8 women in Boston tech share how they’re shaping their companies

by Justine Hofherr
November 28, 2018
women in tech
photo via fuze

Are you adding value to your company every day? It’s a daunting question, but one that those with ambition should be asking themselves if they wish to be successful at their jobs, especially in a fast-paced industry like tech.

If that question has left you looking for inspiration or guidance, look no further: We caught up with eight women who are shaping growth at their companies to ask how they make an impact at work every day — and how you can, too.

 

Lauren Moores
VP of data science and data strategy

Lauren Moores, VP of data science and data strategy at Indigo, said her biggest piece of advice for women getting into tech is to develop strong internal relationships with colleagues across all functions and levels of their business: “If the people you work with understand what you are doing and your goals, and you understand their focus, you can be more effective at your job.”

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

As VP of data strategy and data science at Indigo, I have an ongoing opportunity to build and expand the entire data sciences function to meet our growth and scale our needs. This encompasses data collection and management, analytic and algorithmic creation, and new data initiative prototypes that support our microbial and agronomic products, as well as Indigo Marketplace.

My team works across this global company and is involved in just about every project. A colleague describes the team and our reach as an octopus with many tentacles.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

We move very fast at Indigo. The challenge is ensuring that you are working at an optimal speed while also planning for future needs and creating strong foundational data science products. Additional challenges include building out the various teams required to support company goals and ensuring great communication and collaboration within and across teams and business owners.

The best way to overcome the foundational challenges is to constantly think ahead about what products or information is needed today to build for tomorrow. In putting together teams, I tend to look for individuals who are creative problem-solvers, in addition to possessing the data science or data analytics skill sets required for the role. To ensure effective communication and collaboration, it is essential to be as transparent as possible with your team about company goals and strategy, providing the context for what we’re working on. We find that regular department meetings, cross-functional check-ins and frequent off-sites allow us to solve larger challenges collaboratively.

 

Any other advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

It is very important to communicate and market your work and your brand. For those with a structured job, do not assume that people understand or recognize the complexity of your role and what you do. Educate internal stakeholders with frequent updates and transparent reporting on progress. If you are consulting or looking for new opportunities, make sure you have a brand that markets you and helps you network with people easily, which you can market on your own website, through social media, LinkedIn or other channels.

 

Jessica Edmonds
engineering manager of the Autonomy Research Division

Jessica Edmonds is an engineering manager of the Autonomy Research Division at Aurora Flight Sciences. She told Built In Boston that often the best way to achieve success is “to show up every day and do your best — whatever that looks like for today.
 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I manage the Autonomy Research Division at Aurora, and my job is to support the growth of autonomy within the engineering organization. Autonomy research includes robotics, perception, intelligent systems, navigation and control, and human systems, which are all important subsystems in the developing space of partially- and fully-autonomous aircraft.

I help to plan and support the execution many of our programs, which include developing novel air vehicles and vehicle software that will enable completely new paradigms of flight. As our engineering organization grows, I help to determine tools, processes and best practices to ensure we are at the cutting edge of autonomy technologies and applications.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

Often, my job requires addressing the practical realities of an incredibly ambitious development and flight test schedule. How much time, and how many work hours, will this really take? Is our solution feasible given schedule and budget constraints? Does the design fit within the larger strategy of our organization, given a variety of stakeholders? In my role, I often have to juggle competing needs and priorities to find a workable solution.

Additionally, growing an organization involves hiring the best and brightest, but it also involves an enormous amount of supporting work. While ambition and excitement are huge drivers of productivity for our engineers, these engineers also require a network of strong and consistent support to be successful.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

Take initiative and accept that your ideas and inputs may be game-changers if you have the courage to express them. Self-doubt is counterproductive.

 

Lisa Walker
VP of brand and corporate marketing

Lisa Walker, VP of brand and corporate marketing at Fuze, said the key to making an impact at work is testing out your ideas: “Nobody is going to hand you a bag of cash or team of people because you think you have a good idea. You need to show them what’s possible.”

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I truly believe that we are part of a larger movement shaping the future of work at Fuze. It’s my job, as the head of brand, to make sure we are telling that larger story in the market about how our technology can change people’s lives. To that end, my team is focused on building a thought leadership program with experts around the world looking at all aspects of the future of work, as well as highlighting our customers who are successfully leading massive workforce change in their organizations by bringing in our technology to enable a more flexible and remote workforce.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

It’s very easy to fall into the marketing trap of becoming enamored with your technology and focusing all of your efforts on talking up your features. The truth is most people only use a percentage of what’s available in your technology. The real validation that our message resonates comes from the IT leaders who have told us that they went with Fuze because we were the only ones talking to them about their real issue — how to execute the massive change management effort of bringing in a new communications and collaboration platform that will transform how, where and when the four generations in their company work together every day.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

My all-time favorite quote, which I heard years back from another female marketing leader, is, “nobody ever got fired for running a pilot.” If you want to have an impact, find ways to start testing your ideas, innovations or improvements. Measure your success, and then go to bat for the larger budget and team you need to scale it.

 

Donna Williams
SVP of Customer Success

Donna Williams, SVP of customer success at Mendix, said the key to her success has been focusing on the success of others; namely, her customers.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

As the owner of customer success at Mendix, I am focused on our customers getting value from the Mendix platform. The company grows through our ability to showcase these stories, which expands our influence to other companies with similar challenges. We also build great relationships with individuals by impacting their careers.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

Providing great customer experience means aligning the entire company outward: to the customer. We’ve spent time ensuring every function and every individual understand how the work they do contributes to our customer success. We celebrate those successes weekly by handing out certificates of “awesome” to recognize individuals for their impact.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

Find the part of your role that contributes to your customer’s success. It will be very rewarding and will also impact your company’s bottom line. 

Liz McCann
director of customer success offering

Liz McCann, director of customer success offering at Quick Base, said success will follow if you listen closely, are open to change, respect others and don’t try to do it all.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

Since joining the Quick Base team in 2005, I’ve helped drive revenue 12x for the business. The market is incredibly ripe for Quick Base and I’ve had the opportunity to drive initiatives forward in marketing, sales, channel and customer success. Closely listening to, and intimately knowing, our customer and then building programs and offerings around their needs has been key to driving this success.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

Change is always a challenge when implementing new programs, offerings or simply trying to get buy-in for a new process. To overcome these challenges, I like to drive change through strong relationships built around trust; engage cross-functional teams to work together toward a common goal; socialize upcoming changes with senior leaders and peers, and know my audience and tailor the message to them.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

Have a trusted advisor who knows your value and reminds you of it. They will help push you to fight for yourself and for the value you bring to the table.

 

Lily Bond
Director of Marketing

Lily Bond, director of marketing at 3Play Media, which provides video accessibility services for people in the disability community, said the first step to making an impact is “coming to the table in the first place.” Once there, don’t be afraid to have an opinion and share it.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I run the marketing team at 3Play, and that means that I have a direct impact on the growth of our company and our position in the industry. A lot of my job involves building out our strategy and assessing, and implementing, new opportunities for growth.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

As we grow as a company, we have more ideas, projects, plans and strategies — which all require more people and more thought. It’s important to me to make sure that we grow with integrity, both internally and externally. That means not losing sight of the people our product serves. It also means continuing to incorporate diversity into our employee base. Being a woman in a leadership position is not something I take for granted, and I want to create those opportunities for more people. I’m lucky to work at a place where my ideas and beliefs are valued, and where we have an increasingly diverse workplace. To me, the easiest way to overcome these hurdles as we grow is to continue making integrity a priority, and continuing to vocalize that these are values we care about.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

Trust yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up. Studies show that women are less likely than men to vocalize their opinions and ideas at work, or to advocate for what they believe in, or for themselves. Don’t limit your potential by holding back. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have an impact. Start bringing up your ideas, and be confident in yourself.

 

Deborah Nelson
Director of Software Development-Akana

Deborah Nelson, director of software development-Akana at Rogue Wave Software, encourages women in tech to find mentors to help guide them on their career path.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

By championing DevOps and a learning culture where we are not afraid to experiment and continuously refine processes as well as product, I am breaking down silos, enabling the teams to have a seat and voice at the planning table, and empowering them to drive ideas forward and learn from the experience.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

Slowing down to speed up. There has been a lot of change in the past couple of years and the team has been struggling a bit to deliver in a timely manner. As a new leader, I’ve been able to bring in a new perspective and give the team permission to pause and restructure its approach to development and delivery. The team was ready for the change, so it was not too difficult to align on the changes. However, it does take time, patience and persistence.

The challenge is making sure we remain unafraid to experiment and drive meaningful change. When you have a broken process for a while and you lock in on one that works better, it’s surprisingly easy to stop looking for ways to make improvements. It’s important to never give in to that temptation. Iterate and innovate. Rinse and repeat.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

Most importantly, dive in and do the work to figure out how things work at the core. Focus on making a positive impact. Seek mentors. Ask questions, but don’t rely on others to provide answers. Come in prepared and always bring a few options to the table in any discussion. Carve out your own path and you will naturally grow confidence in your work and abilities. Lead by example and never sell yourself short.

 

Julia Tsitrin
senior manager of quality assurance

Julia Tsitrin, senior manager of quality assurance at MedTouch, said her main advice for women hoping to make an impact at work would be to stay curious.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

As the senior manager of QA, my main strategy is to stay knowledgeable about modern technologies and web development best practices, in addition to those in QA. The new methodologies that are rolled out by my team have the potential to significantly influence cross-functional delivery teams. It’s rewarding to see how QA improvements, when leveraged well, influence the organization as a whole.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in implementing these changes, and how have you overcome them?

As leaders, we must constantly have our eyes on where the future of the industry is headed and make improvements along the way that will scale and support these changes. This proactive approach can, at times, oppose the natural desire to maintain the status quo. So when presenting new ideas to team members, I’ve found that inspiring curiosity and vision around the opportunity is a great way to gain buy-in and ensure long-term impact.

 

Any advice for women eager to make an impact with their work?

Let a constant desire to learn and improve drive you to consistently research and network. Taking this time out of your daily tasks will enable you to maintain a strategic vision for your team and your work.

 

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