Permission to be me

Tonight I went to a Women Leading in Technology event, which was presented by the Minnesota High Tech Association. I had totally forgotten about it until I saw it on my calendar earlier today, and then I was like “what the heck is this event?” I was about to bail, but then I realized I paid $15 to go and felt committed. So I went. And it was awesome.

First was a short networking session. I met some interesting people, saw some people I have worked with, and generally had a good time. The best part by far though, was the panel. They brought together a panel of four strong, intelligent, successful women within the technology industry.

  • Carolyn Parnell, CIO MN.IT Services
  • Jennifer Haushildt, CTO, FindLaw at Thomson Reuters
  • Jean Becker, Senior Executive Partner, Accenture
  • Chris Mahai, Co-owner and Managing Partner, Aveus, LLC

My favorite part was when each woman gave a little bit of their background and how they got to where they are today. It was inspiring to see women from different companies and backgrounds coming together. For example, Carolyn started out as a social worker, and always made sure to work for companies that she shared a common goal or belief with. Jennifer, on the other hand, has been at Thomson Reuters for most of her career (19 years). Jean had a different start too, coming from a small town without phones or electricity, to becoming a nurse, and now is at Accenture. The best takeaway was from her: don’t be afraid to say way you want. Once, in an interview, when the interviewer asked her what she wanted to do, she replied “I want to be an engineer for a while, get my MBA, and then manage people.” The response she got wasn’t laughter, it was belief. Somehow, somewhere, I got ahold of the wacky notion that one shouldn’t announce that their sights are set high. Rather, that it is better to be humble and speak more to that next step rather than further down the line. I’m honest about these things with some people (Joe, my grandma, my diary, etc.), but not with the people that can help me achieve the goals. [From a professional standpoint, I mean. My family is very supportive of me and means the world to me.] But that is going to stop now, because I left tonight with the permission to tell people what I want, who I am going to be, and how I am going to get there. And, just so we are all on the same page, I’ll tell you too.

I’m going to be CTO of a fortune 500 company, whether I start it from the ground up or join one of the many existing successful companies. I’m going to be actively involved in my community, specifically with organizations that promote STEM fields to women and with my alma matter (Macalester + probably Stanford). I know these things won’t happen over night, but I’m a hard worker and I’m in this for the long haul.

Additionally, I’m going to be a published author and I’m going to drive a Maserati because they are awesome. I am a genuine person that tries to help out others any way possible. For example, I love meeting with Macalester students to talk about life post Mac, and I recently paired up a coworker with a recent Mac grad to dog sit while he is on vacation. It is sometimes the little things, but it is also the bigger picture, and I’m always willing to put myself out there for others.

And now it is my turn to pay it forward: tell people what you want, who you are going to be, and how you are going to get there. And don’t forget to appreciate the present.

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