How 4 Women in Chicago Tech Found Their Dream Careers

by Alton Zenon III
September 10, 2019

When do you know that you’ve found your calling? For Relativity’s Senior Application Administrator Mary Tagler, it was when she realized she not only loved the work, but was also good at it.

While not every technologist’s path to finding their dream career is linear, many experience an epiphany when they find a company and role they’re passionate about. We spoke with three women in Chicago about how they found their way to tech — and when they knew it was exactly where they should be.

 

Women team members at Relativity chatting on a couch

What started out as lending a hand in a short-term project turned into a brand new career for Senior Application Administrator Mary Tagler at e-discovery company Relativity. She found her lane after leaving life in the finance world — a jump she said was possible only due to the opportunity present within the tech industry.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in tech?

I didn’t pursue a career in tech so much as it was a happy accident. After spending the first part of my career as a financial planner, I moved away from the client-side of the business and helped lead the effort to enhance the firm’s technology platform. When we implemented Salesforce, we needed someone to manage the instance — I stepped up, thinking it would be temporary. I quickly realized I not only loved the work, but I was also good at it. Not having a traditional tech background did make me feel like an imposter at first, but those feelings eventually faded.

Building things is the most enjoyable part of my job.”

 

What do you love most about your tech career, and what aspects of your job really make you light up?

I love the flexibility a career in tech has afforded me. I can work across virtually any industry, which allowed me to jump from financial services to legal tech — there aren’t a lot of professions that allow for that. That flexibility also allows me to collaborate with others across industries, time zones and continents, whether it be problem-solving, troubleshooting or mentoring. 

Building things is the most enjoyable part of my job. I love the challenge of designing a solution that solves a problem or creates efficiency, whether that be a business case or personal project.

 

G2 Crowd's team in outdoor company photo

In the professional world, to be challenged is to be engaged. That’s why Vice President of Research Enablement Marie MacBain loves the world of tech. The leader at the software and services review site G2 said she’s constantly advancing her skills to keep up with the pace of the industry.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in tech?

Oddly enough, I lived in San Francisco for years but worked in the retail industry there — then landed in tech when I left for the Midwest. I can be happy doing just about anything so long as it’s interesting work with interesting people. I’ve always focused more on the role than the industry in my job hunts, but it turned out tech was where the interesting Chicago roles were. I couldn’t resist the challenge of applying the critical thinking and leadership skills I’d developed in an entirely different industry to the fast-paced tech world.

I love that tech offers me new ways to prove myself to myself every day.”

 

What do you love most about your tech career, and what aspects of your job really make you light up?

I grew up dorkiest child in a family of nerdy overachievers, and I love that tech offers me new ways to prove myself to myself every day. We know technology changes at an exponential rate, and I think the same applies to working in technology. That means there’s always a new puzzle to solve and another opportunity to stretch yourself. At G2, working with our quick-witted team makes me step my own game up every day, and it’s great to regularly feel new parts of my brain lighting up.

 

FourKites team working at a desk

FourKites’ Vice President of Implementation Jennifer Thiermann got into tech because she loves helping others. Her career evolution from recruiting to implementation at the logistics company was born out of a desire to put the right people and products in the right places — with tech being the underlying foundation in her mission.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in tech?

I studied anthropology in school, and I’ve always been a people-person at heart. I began my career in recruiting because I loved helping people find the roles that best suited their skills and motivations. Technology, and my focus on implementation, came into the picture as a means to broaden my impact on the individuals I was helping. In implementation, just as in recruiting, we have a critical role in helping to build a solid foundation for our customers’ long-term success and satisfaction. 

Technology, and my focus on implementation, came into the picture as a means to broaden my impact on the individuals I was helping.”

 

What do you love most about your tech career, and what aspects of your job really make you light up?

The thing I love most about my career is being able to grow and develop talent — both within FourKites and within our customers’ organizations. I am passionate about being able to help people on my team develop professionally by understanding what motivates them and helping them realize their potential. 

Similarly, I love working with our customers to understand their organization and determine how our platform can best help them fulfill their business needs. It boils down to developing a deep understanding of what the customers are looking to get out of the platform, what will work best for their company and connecting the two. It’s not just about integrating two software solutions; long-term customer success is rooted in the people interacting with the software, and helping them achieve their goals and operational potential through technology. 

 

Women at Hireology smiling

It’s often the things you don’t see coming that can have the biggest impact on you. This was the case for Senior Product Manager Ellie Fredlund at Hireology, who discovered her passion for product management after being placed into the role unexpectedly through organizational changes.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in tech?

Technology actually found me in a way. I was a service account manager and loved it, but when the company I was working for replaced our customer relationship management tool, I became part of the project team as a subject matter expert that grew into a product management role. I didn’t consider myself a technical person, but when I got a taste of it I was hooked on seeing how it could solve problems. 

I didn’t consider myself a technical person, but when I got a taste of it I was hooked on seeing how it could solve problems.”

 

What do you love most about your tech career, and what aspects of your job really make you light up?

I love making connections between business problems and technology solutions. I’ve always liked figuring things out and I have the opportunity to think about user needs and how technology can solve for those needs. The business problems are always changing along with the available technology. The opportunity to be on a team with smart people and develop something that is meaningful for users is a pretty incredible feeling. 

 

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