Women in tech to know: 6 more local leaders shaping growth at their companies

by April Bohnert
November 29, 2018

Every career path is paved with highs and lows, wins and losses, rewards and challenges. But for women working in the world of technology, that path can be particularly hard — and it doesn’t get easier the higher you climb.

Not only are women less likely to enter business roles in tech-intensive industries, they’re more likely to leave — citing reasons like isolation, male-dominated work environments, ineffective feedback and a lack of mentorship and representation from executive teams. But even though the tech industry has a long way to go when it comes to diversity and inclusivity, women — right now, at every level — are stepping up to lead the charge, blazing the trail and making it just a little easier for the women who follow.

In part two of a two-part series celebrating local leaders, we talked to six more women about their professional journeys, and the accomplishments, aspirations and challenges that have shaped their careers.

 

 

Bluprint women in tech to know Colorado
Photo via Bluprint.

Fresh out of college, Danielle Wilkie had her sights set on a career in law. She even joined a Denver firm to get experience doing paralegal work and test her chops as an attorney — but that’s when she discovered her real passion. Encouraged by the attorneys at the firm to explore other possible career paths, Wilkie was asked to launch the firm’s first marketing program, and, well, the rest is history.

Today, Wilkie is the senior vice president of marketing for Denver-based Bluprint, whose digital platform and online community help people pursue a wide range of creative passions with other like-minded doers.

 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?

One of my proudest accomplishments is the people I’ve worked with who have gone on to do great things. An early boss said to me, “My goal is that someday I will work for you.” Nothing makes me happier than seeing team members grow.

 

What would you like to accomplish next?

My career has been a series of milestones I’ve wanted to knock down. Now that I’m 20 years in, I’m most interested in spending my days working on interesting problems with people I enjoy. We spend a lot of our lives at work; I want to make sure I’m stimulated and having fun.

 

Now that I’m 20 years in, I’m most interested in spending my days working on interesting problems with people I enjoy.”

What challenges have you faced as a woman leader? What advice do you have for other women facing similar challenges?

Honestly, more than people might think. Early in my career, I found it difficult for people  — especially men — to take me seriously. The advice I’d have for young women is to be professional in the way you present yourself. How you speak, what you wear and how prepared you are all send important signals to those around you. Be yourself, but be aware that these small things can have a big impact.

 

Billtrust women in tech to know Colorado
Phgto via Billtrust.

Sangeetha Lakshmipathy got her start in computer science in high school, drawn to the burgeoning tech revolution by her inquisitive nature. She started her career as a software developer, focusing on learning how to apply various types of technology to her work, before transitioning into quality engineering roles. There, she was able to help drive that tech revolution forward by playing a bigger role in developing transformative tech.

Today, more than 20 years later, Lakshmipathy is the senior manager of quality engineering at Billtrust, where she helps drive innovation for the company’s payment cycle management platform.

 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?

Thirteen years ago, when I started at Openscan Technologies, I was hired as one of only 20 employees. As a result of it being such a small company, there was no clear-cut process nor documented plan for software testing. Thus, every time I had to test software it was a painstaking, yet rewarding, process of cataloging previous tests to streamline future ones.

Eventually, I took ownership of the testing process and documented every module of the software, created detailed steps for each line item that was in the master plan and started automating tests. So, I laid out a plan and process, developed a QA team from scratch and came up with a plan to train all my QA engineers to work on automation as part of their daily routine.

 

What would you like to accomplish next?

I want to take my team and company to the next level by implementing innovative ideas to release quality software.

I also aim to promote an energetic, positive culture and create a great team of talented technical leaders and employees who can make a big difference in our company, but also have an equally great impact on their individual careers.

 

My advice to other women is to always be a student, do your research, study thoroughly and be confident in presenting your ideas.”

What challenges have you faced as a woman leader? What advice do you have for other women facing similar challenges?

Having my voice heard was the most challenging thing for me while growing into the position I am in today. There was a stereotypical model followed in the industry and women did not have many opportunities 15 years ago, which is not the case now! I had to face a lot of embarrassing moments at work while learning technology, but nothing held me back. Instead these incidents made me stronger and drove me to learn things I wasn’t good at.

