8 women in tech share advice for driving meaningful change with your work

by April Bohnert
August 21, 2018

In an ongoing quest to achieve gender parity in the leadership teams, boardrooms and C-suites of tech companies, it’s easy to lose sight of the powerful and impactful work women are doing day in, day out. It’s not just the future that’s female; it’s the present — and there are many Colorado tech companies that can attest to this fact.

We talked to eight local leaders to learn how they’re shaping the growth of their companies and how the next generation of women can do the same.

 

CSG women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of CSG.

Adrianne Steiss is the executive director of marketing for CSG, which provides digital solutions and services for international communications, information and content companies.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I’ve been with my company for 17 years so I provide shared learning and coaching to help the many new people and teams we’ve hired get up to speed a little faster. Also, we have a strong company culture that is focused on exceeding our clients’ expectations. Our goal is to “do the ordinary extraordinarily well,” so I try my best each day to ensure that my team and I operate this way. It’s always motivating to help our clients succeed.

Hold yourself to a higher standard than the men around you. I realize it’s 2018, but especially in software and STEM fields, it’s required.” 

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement these changes? How have you overcome those challenges?

We work in a rapidly-changing industry, so a fast pace of innovation and creativity is required to help us stay ahead. With a heavy workload and daily project demands, being strategic can be challenging. The one thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to schedule time on your calendar to work on these new concepts, otherwise it’s too easy to get caught up in the daily grind.  

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

Hold yourself to a higher standard than the men around you. I realize it’s 2018, but especially in software and STEM fields, it’s required. Also, find a trusted and experienced mentor in your company to help guide you. It’s important to understand how to maneuver the ins and outs of your company and to have someone provide advice around career growth and leadership skills.

 

Return Path women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of Return Path. 

Brianna Connelly is the senior manager of data analytics for email marketing company Return Path.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I am personally shaping the growth of our company by facilitating connections using our data analytics power. This has allowed everyone in the organization to feel empowered by empirical metrics and, thus, truly be an expert in the conversations they have and the decisions they make. This has also connected our technology-based teams to our client- and external-facing teams, and from that, we are solving the most critical business problems and advancing our clients' success.

The key to my success has always been helping others problem-solve, and in doing that, I’m able to be more effective, more intentional with my work and much more impactful to the business.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement this change? How have you overcome those challenges?

The biggest challenge was slowing down to really listen to our internal and external data users. We had some huge assumptions about what was helpful, impactful and usable for them. After listening to the pain points and wish lists and discovering the opportunities we could provide, I realized all of the amazing data we had was not really that helpful because it wasn’t connected with their goals. Working with all of our stakeholders and end users has allowed me to be a better analytics leader and ensure that we are maximizing data resources everywhere.

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

Make connections. If you can reach out to your stakeholders, your boss, your team and truly connect with what they are doing and how you can contribute to their goals, you will go very far. The key to my success has always been helping others problem-solve, and in doing that, I’m able to be more effective, more intentional with my work and much more impactful to the business.

 

HomeAdvisor women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of HomeAdvisor.

Sahar Hasan is the senior director of software development for home services marketplace HomeAdvisor.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I am striving to help build and evolve highly talented engineering teams for our enterprise solutions and consumer acquisition efforts that can deliver best-in-class software at scale. My mission is to continually learn from our customers, to better understand the business and competitive landscape, to improve internal processes and technology, and to retain and nurture talent.   

If you are 'waiting until you’re ready,' you’ve waited too long.” 

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement these changes? How have you overcome those challenges?

Recruiting and hiring the right talent is the most challenging but critical component for our growth. When hiring is done incorrectly or thoughtlessly, it can damage company culture and productivity. To minimize that risk, I have been very diligent and patient about the process, subjecting it to constant refinement, and have embraced the fact that every hire — at any level — is an opportunity to raise the bar for ourselves. I am seeking candidates who will not only deliver high-quality software but also champion our core values and a spirit of continuous improvement.

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

If you are “waiting until you’re ready,” you’ve waited too long. Trust that your talent, your experience and your character have gotten you this far and that they’ll continue to serve you well as you navigate the next phase or challenge in your career.

 

Tendril women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of Tendril.

Devren Hobbs is the director of product for Boulder-based home energy management company Tendril.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I’ve been focused on expanding leadership opportunities for product managers. My goal is that members of the product team are seen as leaders with a clear product vision, driving growth through product development that exceeds our ambitious KPIs. To reach this goal, I’ve been making tactical process changes for planning and scoping product work, as well as deliberately seeking out presentation opportunities for the team in front of internal and external stakeholders. Presentations are a great forcing function for organizing and articulating your ideas, and sharing them leads to visibility within the organization that’s crucial for leadership.

