This year’s ACE Women In Technology (WIT) luncheon did not disappoint. Our panel included an amazing group of women from a variety of industries, responsibilities, and years of experience. To top it all off, we were fortunate to have Shelia McGee-Smith, McGee-Smith Analytics as our moderator.
The conversation was positive, empowering, and interactive. One of my favorite moments was when we were talking audience questions and one of the men in the room asked, “what is your advice for men that want to support women in technology?” The panel shared stories about personal experiences where men have either helped or hindered their position and all seemed to find their way back to two common themes. The first being, if you see something say something, and the second, do the right thing. They may seem cliché, but in today’s environment, this message hit home with many of the audience members.
As the session was winding down and I looked around the room, I couldn’t help but get a little choked up. Everyone was listening intently and I could tell they were truly enjoying themselves. I was reminded of the reasons we do this event each year:
- To elevate the WIT movement and keep it front and center
- To celebrate women who have navigated the technology industry to a leadership position and give them a platform to share their experience with others.
- The hope that everyone in the room will take a little something away from the conversation that will positively impact not only their lives but also the people surrounding them.
This got me thinking, how did I end up here as the Co-Chair of Aspect’s WIT Group? I have always said this is my passion, but I started to ask myself, why? About a week after the event I was having lunch with a friend and they asked me, “when did you realize that technology was where you wanted to be?” Those of you that know me professionally, may think that this is what I have always done. But the truth is, I spent the first ten years of my adult life working as an actor in NYC. So how did I get from Off-Broadway to Aspect?
Over the last few years as I “tell my story” I often reference an opportunity that presented itself to me in high school. A requirement to graduate was typewriting, but around the time I was there, they offered a second “new” option – computer applications. Me being the thespian I was, I waited until my senior year to tackle this requirement. I chose computer applications because I thought it would be easier than typewriting. This may be the smartest decision I ever made. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the class and even bigger surprise, I excelled. The first quarter getting an A and the second, Honors! I found my old report card this week while packing for a move, check out my mom’s supportive write in “Computer!”
I remember the teacher coming to me and saying something to the effect of, “with honors, you now qualify to join the robotics club.” I was in my last semester of high school and senioritis was setting in, needless to say, I passed on robotics. I often think, what would have been different “if” I had continued? I even went through a period where I beat myself up about it. I have come full circle on that. Going to school for theatre prepared me for a career in technology. I bring to the table creativity, innovation, chutzpah, drive, and empathy. These are all traits that as an actor you spend a lifetime honing. The adage, “the show must go on” is no joke. In technology we are inventing the future every day, we are indeed enabling the show to go on!
I believe my early introduction to tech-empowered me with the permission to jump back in without skipping a beat. I had to do a ton of night and weekend study to play catch up, but it was all in an area that was and still is fun to me. My biggest take away from this reflection is that I could have done Robotics and Theatre, I didn’t have to make a decision between the two at 17 years old. And neither do young women today. I believe this is why I am so passionate about Women in Technology.
A huge Thank You to the women on the panel who got me thinking, Mrs. Jones for the 1990 computer application class, and to my mother for saving my report cards and the “computer!” I’d love to hear from others out there. What was your journey to technology?
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