How Can Tech Companies Support Women? Focus on Their Goals.

For these local leaders, their companies have set the foundation for success.
Written by Olivia McClure
August 30, 2021Updated: September 2, 2021

For Eva PenzeyMoog, designing tools people can use to prevent and mitigate harm in their tech devices was once simply a side project. Her overarching goal was to become a principal designer focused on UX, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion of mitigating online harassment and abuse. 

As a principal designer at 8th Light, PenzeyMoog has fulfilled her initial career ambitions — and then some. That’s because the company encourages employees to chase their dreams, even if it takes them in a slightly offbeat direction.

“My path is a different one from others at 8th Light, but I’ve had a lot of support along the way,” PenzeyMoog said. 

PenzeyMoog’s story may be unique, but her ambition and the reinforcement she’s received from her employer is similar to that of many women in tech. Before stepping into her role as director of solutions at SDI Presence, Galaxia Martin had plans to prioritize her education and become a director in the IT space. Now, with one master’s degree under her belt and another in the works, Martin has reached her goals, but that doesn’t mean she plans on slowing down anytime soon. Her ultimate aim is to develop the skills and industry knowledge needed to become a chief information or chief technology officer.

While Martin’s success is due in part to her own determination, she credits her company with providing the learning opportunities she needed to scale her skills. In her mind, every tech company should cultivate a similar environment in order to help women evolve in their careers.

“Tech companies must create an inclusive culture that empowers women to make their voices heard so they can grow into senior leadership roles and succeed with confidence,” Martin said. 

Alongside PenzeyMoog and Martin, women across Chicago have climbed many different career ladders with the help of their organizations. Whether they uplift women through educational platforms or internal workshops, companies throughout the city have stepped up in the fight for women’s equality in the workplace. 

Built In Chicago caught up with five local women leaders to learn how they’ve grown in their careers and what their companies did to help them reach their goals. 

 

Galaxia Martin
Director of Solutions

SDI Presence is an IT consultancy and managed services provider that aims to optimize companies’ tech environments. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at your current company?

Goals tend to grow with us as we go through different stages of our career journey. My short-term goals were to prioritize my education and become a director in the IT space. With hard work and perseverance, I obtained a master’s degree in information systems, and I’m on my way to achieving another master’s degree in cybersecurity and information assurance. Besides becoming a certified ethical hacker, I fulfilled my goal of stepping into my current role as a director of solutions at SDI Presence.

Considering learning never ends, my long-term goals are to heighten my leadership and communication skills and stay on top of industry trends and innovative strategies. These skills are essential to eventually becoming a chief information or chief technology officer who can guide an organization forward while helping the next generation of tech leaders, specifically those who are women, succeed in the industry.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

The company provides learning opportunities through SDI University, which is an employee professional development program designed to promote career evolution through work experiences, formal education and relationship-building. SDIU’s overarching goal is to provide an environment to continuously develop our talents and actively shape the direction of our careers.

Not only should we hold tech companies accountable for creating inclusive cultures, but the men employed by these companies should be advocates and champions for their female colleagues.”

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Not only should we hold tech companies accountable for creating inclusive cultures, but the men employed by these companies should be advocates and champions for their female colleagues. I have been very fortunate to have worked alongside some male counterparts who positively encouraged me to excel in my career journey.

We live in a world where gender inclusion is extremely important. That’s why I challenge tech companies everywhere to break the status quo by diversifying their executive leadership and recruiting women as top talent. In doing so, companies will be able to maintain a competitive edge and drive business growth.

 

 

Colleen Fitzsimmons
VP of Inside Sales

Bringg’s logistics platform helps enterprises manage complex delivery operations. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at your current company?

My current career goals are to build out a successful global inside sales team and focus on onboarding, coaching and establishing a collaborative team environment. The executive leadership team has empowered me to create processes and KPIs while offering guidance and steadfast support along the way. Overall, my largest career goal is to help shape and establish a positive long-lasting impact on the careers of my teammates while contributing to the ongoing success of the organization. During the six months I have been a part of the leadership team, I have made considerable progress on my path toward achieving these goals.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

Growth is a top priority for many of our employees. The company enables everyone to own their professional and personal development so they can unlock their greatest potential. Career advancement and internal promotions fuel this growth. 

Aside from regular performance and goal meetings with managers, we are encouraged to work alongside our HR team, which provides all employees with the platforms and tools they need. For example, many employees use Udemy to take courses related to topics like technical skills development or stress management.

The key to promoting an inclusive and equitable culture is fostering an open environment where everyone feels safe sharing their individual successes and failures.”

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

The key is fostering an open environment where everyone feels safe sharing their individual successes and failures. In addition to our hiring efforts, the company is creating an internal “women in tech” forum in the coming months to provide a platform for sharing challenges and accomplishments and offering guidance. 

I feel fortunate to work alongside a strong team of talented women and men who collectively work to recruit, retain and ideally promote women within our growing organization. Through these efforts, we will continue to build an inclusive and equitable culture for women.

 

 

Thi Ban
Senior Director and Controller

Camelot Illinois is the operational arm of the Illinois Lottery, which offers funding for schools, capital projects and special causes. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at your current company?

My goal is to be seen as an expert within my area of expertise. I have fulfilled a significant percentage of that goal. However, I never expect or desire to reach that goal 100 percent. The knowledge base is always changing, and I am always learning. If I stop growing and educating myself, I’ll know I need to quit what I’m doing. 

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

Camelot is a champion of every employee’s career development. The company puts a lot of effort and money into ensuring that we have resources available to develop the skills needed to become better employees, leaders and human beings. We have access to LinkedIn Learning courses and we are given opportunities to take part in classes, training sessions and seminars. Additionally, we are encouraged to take part in volunteer days, and the company often offers workshops to cultivate a better work environment. Camelot will be the first to tell you that your career is your own, so own it. The company will help you get to where you want to be.

 

Simply put, women need strong sponsorship.”

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Talent management is a significant area to consider when hiring and retaining women. When opportunities are brought up and names are discussed, personal recommendations often play a large role in how leaders identify qualified candidates. During these discussions, men are brought up more often than women. As a result, qualified women are weeded out before they are even considered. 

Simply put, women need strong sponsorship. Women lack visibility during these make-or-break moments with key decision-makers, which is why they need sponsors who will advocate for their skills and promote their accomplishments. Sponsors have the power to use their social capital within the company to lift women up. This will bring qualified women to the forefront and spotlight an otherwise overlooked asset.

 

 

Eva PenzeyMoog
Principal Designer

8th Light is a software consultancy that serves a wide range of organizations, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at your current company?

My overall career goals involve educating other people in the industry about tech-facilitated interpersonal harm and designing tools people can use to prevent and mitigate harm in their tech. Before starting my current work, my goal was to be a principal designer focused on UX, and I was able to get various types of client work and experiences that moved me toward that goal. Now, my side project has become a more formal part of my role, meaning that I get to spend part of my time on other things, such as leading workshops regarding safety design for teams at other companies, speaking at conferences and writing. 

It’s been great to stay connected with my coworkers and have a dedicated sales and operations team that supports my work. 8th Light is an outstanding place to work if you want to be a high-level designer or developer, but the company also offers additional support for meaningful work that moves in a different direction.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

Being able to mentor an apprentice is one distinct form of professional development 8th Light offers. After all, teaching someone else something is the best way to broaden your own knowledge. 

8th Light also gives employees dedicated learning time and a stipend that can be spent on things like books, courses and conferences. I recently used it to attend an excellent short course about trauma-informed design. Additionally, everyone has a manager whom they meet with every other week to discuss professional development goals and receive support. 

 

By building a learning-focused culture, companies can reduce the number of people, including women, who are punished for admitting they don’t know something or need help.”

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

There’s an emphasis on learning, which empowers employees to acknowledge that they still have things to learn without feeling judged by their peers. By building a learning-focused culture, companies can reduce the number of people, including women, who are punished for admitting they don’t know something or need help. 

The company also fosters a sense of equality among employees through our internal apprenticeship program, which pairs up junior team members with more senior colleagues to help them learn more about the company’s tech stack and practices. Because every employee goes through a similar apprenticeship, everyone can relate to having the same foundation. In recent months, we’ve added more senior people to the company, and it’s been essential for us to vet their alignment with and support of our values. This creates a culture where women and others are treated with greater respect.

Lastly, we offer leadership training, which involves topics such as instruction on institutional and interpersonal forms of oppression and microaggressions. Having explicit instruction on how to manage people from groups that are historically excluded in tech goes a long way toward helping reduce workplace trauma. 

 

Locusview’s platform enables utilities providers to control and optimize their capital projects. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at your current company?

My goal is to empower people and give them the tools they need to thrive. I also want team members to recognize the company’s dedication to overall employee wellness and offer them a unique experience at Locusview. These day-to-day matters are what push me forward quickly. I'm lucky to be a part of a growing company that offers room for people, such as myself, to develop.

 

What professional development resources does your employer make available?

I’ve been working with organizational consultants who have helped me navigate the complexities of a rapidly-growing company. We have a growth process for every employee in which we review personal performance indicators. Locusview also invests in professional development courses and enables employees to attend conferences and meetups and engage in online curricula.

 

We’ve got a lot of work to do as an industry, but the path forward is clearer today than it’s ever been.”

 

How can tech companies promote an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

We’ve got a lot of work to do as an industry, but the path forward is clearer today than it’s ever been. Here at Locusview, every candidate we hire is evaluated based on their skill set, experience and fit for our fast-moving culture. Many of our greatest team members are young women who may not have been considered by other companies. They come to Locusview and thrive because they are supported by management and an inclusive culture. 

 

 

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