The path to success is about your interactions with others: advocating for your ideas, influencing stakeholders and proactively solving problems.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement these changes? How have you overcome those challenges?

Gaining enough momentum to overcome the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality can be tricky, but I’ve found two ways to tackle it. First, I focus on building trust with the team. This can take many forms: following through on commitments, keeping team members informed and establishing open and honest lines of communication. Second, I have to be intentional about communicating my vision multiple times and multiple ways; if I feel like I’m repeating myself, I’m probably doing it right.

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

One of the lessons I’ve learned along the way is how different succeeding at work is than succeeding at school. It’s not a matter of writing a paper by yourself at the library and expecting to be rewarded with a good grade. Instead, the path to success is about your interactions with others: advocating for your ideas, influencing stakeholders and proactively solving problems.

 

GoSpotCheck women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of GoSpotCheck.

Samantha Holloway is the co-founder and chief sales officer of Denver-based field execution management company GoSpotCheck.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

My perspective is always one of focusing on doing whatever it takes to ensure customers are happy. I think I've helped cultivate an organization-wide focus on the customer, which is the most important thing. It can be easy to get lost in the details, but I help everyone pop up and ask “does this matter in keeping our customers happy?”

Don't be afraid to say what you mean, and stop apologizing for being direct!”

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement this change? How have you overcome those challenges?

As a software company, it can be easy to spend a lot of time talking about technical considerations and getting lost in product planning. The challenge is to re-focus everyone to get out of the building and talk to real customers.

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

Don't be afraid to say what you mean, and stop apologizing for being direct!

 

Sovrn women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of Sovrn.

Sarah Innocenzi is general manager of publisher services for Boulder-based adtech company Sovrn.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I have a personal set of core principles that strongly align with the values here at Sovrn, and I use these to help shape the growth of our company. These include: be vulnerable, be your best self, be intentional, be uncomfortable and do everything in moderation. I work hard to lead and create customer relationships through these principles. I also encourage my team members to identify their personal principles and explore those that align with Sovrn’s and those that don’t.

Building strong leaders is the foundation for the growth of any good company, and this is where I invest a lot of my time.  

Don’t let role definitions limit your opportunity to influence, and don’t work someplace that puts those limitations on you.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement this change? How have you overcome those challenges?

There are personal challenges and organizational challenges. My personal challenge is that sometimes it can be really hard to follow my own principles. When I first started leading the sales and operations team at Sovrn, I had come over from another role and there was a lot I didn’t know. This required quite a bit of vulnerability, which can be really hard for me at times. I question myself and feel embarrassed to ask questions in front of large groups. I have learned from my own team, though, that this is one of the characteristics they appreciate in me. That feedback alone pushes me to keep doing it, even if it makes me uncomfortable.

The other challenge is that I want to invest time in everyone on my team. Time doesn’t allow for that, and it’s been discouraging that I can’t help influence and teach more of these leadership principles in my team’s day-to-day. To solve for that, I meet with each team member at least quarterly and try to use this time to understand their challenges, build relationships and provide insights where I can.

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

Don’t let role definitions limit your opportunity to influence, and don’t work someplace that puts those limitations on you. If you have a clear picture and understanding about where you want to make an impact, verbalize that with data and passion. Talk about your ideas with other leaders, collect their feedback and incorporate it. Get buy-in through these conversations, and once you know you have that buy-in, take the lead and walk them through a plan. Strive to improve your leadership through your own personal principles, the principles of the company, or feel free to borrow some of mine.

 

Guild Education women in tech
Photo courtesy of Guild Education.

Bijal Shah is the chief product and analytics officer for Guild Education, whose education platform helps employers improve educational benefits and empower working adults to seek higher education opportunities.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

I’m responsible for building out the technology function at Guild. This includes product, engineering, analytics, internal tools and design. I partner very closely with our people team to ensure we can attract and retain talent from in-state as well as out of state.

As our organization continues to scale, we are also growing and investing in talent internally. Many of our advancers in the organization are leading large teams for the first time, so CEO Rachel Carlson and I spend time with our people leaders in the organization helping to unpack challenges with leading teams and sharing best practices we’ve learned over time.

In order to ensure that we scale effectively, we have to ensure that the entire company is on the same page about where we’re going, when we need to get there and our belief system for how we go about doing this. We’ve been spending a lot of time as a leadership team aligning on this vision to ensure the company is all moving in the same direction.

Find opportunities to work cross-functionally so that you can build relationships across your company and throughout your career.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement these changes? How have you overcome those challenges?

