3 Women Share How CDS Fosters a Culture of Equality, Growth and Advancement
As a computer science major in college, Hope Wallace would often walk into lectures and find that out of over 100 students, there were only ten women.
Combined with her natural shyness, Wallace found it challenging to find her voice and ask for help in this male-dominated space. “I didn't want to risk looking like the girl who ‘didn't know how to code’ and feed into the negative stereotype of women in tech.”
Wallace began to feel like she wasn’t cut out for the major. Fortunately, she discovered the Women in Computer Science group on campus, and was soon reenergized through the community and the support she received.
After successfully graduating and securing a web development internship at Convention Data Services, which provides registration, customized applications, data analytics and support services for large events, Wallace once again contended with feelings of imposter syndrome.
But her manager, Pam, championed her and provided opportunities to leverage and expand her skill set.
Now, five years after joining CDS, Wallace has been promoted to senior web developer and works with some of the company’s biggest clients.
In the tech industry, experiences like Wallace’s are not uncommon, but companies like CDS are helping close the gap in gender representation and create an environment where women are empowered to succeed.
At CDS, women make up 90 percent of the client services department and 80 percent of the project management department. In an industry (tech) where women only comprise 28 percent of the workforce, according to 2022 Zippia data, CDS is an outlier to which other companies can aspire.
“The recent focus on DEI movements and professions has brought a significant shift in attitudes toward investment in DEI,” said Client Services Manager Ivett O'Donnell. “As the majority of our employees work remotely, we have been able to tap into the national talent pool and have been astounded by the exemplary talent we have found.”
The recent focus on DEI movements and professions has brought a significant shift in attitudes toward investment in DEI.”
Wallace, O'Donnell and Director of Product Development Karen Lewis sat down with Built In to share their experiences working at CDS, how the supportive culture fuels knowledge-sharing and professional growth, and the noteworthy perks and benefits that employees are provided.
For Hope Wallace, the assertion that girls aren’t interested in tech is a misconception.
“I think the issue is more that women don’t feel comfortable being interested rather than that they aren’t interested at all,” said Wallace, before noting the importance of providing the environments and opportunities for women to advance these skills.
“Creating spaces where women and girls are able to speak about their feelings — both to each other and to their organization or school — without feeling threatened is a huge key to getting and keeping more women in tech fields as a whole.”
In her tenure at CDS, her manager has been a pivotal, consistent presence in her professional development.
“Pam has been endlessly supportive and willing to give me challenges that allow me to showcase my skills and grow as a web developer,” said Wallace.
“Having a woman as my manager was also indirectly helpful; it was comforting just seeing a woman run a department of mostly men and have everyone’s respect.”
Having a woman as my manager was also indirectly helpful; it was comforting just seeing a woman run a department of mostly men and have everyone’s respect.”
Moving Up the Ranks
At the beginning of her time at CDS, Ivett O'Donnell was responsible for handling over 15 projects annually as a registration manager.
O’Donnell’s hard work and dedication didn’t go unnoticed, and within 18 months of being hired, she was promoted to senior registration manager.
“CDS entrusted me with their most crucial client, which allowed me to showcase my leadership abilities while efficiently managing their portfolio, other accounts and special projects that required collaboration with different departments to establish company initiatives,” said O’Donnell.
Amid a post-Covid growth period at the company, O’Donnell was offered another opportunity – client services manager.
In addition to increasing scopes and responsibilities to help team members like O’Donnell grow, CDS ensures those members are also able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“The leadership team values the importance of family and has given me and other colleagues the chance to attend to our loved ones when needed,” said O’Donnell.
The leadership team values the importance of family and has given me and other colleagues the chance to attend to our loved ones when needed.”
“Not only have they invested in me as an employee but also as a mother, daughter and wife. I will always be grateful for their unwavering support.”
Learning and Growing
For Karen Lewis, the journey from product stakeholder to product owner, scrum master, product manager and, now, director of product development wouldn’t be possible without investments in continuing education.
“I am fortunate to have been given opportunities by CDS to start in tech on small projects where I learned the processes, the language and the tech,” said Lewis, noting that she sought out a career in tech because of a desire for continued growth and learning.
These opportunities have extended outside of any one role, department or knowledge domain.
When Lewis’ interest in product and technology was initially sparked, she brought the idea of attending an external seminar to HR.
“I was encouraged and supported to attend,” she recalled. “The following year CDS budgeted and made sure to send a group of women of various generations to the event.
“New ideas and opportunities for learning and growth are always listened to,” she added.
New ideas and opportunities for learning and growth are always listened to.”
It All Comes Back to Culture
Benefits like paid maternity leave and flexible remote work — all of which CDS offers — are key for women.
But CDS reaches beyond that by fostering a culture of collaboration, authenticity and encouragement.
“Our culture promotes idea-sharing, feedback and suggestions throughout the workday. Whenever someone faces a challenge or has a question, they seek assistance from colleagues who have experience with similar vendors or circumstances,” said O’Donnell, noting that responses usually come within a matter of minutes.
By understanding that investments in the individual can yield benefits for all, CDS ensures that team members — of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds — not only can apply their skill sets but also excel.
“At CDS, our leadership team values the growth and development of our employees, recognizing how it benefits the individual and the company,” said O’Donnell.