Pursuing Passion, Not Practicality: How 14 Women in Tech Entered the Industry

Some people only pursue their passions outside of work hours. These women decided to take a different path and built careers out of doing what they love.
Written by Michael Hines
September 13, 2023Updated: September 14, 2023

For Lisa Lilley it was Cliff Soll’s 1989 novel The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage. Renuka S. Pugazhendhi remembers it being the computer she received as a present for her 12th birthday. In the case of Leigh Anne Buttrick, it was an unrelenting desire to understand how everything at an adtech startup worked.

These are the exact moments three Chicago women in tech discovered their passion for technology. While the stories differ, what all three women have in common is that they weren’t content relegating their passions to their personal lives and instead decided to build their careers around them. This is no easy task — having a passion for technology doesn’t provide a shortcut to learning how to code or to understanding the business of technology.

Turning a passion into a career requires hard work, and Built In Chicago spoke with Lilley, Pugazhendhi, Buttrick and 11 other women in tech about what this work entails along with their advice to women seeking to do the same.

 


 

Suchitra Vuppunuthula
Director of Product Management • UL Solutions

 UL Solutions provides product safety certifications and testing services. It also makes software for regulatory compliance, supply chain transparency and reporting, and sustainability.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at UL Solutions.

I started as a software technology admin and then stepped into business analysis where I honed my problem-solving skills and gained a high-level perspective of my work’s impact on the company. I grew into management roles thanks to my technical background, skill set and business acumen. 

At UL Solutions, I’ve worked on various digital transformation projects, each allowing me to grow my knowledge of the business. As director of product management, I lead our customer-facing product suite, working closely with my team and leadership to solve customer challenges and enhance customer interactions through digitalization.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

I discovered my passion for technology while earning my master’s degree in information systems engineering. A data structure course was the spark that ignited my technology interest and following it up with technical courses clarified my career path. I loved programming and business analysis as they fueled my inclination for problem solving.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Apply for the job you want, even if you don’t have the exact background and experience. Especially in technology, it’s impossible for one person to know everything. What you bring to the table are soft skills — the ability to connect dots, see the big picture and ask questions with confidence. Don’t be afraid of gray areas. While some tech jobs can be clear cut, others operate in abstract concepts. Know your strengths and which situations you excel in and lean into those.

Apply for the job you want, even if you don’t have the exact background and experience.”

 

 

Lisa Lilley
CPCU  Architecture Sr. Specialist • CNA

CNA is a commercial and property casualty insurance company that operates in the United States, Canada and Europe.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at CNA.

After graduating with a degree in math and computer science from UIC, it was not clear what career path I should take. I read how insurance offers choice, security, stability, variety and longevity and accepted a job leading a niche market insurance product at an insurance carrier. I accepted increasingly technical roles and excelled at software engineering, client and server-side applications, and writing queries. I worked through my first major defect and later requested an opportunity to support a solution architect. At this stage, I hired a consultant to help me brush up on technical skills. 

I reached out to some folks at CNA Financial to discuss a senior architectural specialist role. I accepted their offer wholeheartedly as I was very excited about the company leadership and the character and intelligence of the team. My primary work involves identifying and codifying standards and best practices for our global developer community and bridging gaps between departments to facilitate collaboration.

 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

In the early 1990s, an acquaintance shared enthusiasm for a book called The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll. The concepts and mystery of the internet piqued my curiosity and prompted me to register for a Unix course at a community college, which I really enjoyed! I started using Telnet and a 386 with my landline to explore. The internet fed my curiosity and I had to learn more. My passion for technology stems from that exploration.

My current position at CNA continues to fuel my technology passions. This role has been a dream. It’s an opportunity to leverage my business knowledge and experience in the context of technology, work in a culture I feel passionately about, feed my brain with educational opportunities and keep my technical skills fresh.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

It’s important for women to be selective on whose advice they consider — even the advice I write here. Give more consideration to folks you respect and who inspire you and those with impressive reputations and intellects. Also, be courageous and aware of yourself and your environment. Listen, ask questions, nurture your curiosity and help foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.