The challenges we face are not specific to the items above but are more around ensuring we put the systems, processes and procedures in place to help the company scale. This requires being more deliberate about these things than we might have been as an early stage startup.

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

Build relationships across the organization. In order to drive change inside your organization, you’ll need to have buy-in from stakeholders across the company. Don’t get siloed in just your department. Find opportunities to work cross-functionally so that you can build relationships across your company and throughout your career.

Learn how the business works, what the strengths and weakness are in the model, and what threats might impact the growth of the business. This allows you to have a more strategic lens about decisions being made, and will help you help others prioritize.

 

OnDeck women in tech Colorado
Photo courtesy of Ondeck.

Lydia Morrison is a talent acquisition partner for tech-driven small business financial services company OnDeck.

 

How are you shaping the growth of your company?

The most influential way I contribute to our growth is through the people I recruit and hire. My team’s mission is to close the skills gap at OnDeck through recruitment, while committing to incredible candidate and hiring manager experiences and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

Before my team could be super effective in hiring, we had to align our recruiting strategies and processes with the business’s objectives and strategies. All of our talent needs begin with a structured and thorough kick-off meeting that dives deep into the role, objectives and business outcomes, and how that role impacts the company. This allows me to generate excitement in candidates by sharing how they can be a part of OnDeck’s growth from day one.

Every challenge in your career will better prepare you for the next and will give you an opportunity to bring new solutions to the table.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to implement these changes? How have you overcome those challenges?

OnDeck has gone through various transformations throughout its 10 years of business and is now in its second phase of growth with profitability. Even as a more mature financial services company, we still want to keep the startup vibe and culture, so we had to ask ourselves: “How do we market a tech startup feel when we’re now a public company?”

 

What advice do you have for other women who are eager to make an impact with their work?

Every challenge in your career will better prepare you for the next and will give you an opportunity to bring new solutions to the table — but change is also a collaborative effort. If you want to make an impact and not hit roadblocks at every turn, you need to be a part of a company that’s not afraid of change. This means that company leadership isn’t just open to hearing and talking about new ideas, but they’re also ready to act on them and lend their support.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog91 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Data + Analytics
Dev + Engineer
HR
Legal
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Content
Project Mgmt
new
OnDeck
Denver
HR
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Data + Analytics
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Data + Analytics
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Marketing
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Finance
new
GoSpotCheck
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
Guild Education
Denver
Finance
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
CSG
Denver
HR
new
CSG
Denver
Sales
new
Return Path
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
Operations
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
GoSpotCheck
Denver
Operations
new
Guild Education
Denver
Data + Analytics
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Tendril
Denver
Developer
new
Tendril
Denver
Operations
new
Guild Education
Denver
Operations
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Operations
new
HomeAdvisor
Colorado Springs
Sales
new
HomeAdvisor
Colorado Springs
Finance
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Finance
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Operations
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Marketing
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
OnDeck
Denver
Developer
new
CSG
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
CSG
Denver
Marketing
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
Data + Analytics
new
OnDeck
Denver
Operations
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Developer
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Product
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Operations
new
Guild Education
Denver
HR
new
Guild Education
Denver
Product
new
Guild Education
Denver
HR
new
Guild Education
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
Guild Education
Denver
HR
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Sales
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Product
new
Guild Education
Denver
Marketing
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Sovrn
Boulder
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
OnDeck
Denver
Sales
new
Return Path
Denver
Finance
new
Guild Education
Denver
Sales
new
Sovrn
Boulder
Data + Analytics
new
Guild Education
Denver
Operations
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
GoSpotCheck
Denver
Marketing
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Developer
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Marketing
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
HR
new
CSG
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
GoSpotCheck
Denver
Sales
new
Sovrn
Boulder
Project Mgmt
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Data + Analytics
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
HR
new
Guild Education
Denver
Sales
new
Guild Education
Denver
Sales
new
Sovrn
Boulder
Developer
new
Return Path
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
CSG
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
CSG
Denver
Sales
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Guild Education
Denver
HR
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Finance
new
Tendril
Boulder
Operations
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Developer
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Sales
new
HomeAdvisor
Colorado Springs
Operations
new
HomeAdvisor
Colorado Springs
Sales
new
HomeAdvisor
Denver
Data + Analytics
new
Return Path
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
Sovrn
Boulder
Sales
new
Guild Education
Denver
Developer
new
Sovrn
Boulder
Sales
new
Guild Education
Denver
HR
new
Guild Education
Denver

Colorado startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Denver & Boulder
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Tech Offices in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Colorado Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to Healthtech in Denver & Boulder
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Design Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech