How 5 women leaders in Chicago tech are changing their industries

by Alton Zenon III
June 19, 2019

Being a leader in any industry is no easy thing. But being a leader in tech can be an especially tall order. Between the breakneck speed with which new systems, tools and standards enter the field and the nuances of how companies leverage those new developments, there’s a lot to keep up with and the challenges never cease. 

But the greatest products take considerable effort to produce. We spoke to five women leaders at Chicago tech companies about what efforts they’ve taken to effect change in their industries, some of the roadblocks they’ve encountered along the way and how they pushed through them. 

 

Vice President of Product Irem Metin talking to Shiftgig CEO

Shiftgig’s cloud-based platform allows companies with large worker pools, like staffing agencies, options to give their teams flexible, on-demand employment opportunities. Vice President of Product Irem Metin said her team strives to make the lives of workers easier in an evolving work environment. 

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work?

As the product team, our vision is focused on workers, and worker engagement to be specific. We are building software solutions for staffing agencies to give them visibility into what their workers value and what flexibility and choice means for them. We are combining improved visibility with tools that better engage and retain their workers. This worker-centric way of thinking is a completely new system in contingent staffing.

A product we developed with this worker-centric framework was our geo-verified time functionality. We collected feedback from workers around the need to improve accuracy and speed of payroll. To address this need, we built a tool that improved visibility into issues that happen onsite. Using this new data, our staffing agency clients can better track and coach their workers’ behavior and reward timeliness with faster pay. This was a great example of how we combined visibility with action.

We had to become very disciplined about listening to our customers’ needs and prioritizing solutions that deliver highest impact.”

 

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Macro trends around work are rapidly changing. Worker expectations regarding the on-demand alternatives available to them are constantly growing. Our clients are determined to evolve to meet the needs of this new environment, but they don’t always know how. The challenging but exciting opportunity for us is to understand our clients’ operations and identify strategies for them to become more worker-centric. To do so, we had to become very disciplined about listening to our customers’ needs and prioritizing solutions that deliver highest impact.

 

Carminati Consultant President Brittany Carminati

Carminati Consulting offers a wide range of IT products and services to private, nonprofit and government organizations, which they use to improve their customer experiences. Company president Brittany Carminati said she tapped into a number of professional and personal resources to push through some of the major challenges she’s faced in her career.

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work?

Our team challenges each other to think strategically in approaching each project, envisioning how our clients will be operating in the digital technology era of today and tomorrow, and positioning them to win. We aim to anticipate where technological advances will be five years from now and beyond. And by understanding, informing and influencing our client’s technology stack and roadmap decisions, we are able to affect long-term winning strategies.

Our staff’s professional development goals are closely aligned with this approach. We inform, inspire, and engage our employees to think innovatively, continuously learn and leverage their strengths to create. We continuously increase our knowledge and expertise to deliver better results for our clients.

We all gain our strength by enduring challenges and converting them into opportunities.”

 

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I have faced obstacles along the way, as do many women in this traditionally male-dominated industry. A can-do, hardworking and persevering attitude helps me battle roadblocks, as does leveraging the great resources that are available to women entrepreneurs.  I also surround myself with loving family and friends and a strong support network. Ultimately, we all gain our strength by enduring challenges and converting them into opportunities.

 

ktMINE staff working in their office

Intellectual property research platform ktMINE assists companies, universities, legal teams and more throughout all parts of the IP lifecycle. Data Operations Manager Meg Rourke said she helped effect change by assisting in the evolution of the company’s client-facing data output. 

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work?

When I joined ktMINE, they primarily provided information to the tax and legal markets. With my team, I helped expand our data offerings to serve investment management firms and alternative data buyers by understanding the importance and value of intellectual property. There’s a lot of excitement in figuring out how to communicate the value of data to these audiences who didn’t consider it a viable resource to develop investment strategies. We don’t balk at taking on hard-to-tackle issues, and it’s important to have several different types of thinkers in the room when we take on a new project. Everyone has a unique perspective or lends an idea that ends up being a lightbulb moment for the rest of the team.

We don’t balk at taking on hard-to-tackle issues, and it’s important to have several different types of thinkers in the room.”

 

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I came from a position where I had minimal exposure to these industries beforehand. Project scope and requirements can also vary by market. I was able to move past these challenges by doing two things — the first was asking all kinds of questions and soaking up the answers. The second was listening to feedback and making appropriate corrections in our approach, while also bringing that level of understanding back to my team. By doing these things, my team and I can understand the ‘whys’ behind our users’ current needs and better anticipate future ones.

 

SilkRoad Technology Chief Revenue Officer Janet Halma

SilkRoad Technology provides companies with tools they can leverage to maximize their recruitment and onboarding strategies. Chief Revenue Officer Janet Halma said that by helping her own team members to grow, she helps client companies offer the same opportunities to their own staff.

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work?

I work with global organizations striving to accelerate the path to productivity for new team members and align their staff to their business. I challenge our team of talented women and men to be the best they can be every day, in everything they do. I encourage every member to use their voice and express their ideas openly. 

I challenge our team of talented women and men to be the best they can be every day, in everything they do.”

 

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I began my career in information technology in the early ‘80s. At that time, women were a minority in the field. It wasn’t enough to be smart or capable, I had to stand my ground on issues and be willing to take chances even though failure was a possible outcome. That lesson has supported me as I’ve taken on many different roles and responsibilities throughout my career.

 

Inspirant Group leaders chatting at a conference table

Inspirant Group is a consultancy that offers clients services geared toward transforming their tech, business strategy, and the learning and development of team members. Chief Operating Officer Mina Arsala said a difficult, but rewarding part of what she does is building powerful client relationships from scratch. 

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work?

I approach every client engagement from their point of view — it is about achieving their goals, not implementing our solution. As an industry executive, I’ve been on that side of the table and know the struggles they face. We say, “Hiring a consultant should make the client’s life easier, not more complicated.” I use that mantra to guide all of the decisions I make in regards to the client.

I approach every client engagement from their point of view — it is about achieving their goals, not implementing our solution.”

 

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges we face is getting folks to think differently based on their situation, and ensuring our approach aligns with the company’s goals. It’s my role to ensure that's happening, otherwise, success is one thousand times more difficult. 

As a consultant, we come in and have to get a new set of people, who have never met us before, to believe that we know what we are talking about and to trust us with the whole picture. The only way to create the necessary relationship is to build ‘know, like, and trust’ with the client. We need to get them to know us, like us and then trust us. We have to be open and honest with them in order for them to be open and honest with us. Honesty is the only way to build any type of constructive relationship. 

 

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