One tenet I have carried throughout my technical career is that mistakes are part of a fast development learning cycle, and risking failure is part of the innovation process. Throughout my career, I have remained ambitious with innovation sprint projects and asked questions, and it became part of my reputation to innovate, try new things and have fun. I challenge you to adopt a similar mindset.

Making mistakes is part of a fast development learning cycle.”

 

 

Prajakta Kolhe
Senior Project Manager • Motorola Solutions

First responders and corporations use Motorola Solutions’ radios, video cameras and communications software to keep communities safe and increase productivity and security.

 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at Motorola Solutions.

I came to the United States from India to pursue a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and realize the “American Dream.” My career at Motorola Solutions led me through a variety of roles such as software engineer, database administrator and new product introduction manager. Along the way, I earned a master’s certificate in project management, a certificate in database technologies and the Project Management Professional certification. Throughout my more than 20-year journey as a Motorolan, I made it my goal to seize every opportunity to grow professionally and pay it forward by mentoring junior professionals. 

While my day job consists of managing a variety of engineering programs internally and with suppliers, my “yay” job consists of serving as Motorola Solutions’ global lead for the Society of Women Engineers. This role is my “ikigai”, the ideal intersection of my passion, strengths and the potential to make a difference in the lives of others.

I made it my goal to seize every opportunity to grow professionally and pay it forward.”

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

Science and math come naturally to me and I’ve always had an inquisitive mind. My father has a Bachelor of Technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay — a prestigious Indian university — and taught me the importance of always breaking down challenges using a logical approach. When I was torn between a career in engineering and medicine, I decided to pursue electronics engineering empowered by his influence. I am fortunate to have been raised by highly educated parents who nurtured my spirit of academic excellence.

When Motorola offered me my first job after graduate school, it was a no-brainer. I was able to enter into my dream job at a great company that’s a springboard for a successful career in engineering and technology.

 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Build a strong foundation through education, formal training or on-the-job learning to position yourself for success. If you are the first in your family to consider a career in technology, be sure to leverage resources and networks that can help you in the process. It is important to gain mentors in the industry, in your community or through career counselors to guide you throughout the job application process as well.

And lastly, keep in mind that as women, we bring unique and powerful natural abilities to the table, such as emotional intelligence, unique communication skills and the ability to multitask and collaborate. This dynamic combination of technical skills mixed with people skills make women a great fit for careers in technology.
 

 

Becky Bloom
Senior Product Manager • iManage

Companies use iManage’s platform to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing by organizing emails and documents together into a single, searchable and shared folder.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at iManage.

After graduating from law school and litigating for a few years I burned out, and it was time to find a more sustainable career. An old pal from law school invited me to join an early stage startup, and I got a job as an account manager and moseyed through a few more roles and jobs before landing as senior product manager at iManage. I work on collaboration tools, and I’m lucky enough to work with the smartest and most supportive colleagues in the universe.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

My path to tech is something I found later in life. I have absolutely no technical background except for a growth mindset and a real interest in what makes things work. While working as an attorney, the tech we used was often frustrating, and I found myself spending more time on administrative duties than actual factual work. It’s the sneaky little administrative details that can really wear you down, and that absolutely wore me down.

Since landing in legal tech, I’m delighted to represent our users’ voices and solve for those frustrations. It’s less that I’m passionate about technology and more that I’m passionate about how technology can make our lives easier and more enjoyable. I found a nice work-life balance since graduating law school; I hope I can help my users find the same by building tools to support the ways that they work.

It’s less that I’m passionate about technology and more that I’m passionate about how technology can make our lives easier and more enjoyable.”

 

The Team
iManage 

 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

My friends, the rules are all made up and you can do whatever you want! If you have a sneaking suspicion that you want to try something new, it’s worth exploring. Ask people out for coffee, read up on the field and sit in on webinars. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: People absolutely want to help you and it makes them feel good to be able to share their background and expertise. It is never too late to try something new, and everyone has unique skills that they can bring to tech. 

