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Make your mark in the future of tech

Female panelists at the 2018 CWIB Conference

The
technology industry is male dominated, but as the industry has grown, so has
the involvement of women. At the 2018 Carolina Women
in Business Conference
, four women in the technology industry shared
their experiences and advice to those wanting to break into the industry.

Miriam
McLemore (BSBA ’85), director of enterprise, strategy, and evangelism at Amazon,
moderated the panel of Katy Sutter (BSBA ’82), client director at IBM; Leslie
Pearce (MBA ’90), vice president of inside sales at First Data; and Bridget
Wamsley (MBA ’17), marketing manager at Cisco.

Together
the women discussed changes in the tech industry, the importance of networking,
and the reality of work-life balance.

Changes in tech industry

One of
the biggest changes in the tech industry, says McLemore, is that today every
company is, in a sense, a tech company. “You can’t run a business without
technology today,” she says. “I had Delta Airlines as an account, and they
can’t fly airplanes without technology. Almost every company is leveraging
technology more and more.”

Another
major change is the pace at which work is performed. In the past a team planned
to roll out a new product or service in three to five years, says McLemore. Now,
teams have more like 12 to 18 months for a rollout and only six months for some
cycles. The turnaround on a project is fast, but the fast pace keeps the work
exciting.

“You
don’t do the job every month, which is very exciting. I love technology just
from the perspective of you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring and you
have to remain committed to knowing what’s going on in the industry,” says Pearce.

Work-life balance

The
fast pace of the technology industry raises the question of whether a work-life
balance is possible. McLemore answered without hesitation that based on her
personal experience it is very possible. “You actually can do these jobs and
have a family. I have three children and I’ve been married for 25 years. Katy’s
got two children and been married for 30 years.”

McLemore
explains that balancing a family and work isn’t always easy, but with all of
the resources and technology available today, maintaining a balance is much
easier. A shift in work culture has also helped. McLemore reminisced about a
time when she had to show up to work at 8 a.m. in a starched shirt, skirt and
heels. Now she wears jeans and tennis shoes every day. 

Networking

“Relationships
are extremely important, so keeping connections and building your network is so
crucial. The technology world used to be smaller than it is today, but it’s
still fairly small,” says Sutter. “You’d be amazed. Every day I’m still running
into people that I knew 20 years ago.”

Wamsley
offered advice for building a network. When she started at Cisco, she made
goals for herself and kept track of who she had met and who interested her. She
approaches colleagues to seek their insights and learn about their experiences.
So far no one has turned her down.

Building
relationships is key. “Genuinely help them with something because networking
for the sake of networking to me feels artificial,” says McLemore. “I get a lot
of that in this role. If you can do something that helps someone else, that
builds a relationship and that’s what you’re actually trying to achieve.”

By Kelly McNeil (BSBA ’19)

1.2.2019