“My career journey wasn’t through luck; it was hard work and putting myself in situations where I wasn’t always comfortable,” said SheLeadsTech Advocacy Day keynote speaker DeAndra Jean-Louis, Vice President, Global Services Operations at Workday. Providing insights from positions at IBM, Aon-Hewitt and Arthur Andersen, among others, Jean-Louis said her start as a model, after attaining a mathematics degree from Louisiana State University, spurred her to become a technology leader. “Modeling is a business – you’re an entrepreneur: working hard, working under contracts, building a book of business, building relationships, selling yourself as the product.”
Jean-Louis said she’d been told to “stay in her lane” throughout her education; a guidance counselor had advised her to have more realistic goals even as she wanted to be a doctor. Yet, she wrote down ambitious goals – to one day be a computer programmer, to work as a professional model, and to live in New York City and Europe. These all came true. She is now drafting a new list.
Being told to “stay in your lane” was a common thread with the SheLeadsTech inaugural Day of Advocacy speakers this week in Washington, D.C. Panel moderator and ISACA Women’s Leadership Advisory Council chair Jo Stewart-Rattray shared that her guidance counselor had advised that she join the police force, and she ended up studying psychology and education. Panelist Anna Murray, CEO of tmg-e*media, was an English major with a journalism career, and it wasn’t obvious to her that she would hit her stride in technology. “Younger women don’t understand that if they have communication and analytical skills, they can have successful careers in tech. We need English, economics, and other liberal arts majors.”
In her keynote, Jean-Louis shared a list of things to “always be,” which included: uncomfortable, meaning to always challenge yourself; building your brand and championing yourself; curious; building your ecosystem; making peace with failure and questioning the status quo. Whether in your personal life or while leading a team, acting with intention and clear goals is key to success. “I build strategy maps,” she shared, “that define the objectives for financial, customer, and internal business processes, including the learning and growth of employees. Every time I have an issue, I go back to my strategy map, and look at the resources and operations – you need the right people and the right mechanisms to drive success.”
Engaging young women and girls in technology goes well beyond science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes, SheLeadsTech speakers believe. Panelist Pam Nigro, president of the ISACA Chicago chapter, discussed the chapter’s partnership with and sponsorship of Girl Con, which is open to girls from eighth grade through high school. Girl Con’s sessions all demonstrate how tech is a part of every career path you enter; Nigro said that partnering with schools and organizations that teach kids how to be safe online can include education on privacy, cybersecurity, audit, governance and risk management as careers.
The panel’s conversation included a discussion on differing views of mentoring (it was posited that men don’t have mentors, they have champions, and women should try to do the same for other women: invite them to meetings that they wouldn’t attend otherwise, speak highly of their skills and recommend them for positions). Panelist Melody Balcet, director of global cybersecurity program for the AES Corporation, encouraged attendees to remain flexible and accept change. “Where we come from, our cultural norms, shape our career paths. Sometimes we’re forced to make changes – we lose a job, get divorced. Moving and uprooting makes many women uncomfortable, but people and kids are resilient. You can create what is important to you. Seek what makes you the best you.”
ISACA chapters may be planning a SheLeadsTech event soon; join the SheLeadsTech community in Engage to learn more about the program and how your chapter can engage, empower and elevate women in technology. Sign up for the SheLeadsTech newsletter at https://sheleadstech.isaca.org/