 

 

Ellen Loeshelle
Director, Product Management • Qualtrics

Qualtrics’ platform collects and analyzes employee and customer data, recommends courses of action related to that data and helps organize workflows to put those plans into motion.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at Qualtrics.

I started my career in 2012 at a startup called Clarabridge where I had the opportunity to blend my interests in language, the Internet and technology. I studied linguistics, cognitive science and computer science but didn’t know how those things would blend together. It was serendipitous to find a company and a role that fit so well. I was a business consultant for two years and got a crash course in natural language processing technologies. I then took advantage of an opportunity to shift into the burgeoning product management team. 

At the same time, I started a master’s program at Georgetown where I explored the foundations of language tech and business strategy, which I immediately applied to my work. As a PM, I owned our NLP and text analytics capabilities, and I stepped into a management role four years later, managing larger parts of the Clarabridge product. Nine years into my journey, Qualtrics acquired Clarabridge, and I retained the same role and grew my scope. I am now the director of product management for the Qualtrics Intelligence Platform.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

I’ve always had a passion for technology. My dad is a chemical engineer, my grandpa was a nuclear physicist and my uncle is a neurosurgeon. Tech brought us together and bridged challenging divides. We took pride in building solutions from scratch, over-engineering house projects and tinkering with tools and devices. My grandpa passed away earlier this year and his eulogy was anecdote after anecdote about the simple machines he built with his kids and grandkids to accomplish routine tasks. 

My entrance into tech was more natural than intentional. I knew I wanted to pursue my interests in language and technology but had no idea what that amounted to. Growing up in the Washington D.C. area, I assumed I would work for the government like both of my parents and most of my friends’ parents. Clarabridge served as my first introduction to the private sector and the tech industry. I had no idea how much more fun it would be and I am so incredibly proud of being a part of it.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Your career is not linear. In fact, one of my mentors once told me that your career is a jungle gym, not a ladder. Some moves will be upwards, others downwards and many lateral. Having a career in tech is an unpredictable and transient journey. The roles and responsibilities evolve as fast as the tech itself. For many of us, the jobs we will have in two years don’t exist today, which is especially true for college hires. I encourage women in tech to find roles that align with their interests rather than ones with a perfect title. 

The company you work for, its culture, the people you innovate with and the space you’re given to experiment is way more valuable than a title. Remember that in tech, your role is perpetually evolving with the concurrent technology changes, and this yields resiliency, creativity and open mindedness. Those strengths will be your greatest assets in building an entire career in this dynamic space.

I encourage women in tech to find roles that align with their interests rather than ones with a perfect title.”
 

 

Liberty Holt
Principal Data Scientist • PatientPoint

PatientPoint provides in-office, digital engagement solutions to physicians, including screens that share health content and touchscreens that enable doctors to delve deeper into diagnoses.

 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at PatientPoint.

I have more than 17 years of healthcare experience and started my career as a business office manager for an ambulatory surgery center after earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati. After a few years I moved into an analyst role for a local health system but wanted to better understand the data. I found the Masters in Business Analytics program at UC in 2013 and fell in love with the program. After graduation, I took a role as a data scientist with that same health system and quickly moved into leadership managing the advanced analytics team. 

In January 2020, I took a position at a clinical AI company, but Covid negatively affected the organization to the point I felt the need to seek something new. I found PatientPoint and joined the advanced analytics team as a principal data scientist in May 2022. My work now focuses on measuring patient outcomes resulting from patients viewing our content in physician offices and tackling operational challenges, like prioritizing support for locations with offline devices.

 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

I didn’t set out to be in technology: I just found a program that matched my interests, talents and abilities and it grew organically from there. Data science was a very new field when I entered the space and it’s a huge area of incredible opportunity and challenges. It’s one thing to build a predictive model and get good results from an experiment. It’s a totally different ball game to actually get people to trust it, use it and make sustainable improvement that can be measured. 

