarming feeling that never gets old. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing interns to high-tech; introducing young sales reps to startups; and promoting others to manage their own teams. Each of these have been selfishly satisfying. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

At the invitation of Lou Shipley, a Wasabi board member, I was recently a sales coach for the Entrepreneurial Sales class at the Harvard Business School. I was flattered to join the ranks of impressive sales coaches and to also share my knowledge with young and extremely bright graduate students.  That teacher-wannabe in me thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I find energy and peace outdoors and I’m not picky about where that is! My husband and I spend a lot of summer weekends at the Cape Cod canal. We live in a rural area of central Massachusetts and love having friends over for bonfires. And I can’t wait to be back in the office, walking through the streets of Back Bay Boston. 

How do you manage stress?

I start every day with either a workout or a two-mile walk, powered by classic rock. Nothing says motivation like Bob Seger live. I love ending the workday at the dinner table with my husband and my niece who lives with us while she attends grad school. We laugh a lot.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

At least three cups before noon. Sleep is so important to me, so no coffee after noon!

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I was introduced to Back Bay, Boston when I joined Wasabi. I had no idea how diverse this area is. Walking throughout Back Bay is like walking through live artwork. It’s got great history, parks, businesses, residential areas, restaurants, and shopping. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

Back when I commuted, I was big on audio books. The last one I enjoyed was The Life of Pi. Loved it.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

If a college grad is looking to get into high-tech sales or startups, then I’d refer to what I mentioned earlier. For those who graduate not yet knowing what they want to do for work, explore the parts of your character that aren’t immediately associated with work.  Do you like to socialize a lot or only a little? Do you like to read or analyze a lot? Are you crafty and prefer to design and build things?  Then, see if your work satisfies those parts of your character. It’s ok to move on until you find a place that feels right.  

About the
Company

Wasabi is the hot cloud storage company. 

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