Meet 6 Colorado Leaders Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in Tech

We asked six women VPs, directors and managers to share their biggest career lessons and advice.
Written by Michael Hines
March 8, 2023Updated: March 8, 2023

A 2022 McKinsey and LeanIn.org report on women in the workplace found marginal gains — ranging from 3 to 7 percent — in the number of women holding senior manager/director, VP, SVP and C-suite roles. What the report didn’t find were definitive answers as to how these gains were realized.

Policies promoting equal advancement opportunities and equitable recruiting practices surely played a role, as did companies setting specific goals for the number of women in leadership roles. Women in tech are more than percentage points, though, and viewing the leadership gender gap as a KPI can obscure the work that women like Crystal Saul have been doing for decades to close it.

Saul is the senior manager of customer events and field marketing at LogRhythm, and she told Built In Colorado that one way she motivates women at her company is by sharing stories of those who have previously shattered glass ceilings.

“There are so many phenomenal women breaking through glass ceilings and knocking down barriers,” Saul said. “The more examples we can honor and relate to, the easier it is to feel empowered to bring our best foot forward in the workplace.”

Saul is one of many women who have helped develop the next generation of women leaders by serving as a source of motivation and wisdom. In addition to Saul, Built In Colorado spoke with five other senior leaders to learn more about their career journeys and how they’ve helped to inspire women at their companies and grow their careers.

 

Natalie Nicholls
Contracts and Compliance Manager • Honeybee Robotics

Honeybee Robotics builds technology used by NASA in its satellites and Mars rovers. The company was acquired by Blue Origin in early 2022.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to ask for new assignments or things to work on. I once had a mentor tell me that my “tracking him down in a hallway” and asking for a new opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience was something he admired. That was early in my career, and I still carry his words. Going after a new opportunity can be scary sometimes, especially when you’re starting a new career. Still, whenever I want to grow my knowledge and experience with a new opportunity, I remember what he told me. If I waited for something to come to me, it probably never would. I realized early on that I had to go get it for myself.

I want other women to know I’m here for whatever they need because their success becomes mine.”


How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at Honeybee Robotics?

I heard someone once say that we as women need to reach down and extend a hand to the women below as we climb the ladder together. That stuck with me. I want other women to know I’m here for whatever they need because their success becomes mine. Men generally outnumber women in the manufacturing arena. We as women need to support and be there for one another no matter what.

Motivation comes from within, and I motivate those around me by giving them the power to make decisions. I’m always there as a safety net, but I encourage them and emphasize the importance of experiencing things firsthand. I find most people learn best that way and become more adept at handling challenges and obstacles when they arise.

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

More resources need to go toward helping women succeed in STEM. Spending time with young women and talking to them about the amazing things we can do is one way to excite and inspire them about the potential of their future. As someone in an executive role, I still find tremendous value in maintaining mentor and mentee relationships. I have the privilege of watching and learning from the women in program management here at Honeybee, along with the chief IP counsel and compliance counsel — also composed of women — that are part of our parent company, Blue Origin. 

My advice to the next generation of women is to find mentors at every stage of their career, don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility or new assignments, and help all women by starting with helping one. Mentors are the key to success. I am grateful to them for fostering inspiration and a continuous desire to learn in me.

 

Thalya Hamilton
Vice President, Client Analytics • Ibotta

Ibotta is an e-commerce company whose browser plug-in and mobile app provide cash back to shoppers at Walmart, Old Navy, Walgreens and more.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career?

Embrace diversity. Very early on in my career I had the opportunity to be part of a small team that was extremely diverse. We represented at least four different ethnicities and none of us went to the same school or shared the same degrees. We were tasked with developing a new analytic capability and doing so was such a rewarding experience. We all approached the business question in a different way and it was very apparent that we had complementary skills and experiences.  

We challenged each other and engaged in intellectual debate, and I learned a great deal from each of my teammates. At the end of the day, we had an amazing solution, made all the better by incorporating multiple viewpoints, but we also had a lot of fun getting there. That experience has stayed with me throughout my career. When I’m recruiting talent to build a high-performing team, I strive to find diverse skills and backgrounds. When defining the team culture, I ensure that I am fostering an environment that encourages collaboration and open discussion at all levels.

View feedback as an opportunity. Assume positive intent and ask for feedback consistently.”


How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at Ibotta?

Clear goals that support a long-term vision. I feel inspiration and excitement in what could be, but it’s also important to map that journey in a way that incremental progress can be celebrated. It’s also important to me to understand how that end goal impacts the business. I have been very fortunate throughout my career to be part of amazing, talented teams. Being surrounded by others with intellectual curiosity and collaborative natures is certainly a driving force.

My approach to motivating and inspiring others focuses on the individual and starts with listening and understanding what motivates that person. I look for ways to reinforce successes to build confidence and proactively identify or support growth opportunities.

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Adopt a continuous growth mindset. Tech is ever changing and staying up to date on new developments, advancements and industry trends is important. This could be achieved through networking and mentorship, taking learning and development courses or attending conferences and workshops. Doing so not only allows you to continue to build your own personal skills and competencies but it also builds a support system of potential collaborators.

View feedback as an opportunity. Assume positive intent and ask for feedback consistently from your manager, peers and those who report to you. Feedback can expose areas for skills development as well as ways to improve your working relationships.

Maintain a healthy work-life balance and create that balance by prioritizing what is truly important to you. When you are content in your decisions you have the potential to make a bigger impact in both areas of your life. 

Last but not least, it’s OK to fail. This is normal, expected even. Each time we encounter failure it’s an education, an opportunity to find new approaches and determine which is really the right path.

 

Crystal Saul
Senior Manager, Customer Events & Field Marketing • LogRhythm

LogRhythm is a cybersecurity company whose platform helps security teams monitor, mitigate and defend against threats.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career?

Practice patience even in the most difficult circumstances. Throughout my career, managers have consistently noted my uncanny ability to stay calm during the most tumultuous situations. I can’t say when I developed that superpower but it has carried me far. 

Early in my career, I organized an outdoor corporate event on a mountaintop. The weather was favorable during set up, but out of nowhere we saw a storm in the distance. This microburst hit us directly, and the damaging wind and rain ripped the tent up by the seams. All tables, chairs, decor and audiovisual equipment were blown in various directions. The prepared catering fell to the floor. It was nothing short of a nightmare and the staff were panicked. 

Despite the cortisol rushing through me, I managed to maintain a sense of calm, which helped calm the staff. I dug deep inside to push away fear, and together with my boss’s help we moved the event to a local hotel ballroom and rerouted all 1,300 attendees. To this day when I think a problem at work is unbearable, I return to that memory and it always gets me through.

I try to motivate others by sharing the success stories of the women who have come before us.”


How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

I stay motivated and inspired as a leader by celebrating the success of others. When a fellow colleague who I may have helped along the way advances in their career I am their number one cheerleader. It’s inspiring when women in tech are recognized for their hard work as we’re making waves in a once male-dominated field. If my tribe succeeds, we all succeed, and that is to be celebrated at our organization. 

I try to motivate others by sharing the success stories of the women who have come before us. There are so many phenomenal women breaking through glass ceilings and knocking down barriers. The more examples we can honor and relate to, the easier it is to feel empowered to bring our best foot forward in the workplace.

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Remain true to your values. As you advance in your career, it is easy to get lost in the notion that you must change who you are or present yourself in a way that may compromise your belief system. It is important to be humble and considerate in your work, but you must also set boundaries. If you can end your day feeling confident in the choices you made, even if you took a risk and failed, you will ultimately show your organization or company the value you bring. When you are comfortable and confident with yourself in your workplace, others will see it, too, and opportunities will continue to present themselves.

 

Elizabeth Koehler
Director, Security and Compliance • Wowza

Companies use Wowza’s technology to simplify the process of rolling out and scaling livestreams. The company also offers video player and video-on-demand solutions.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career?

In growing my career and being in roles where male leadership dominates, something that has always stuck with me is how my father raised me. He never made me feel different for being a woman in my field and pushed me the same way no matter what degree or profession I chose. When I was originally interested in building with LEGOs and wanted to be an architect, he bought me blocks and all the supplies to build mini models of our home. When I had a change of heart and wanted to take coding classes, he fully supported me. 

In the end, fully going for whatever you are passionate about is most important, regardless of what others think! If you are interested in STEM, go for it. Don’t let someone’s idea of what job or role you should be in prevent you from doing something.

Having someone put their faith in you and guide you is super important, especially when starting off in your career.”


How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at Wowza Media Systems?

I’m always looking for new ways to get involved, whether it’s presenting on a topic I’m passionate about in our Women of Wowza meetings or working on cross-departmental projects that are out of the norm. It’s always inspiring to me to see women working with women and boosting each other up, so I always try to seek out those opportunities to make others feel that way.

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Don’t be afraid of being in a field that has been historically dominated by men. Always be confident, stand your ground and find a good mentor. Having someone put their faith in you and guide you is super important, especially when starting off in your career.

 

Tracy Gowler
Director of Team Leadership • SRAM, LLC

SRAM is a bicycle component manufacturer whose products include shifters, brakes and chains.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career?

When I graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there were very few women in tech, and a lot of things have changed since then. Heading into my career, the one thing I owned and brought to the table was that I chose to be in tech and was determined to make it work despite being in the gender minority. Any people issues I ran into were because of individuals, not the community, which was mostly men. 

