SoftwareONE recently formed the Women in Technology (WiT) forum as a way to establish best practices on an inclusive environment throughout SoftwareONE for all, but specifically for professional women in the technology industry. The group is set to encourage, mentor, and provide resources and tools to ensure women throughout, and recruited by, SoftwareONE will have the ability to reach the utmost potential within their career, the company and the technology industry.
WiT recently had the pleasure of speaker Cynthia Stoddard, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Adobe, to discuss: “Embracing Change in the Digital Era.” Ms. Stoddard held a dialogue with the group that included her own career journey, thoughts on the overall technology marketplace, and the change needed to transform one’s career path.
Ms. Stoddard has over 25 years of experience in the industry and has always held four tenets as her guide throughout her various career changes. Those include:
- Never be afraid to ask a question or speak up
- Family comes first and all relationships matter
- Learn – go broad and go deep
- Embrace change
Never be afraid to ask a question
Early on in her career Ms. Stoddard was working as a programmer in pension systems and couldn’t quite figure out how a mathematical formula was working. A lot of her colleagues told her not to question the actuary who had developed the formula but she ended up approaching him simply because she wanted to better understand how it worked. It turned out he had transposed some numbers and by asking a question she saved the company a lot of money and frustration. This lesson never left her and she has continued to speak up throughout her career and always ask questions.
Family and relationships matter
Women often find themselves trying to figure out how to balance work and family. There is no perfect answer but having a supportive spouse certainly helps, as well as actively managing one’s schedule. Cynthia was always able to configure her career to be able to stay active in her children’s school and extracurricular activities. Beyond family, there are the relationships one can, and must, forge at work as well. It’s important to really get to know your fellow co-workers and not just in a meeting. Have coffee chats, lunch breaks, travel out to where colleagues may work in a different geography. Personal connections are so important in a world where technology seems to overtake everything.
Learn – Go broad and go deep
Over the years Ms. Stoddard has worked in a variety of industries including insurance, logistics, and retail. By moving around she was able to understand where her true passions lie and what motivates her on a daily basis. Going broad and deep with learning allows you to constantly learn how different business units operate, what new technologies such as artificial intelligence or machine learning offer today, or what other employees and colleagues might be working on or thinking about.
Change is constant – we know this and sometimes it’s hard to embrace it. Cynthia looks at change as an opportunity rather than a roadblock. Adobe went through a massive transformation in 2011 from selling shrink-wrapped products to offering web-based software and services. The company not only embraced the change but did so successfully. For women in technology, change is probably more apparent because our lives and roles evolve as we take on new roles, potentially become mothers, or have to move a family across the country for a job opportunity. These are all areas that must be discussed to ensure that the change works for everyone – the individual, the family, and the company.
Cynthia concluded that it’s key to think about things in terms of people, process, and technology. People of course being the most important of the three – it’s the area that makes a company work, makes your family work and keeps culture alive. Process, for her today, is about the importance of digital transformation and how that impacts both the customer and the employee. In regards to technology, employees and organizations need to keep an open mind – what is new, how does it work and why or how could we implement it.
Ms. Stoddard also answered many questions throughout the session and a few are highlighted below:
Q: What changes in the technology field strike you as exciting and will make an impact over the next 5-10 years?
A: The entire area of analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). Being able to help automate things that are more manual today, potentially changing the consumer experience tremendously and providing education and healthcare industries with new knowledge to help people.
Q: How have you kept up to speed with the changes in technology over the course of your career?
A: A lot of reading. I use different news alerts, Gartner Group, Forrester, and I belong to a number of different CIO groups to understand what other CIOs are doing. I also keep close tabs on the venture capital community in order to learn about emerging technologies.
Q: As a CIO what makes you interested in a new idea or product? (This one’s for you SoftwareONE BDMs)
A: Have your facts in order and understand the challenges a CIO has today – for me that is digital transformation internally and supporting analytics. Bring ideas to the table that are relevant for the initiatives I have.