I’ve grown in my leadership and influencing skills as much as my technical skills over the past few years because I’ve found it isn’t just about the work itself but also how you do it that matters. Faith has been an integral part of my adventure, and I always keep trying, learning and trusting I am where I need to be until I feel otherwise. I love learning new things and it’s fun for me to work with big data and use advanced analytic techniques to solve complex problems.

I’ve grown in my leadership and influence as much as my technical skills because I’ve found it isn’t just about the work itself but how you do it.”

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Think about the problems you’re motivated to fix and then start exploring what methods, training and tools you need to solve them. Sometimes it is directly tackling an issue that is important to you, but often it can look like supporting others by ensuring they have the tools needed to do their jobs. The technology space is vast, and it’s important to really dig in to understand your strengths, talents, abilities and passions so you can grow in confidence as you cultivate your skills. 

Don’t be afraid to learn from others you admire and respect. There will be challenges and failures along the way, and a willingness to learn and grow and not expect perfection goes a long way. Comparison and competition can be big distractions, but if you spend time really getting to know yourself, you’ll be able to trust your choices. Finally, just be creative, have fun and surround yourself with people who build you up and share your passions.

 

 

Natalie Greenwood
Managing Director, Head of Data Governance • Analytics8

Analytics8 is a data and analytics consultancy. The firm works across industries and its clients include ABInBev, Citibank and Brooklinen.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at tms.

I started as a developer and shifted to data architecture, specializing in creating semantic layers for self-service reporting. The common issue I noticed was data quality in reporting solutions, which prompted me to focus on data governance to address it proactively. Currently, I am the head of data governance at Analytics8, overseeing strategies for reliable, accurate and compliant data management for our clients.

 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

My father’s work in the telecommunications industry ignited my interest in IT. I marveled at his office — the latest and greatest technology caught my interest, and I would sit for hours tinkering with the computers, wires and telephones. Once, my dad caught me reading a COBOL programming book in his office. When he asked what I was up to, I replied that I was learning a new language. He was amazed. I knew then that tech was my destiny.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

I’d advise women — and men as well — who are exploring the field of technology to dive in wholeheartedly. If tech genuinely excites you, embrace it with all your energy. Dedicate yourself to continuous learning, hone your skills and keep up with industry trends. Passion often leads to the highest levels of job satisfaction and success. Remember, the best and happiest employees are those who genuinely love what they do.

Passion often leads to the highest levels of job satisfaction and success.”

 

 

Anastasia Nevedomskaya
System Engineer • IMC Trading

IMC is a proprietary trading firm and market maker active on more than 100 exchanges worldwide.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at IMC Trading.

My primary responsibility is to ensure that financial data from all U.S. options exchanges arrives at our company and is suitable for trading. I ensure our systems are functional and performant and identify issues and involve appropriate resources to fix them. A lot of my work also involves keeping our systems up-to-date amid the ever-changing exchange landscape. 

There’s a constant stream of new features, adjustments, changes to communication protocols, new products and many other elements that require us to adjust. This entails things like making configuration changes, establishing new connectivity and writing new code. Additionally, deploying the latest and greatest hardware is a significant part of my role. IMC’s commitment to reducing our carbon footprint drives us to adopt the highest-performance and most energy-efficient solutions.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

It didn’t happen overnight. My first real job after graduating from university was the automation of medical claims processing. The project was challenging, but I saw how genuinely happy end users were. I realized the power of software and became inspired by how a well-designed system could solve real-world problems. That inspiration followed me to my next project in the travel industry. Back then, it was common to book travel on the phone with agents, and it really felt like we were opening up the world to our users by giving them the ability to make bookings in their browser.

My passion for technology has grown even more since joining IMC. It’s fascinating to see the connection between world events and financial markets. It’s imperative that our systems are robust enough to handle reactions to those events. 

 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

My advice is to explore several areas of the industry and see which one speaks to you. Additionally, remember that you bring something unique to the industry: Your background, past experiences and knowledge can make a positive impact on the work you do. After all, to create the most effective and useful technology, we need diversity in thought, perspective and skills.