Whether perceived fair or not, there have been a few times when I have had to stand up for myself and look at people as individuals and not pass judgment on the group. Managing expectations helped quite a bit, as it allowed me to not be disappointed. I knew the best way to provide a good working environment for myself was going to be because of me. The opportunities and successes I had were because of the level of work I did, the goals I set for myself and the relationships I created.

I am an incredibly tenacious and driven woman and have had to find a way to present both traits that is accepted and appreciated.”


How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

I love challenges and look for opportunities that provide them. I also enjoy being part of a team and collaboration, and I go out of my way to create that environment or look for roles that require it. I am big on continuous improvement, which is crucial to a successful team. Since my leadership philosophy is that I am only as successful as my team, how the team does is a big focus for me. People are very, very important to me, and coaching and developing people keeps me motivated and inspired because there is always something new around the corner. 

I also think it is important to lean into change because it is a constant, and as a leader, it is important to set an example. While I haven’t really stopped to think of myself as a role model to other women, I sometimes wonder if my approach or the way I think about things is relatable. I am an incredibly tenacious and driven woman and have had to find a way to present both traits that is accepted and appreciated. My goal is that my actions and the success I have had in my career can offer women a path to achieving their own goals.  

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

I had an “aha!” moment not that long ago. I think some women believe that to succeed in a man’s world, we must behave like a man. I don’t think that’s true. It doesn’t serve us. Often, women find themselves being labeled because trying to behave like men is confusing to them. Being a wallflower doesn’t necessarily get us anywhere, nor does bringing all our emotions to the table. These are all wrong ways to bring attention to yourself, versus having your accomplishments speak for you.  

As women, we have a different kind of power that comes from inside. It feels more genuine to our male colleagues and can be very effective. We have the ability to see the world from a different perspective, and using that perspective in a kind but relevant way can be very impactful and ultimately work for your career. 

Another thing I have learned is that it is not an expectation that we all see the world the same way all the time. However, all anyone wants is to be validated in a given situation by providing agreement when warranted or giving validation to an idea or feeling, which can go a very long way.

 

Kim Koeller
Strategic Consulting Director • Eventus Solutions Group

Eventus Solutions Group is an enterprise customer experience consultancy and technology company.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career

At a young age, my dad instilled in me the mindset that, “You can do anything you set your mind to as long as you’re willing to work for it.” The time and effort put into sports, Purdue’s immersive study abroad program in France, my master’s in international management from Thunderbird and even my part-time jobs as a swim instructor, research analyst and bartender all contributed to learning this lesson. 

Throughout my 17-year career at Accenture, “work hard, play hard and have fun” also became a motto while delivering global contact center solutions for cross-industry clients on four continents. In addition, it took perseverance, dedication and commitment to be promoted to partner at a time when less than 10 percent of the executive leadership team were women.  

Subsequently, I founded my own entrepreneurial venture to help drive social change by creating first-to-market tools for those traveling with dietary needs and allergies across the globe. Because of my mindset, I am now part of the Eventus Solutions Group team focused on customer experience transformations, strategic consulting and leading-edge technologies for complex client organizations.

Find your niche and passion, then follow your dreams. Realize that you may also need to reinvent yourself a few times.”


How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at Eventus Solutions Group?

I view life as a series of journeys that lead to new personal and professional adventures. I stay motivated by remembering to learn something new every day. Even when that light at the end of the tunnel seems like it has been turned off, in the end, each effort is worth it. The only true failures in life are when we do not learn from our mistakes. Although very challenging at times, I love innovation, change and achieving first-time outcomes. I like to think outside of the box and especially appreciate it when there is no box.

I strive to motivate and lead by example and enjoy mentoring team members and seeing them grow in their careers. It is key to actively listen, encourage ideas and understand other opinions. If I hear people saying they can’t do something, I try to help them by reframing their thoughts. The goal is to instill confidence in their capabilities while offering constructive suggestions. Sometimes it might even be just reminding them to use their own power.

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Find, nurture and build your personal and professional support systems. Ensure that your support systems truly support you in good times and difficult times. It’s a two-way street: You and your support system need to listen and encourage each other as sounding boards. Also, be strong enough to disagree with each other and offer differing points of view when needed.

At the same time, remember the importance of personal values. I consider integrity, loyalty, honesty, quality, work ethic and resilience as some of my guiding principles. Find your niche and passion, then follow your dreams. Realize that you may also need to reinvent yourself a few times throughout your career and life. 

There are going to be lots of highs and lows in your life. Enjoy and savor the highs. Be aware that bad things do happen. Learn from the failures and mistakes and then move on by putting one foot in front of the other. Be sure to learn as much as possible from both. Understand that change is inevitable and embrace it as you evolve. Your career, work family, personal relationships and life will continue to evolve as well.

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