Lastly, this industry will keep you on your toes, and it’s important that you keep up with the latest trends and build strong connections. Speaking from experience, having an inspiring network of women in tech to exchange ideas, best practices and build community, like I do at IMC, is invaluable.

Having an inspiring network of women in tech to exchange ideas is invaluable.”

 

 

Patricia Li
Product Manager • Avant

Avant is a fintech company that provides access to loans and credit cards to those who can’t access them through traditional routes.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at Avant.

Early in my career, I worked as a natural gas options and futures trader in Chicago, which was a great way for me to hone my analytical and quantitative skills. After trading for a while, I pursued my MBA at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business to broaden my perspective from trading. 

I joined Avant in 2018 because I wanted to work in a company with a fast-paced environment and a strong sense of its mission. While here at Avant, I’ve worked on a variety of different teams, starting in operations strategy where I worked on our client services team and then led the quality assurance team. I then moved over to the product team as the product manager first for the back-end team and now for the originations teams.

 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

I love solving problems in any capacity, and having a career in tech allows me to apply problem-solving skills on a daily basis. In addition, I have a deep passion for continuous learning, and technology is all about continuous learning in different capacities, from evolving tools to improvements in the projects we work on. Creating a solution to a problem is deeply satisfying, and I’m doing that on a daily basis as part of my work. I also love how much variety each day brings. The ability to work on a multitude of different projects with many different stakeholders and teams across the company keeps my work feeling fresh and exciting.

 

The Avant offices.
Avant 

 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

It’s important to keep in mind that your hard work and skills helped you achieve your current successes. It can be hard to keep self-doubt at bay, but your contributions matter and people want to hear your unique perspective and thoughts. Don’t be afraid to move on from an idea or process if something isn’t working. Try adjusting your method or even try something new instead. Also, reach out to others and find mentors who will help support and guide you through your career. It’s so important to have a strong support system of people who uplift and inspire you.

It can be hard to keep self-doubt at bay, but your contributions matter and people want to hear your unique perspective.”

 

 

Shalaka Tamhane
Director, Digital Experience Analytics • Grainger

Grainger is an industrial supply company that stocks more than 2 million maintenance, repair and operating products. In addition, it also offers consulting services and software solutions.

 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at Grainger.

At Grainger, analytics is at the heart of everything we do. We’re a leading broadline distributor of maintenance, repair and operations products, and we need data to make decisions about how best to serve our customers. Over the years, I contributed to analytics by driving investments in our marketing, sales force and website. Supporting the first major transformation of our website years ago helped me connect my interest in solving problems with data to a really exciting technology space. My current team delivers analytical insights across all of our digital channels.
 

Supporting the first major transformation of our website helped me connect my interest in solving problems with data to a really exciting technology space.”
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

I grew up with a statistics professor for a father who encouraged my interest in math, and that foundation grew into a passion for using data to understand patterns. Working on the digital business means working with the biggest data we have. There’s so much we can do with that data to enhance the online customer experience, and that is a huge part of our strategic advantage. When I started at Grainger, we didn’t have a mobile app and our e-commerce sales were a quarter of what they are today. Over time, we’ve learned from the data what our customers need from our digital channels and built products accordingly. That willingness to evolve is what excites me about my work.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Forming a strong network of supporting women, whether in my current organization or externally, has been key to my career. Women in technology often find their way in through avenues like math, economics, business operations or the sciences because the same skills in problem solving and critical thinking are required. Women remain a minority in technology, but that also makes them a compelling hire from adjacent fields. I would encourage any woman considering a tech career to be curious above all. Technology is exciting because it’s constantly changing and evolving, so it’s important to be adaptable and willing to seek out opportunities to learn.

 

 

 

Renuka S. Pugazhendhi
Engineering Manager II • Enova

Enova is a fintech company whose brands offer loans to non-prime consumers and small businesses as well as international money transfer services. 
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at your Enova.

I started my journey as an intern at a fintech company in product management. I realized that my grasp of technical engineering was limited due to my focus on the business side of product development and I decided to transition into a software engineering role. As my experience grew, a stronger desire for leadership and involvement with women in technology emerged. 

My journey led me to the role of senior engineering manager, where I established teams from the ground up and guided teams through the entire product development process. I played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s product strategy and took charge of engineering processes for multiple product teams. I discovered a strong passion for building people up, mentoring and empowering people to grow and excel in their careers. As an engineering manager II, I lead the development of a product that expands access to reliable financial services.

 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

My dad gifted me my very first computer when I was 12, and I was completely captivated by all the things it could do. This motivated me to pursue STEM and major in computer science. My career path was a bit uncertain, but I knew I was embarking on something exciting. To further refine my skills, I pursued a Master’s in Information Technology Management. 

My product management internship showed me how crucial technology is in creating a product, and that got me hooked. Working with the engineering team made me realize how powerful combining business and technical skills can be and sparked my drive to make impactful solutions and products as a developer. The experience also made me love software engineering and problem solving even more, confirming that a tech-focused career was my true calling.

 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Boldly embrace the journey. There’s a misconception that studying or pursuing tech means being confined to a computer and coding all day long. However, there are boundless possibilities to explore, and there are opportunities to take initiative, for continuous learning and to build a strong network of communities. I discovered this by engaging with people leaders and understanding their experiences and networks. 

Because of the outstanding women in the tech community at Enova, I had the amazing opportunity to be a chair for Enova’s Chicago Women in Tech conference. In addition, I have the privilege of integrating my commitment to empowering women in tech with my everyday work.

In addition, I’ve found myself most successful when I work on something I’ve always dreamt of, so believe in your dreams. When your dreams and reality align, you gain perspective. Success is yours if you have the passion to work diligently, push your limits and overcome obstacles without relenting. Your gender has nothing to do with it, so keep dreaming.

There’s a misconception that studying or pursuing tech means being confined to a computer and coding all day long. There are boundless possibilities to explore.”

 

 

Leigh Anne Buttrick
Senior Director, Tech Enablement Lead • tms

Tms provides marketing, sourcing and technology services that help Adidas, T-Mobile, McDonald’s and other global brands create memorable customer experiences.

 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at tms.

I started in traditional media buying but wanted to expand my skill set. I took a broad role at an adtech startup in Chicago where I carved out a niche at the intersection of advertisers, operations and technology. In 2015, tms was gearing up for the McDonald’s global mobile app launch and asked me to build an operations function to support mobile offers. I built the marketing operations team to support the launch and execution in the United States and Canada. 

Marketing operations expanded to launching and providing ongoing support of T-Mobile Tuesdays. I then became a global product manager working on operationalizing global games and offers. A 2021 integration with another part of our parent company, HAVI, provided an opportunity to move into a tech transformation position for category management and supply chain. In my current role, I work across global packaging, toys and other categories, identifying technology opportunities and prioritizing technology on our transformation journey.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

While working at the adtech startup, I found myself so curious and asking, “How does this work?” I wanted to figure out how I could help fix some of my core operational challenges in managing advertisers. It was the first time I was exposed to technology and product teams, and I was eager to learn more. The company’s culture was fantastic: We had an incredible technology leader willing to teach and I was encouraged to dig in! I started attending Agile ceremonies and participating in requirement development and demonstrations. I became hooked on seeing how ideas turn into new ways of working.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

Technology will continue to evolve the ways we work, so anticipate the changes and create your own opportunities. There are many avenues to work within tech, so find your entry point, be curious, ask questions and see how you can help. Seek out leaders who are willing to teach and grow talent. It’s so important for me to pay the mentorship I received forward, and there are other leaders out there willing to do the same. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t be intimidated by buzzwords.

It’s so important for me to pay the mentorship I received forward.”

 

 

Megan Lance Flanagan
Flanagan Chief People Officer • Coro

Coro is a cybersecurity company whose “security in a box” solution provides protection for users, devices, email, cloud apps and data.
 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at Coro. 

I honed my skills in the world of consumer data and analytics as a recruiter at IRI Worldwide and The Nielsen Company. This passion for data and technology propelled me into adtech where I collaborated with Basis Technology, Rocket Fuel and Mediaocean. My journey continued as I lent my expertise to build robust human resources departments at hyper-growth companies such as Showpad and CityBase.

As chief people officer at Coro, I orchestrate strategic people initiatives that nurture a vibrant and diverse global  workforce. My role revolves around crafting a dynamic workplace culture, encompassing talent acquisition, development, operations and Coro’s overall employee experience. Our decisions are grounded in data and analytics, which informs us about employee preferences and guides us toward informed growth plans. The pulse of our employees influences our events, feedback loops and budgeting discussions and fosters Coro’s cohesive work-life experience.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

The path to discovering my love for technology was a revelation intertwined with distinct moments and realizations. I remember my early days as a recruiter, laboriously managing candidate profiles in Excel sheets. The breakthrough arrived with the introduction of a true tracking system, an innovation that would change my daily life by saving hours of manual labor. 

Witnessing technology’s capacity to replace hours of manual work with efficient automation was nothing short of a revelation. The realization dawned on me that the work we do every day is often guided by technology, whether it’s employing a nifty program to enhance our hiring process or coding new solutions to elevate our digital platforms.

And then there’s Coro. We leverage software to streamline and elevate the entire people experience. Technology intertwines with our daily operations, enhancing our efficiency and enriching our interactions. Tech innovation is where my heart truly resides, an ever-evolving journey that keeps me enamored with the world of possibilities that technology unveils.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

I have a simple yet powerful piece of advice: Be unapologetically yourself. In a realm where innovation thrives, don’t shy away from seizing opportunities and taking risks that align with your passions. Tech rewards those who dare to build and thrive on risk taking. Listen to that adventurous side of you that yearns to create and make a difference. Don’t hesitate to raise your hand for leadership roles or embark on a journey with a newly funded startup. Each role you take on and every experience you accumulate contributes to your growth. 

Don’t underestimate the value of becoming a subject-matter expert. Excel in your role and let that excellence propel you forward. It’s your expertise and dedication that earns the respect of your peers. In a landscape that may sometimes feel dominated by men, it’s crucial to acknowledge that diverse teams flourish. Embrace your unique perspective as it adds a vital dimension to your team’s dynamics. Don’t let being the only woman change your approach or dilute your contributions. Instead, work with the confidence that your expertise speaks volumes. 

Ultimately, your journey in tech should be guided by your passions. Focus on work that resonates deeply and projects that ignite your enthusiasm. Your journey is yours to define, and your contribution is invaluable.

Don’t let being the only woman change your approach or dilute your contributions.”

 

 

Emily Miller
Product Marketing Manager • HealthJoy

HealthJoy’s healthcare navigation platform is designed to make it easier for employees to understand and utilize their medical and wellness benefits.

 

Tell us a bit about your career journey thus far and what you do at HealthJoy.

My career has predominantly revolved around private equity real estate, particularly within a tech-forward company. However, the emergence of Covid-19 prompted me to follow my passion for mental and physical health. Currently I’m at HealthJoy, a healthcare navigation platform, where I’ve found the perfect blend of healthcare and innovation within a tech-focused environment.
 

How did you discover your passion for technology and how did you know you wanted to pursue a career in tech?

The aha moment was witnessing remarkable improvements in targeting and conversions through enhancing campaigns with data analytics. This led me to proactively embrace tech trends, attend workshops and collaborate with tech teams as I realized the potent synergy between marketing and technology. This fusion ultimately propelled me to pursue a tech-focused career within the product marketing domain.
 

What advice would you give to women who are discovering an interest in tech and are considering pursuing a career in the field?

To all aspiring women entering the tech space, consider curiosity your North Star. Explore diverse corners of technology; your career trajectory might surprise you. Equally important is nurturing a sincere commitment to the problem you aspire to address. This passion will be a steadfast driving force, propelling you through obstacles and setbacks. Embrace your journey confidently and let your dedication to exploration and impact shape your path in the tech space.

Let your dedication to exploration and impact shape your path.”

 

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