My advice to other women facing similar challenges is to always be a student, do your research, study thoroughly and be confident in presenting your ideas. At Billtrust, we have a Women in Technology group focused on inspiring and encouraging the women of our company to achieve their ambitions and become more confident. Confidence is key in presenting any information, developing partnerships with stakeholders and being involved in everything from start to finish. My mentors helped me a lot in this journey. They shaped my career and helped me make better decisions. Thus, always listen, follow other successful women leaders and always surround yourself with the brightest and most humble individuals.

 

Vertafore women in tech to know Colorado
Photo via Vertafore.

Angela Lawn discovered she had a knack for tech in college. Although she was pursuing a career in healthcare, her husband’s computer science curriculum always piqued her interest. Website development and technical support soon became a hobby, and even after graduating and landing her first job coordinating a youth substance abuse prevention program, Lawn continued to nurture and develop her technical skills.

Eventually, Lawn landed a webmaster position at a local healthcare organization, which launched her on her current path, helping her discover new strengths in team coaching and process improvement — and she continues to leverage those strengths today. As the director of development at Vertafore — which develops software for the insurance industry — Lawn helps guide the team’s Agile Practice strategy, developing boot camps, implementing agile frameworks and optimizing other operational functions.

 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?

Leading the development and operation of development boot camp for Vertafore’s Denver headquarters, which is now considered a best practice model. It has been a unique experience and opportunity to introduce such a large number of new people to our Vertafore development organization and watch the significant amount of personal and team growth that occurs over the course of the 12-week program.

 

What would you like to accomplish next?

With the amount of change our team has undertaken this past year, my next step is short-term. My next focus is on fostering continuous improvement in the transformation work we have done over the last year and operationalizing key practices.

 

Find a mentor you can trust to confide in and leadership opportunities you can learn from. Check your pride and lean on this trusted source to help you grow.”

What challenges have you faced as a woman leader? What advice do you have for other women facing similar challenges?

One challenge is around “standing in your success” and having confidence in your thoughts and actions, as well as being comfortable with speaking of successes. My best advice is to find a mentor you can trust to confide in and leadership opportunities you can learn from. Check your pride and lean on this trusted source to help you grow.

 

GHX women in tech to know Colorado
Photo via GHX.

During Juhi Jaiswal’s high school years in India, she went on a tour of a local atomic research center, where she was introduced to the wonders and possibilities of technology. From that moment on, she was hooked. Jaiswal went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s in computer applications before kickstarting her career as a software developer for GE Healthcare GDC.

Five years later, she moved to the U.S. to be a senior developer for GHX, which offers a supply chain technology exchange for healthcare organizations. Today, she helps plan and deliver large, distributed and cross-functional projects as GHX’s director of software development.

 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?

Being able to build highly effective cross-functional teams that not only work hard but know how to have fun. Most of my teams are distributed across the globe with timezone challenges, yet they are able to collaborate and deliver effectively.   

 

What would you like to accomplish next?

I want to keep learning and growing. We are evolving faster than ever before, and I want to stay agile, keep adapting where I need to and be current with the changing world.

 

Set the right expectations for yourself and [don’t] shy away from getting help. We need to build a sisterhood and help fellow career women overcome similar challenges and grow.”

What challenges have you faced as a woman leader? What advice do you have for other women facing similar challenges?

Managing the demands of being a mother, wife, homemaker and a working woman is a constant battle and often results in mom-guilt and stress. My suggestion is to set the right expectations for yourself and not shy away from getting help. We need to build a sisterhood and help fellow career women overcome similar challenges and grow.  

 

Thanx women in tech to know Colorado
Photo via Thanx.

After graduating with a degree in psychology and working as a behavioral therapist for two years, Taylor Phillips-Brown decided she was ready for a change. Ready to step outside her comfort zone, expand her skills and work with a team, Phillips-Brown fell into a role in sales. She started as a sales development rep and quickly worked her way up to management and training roles.

Now, Phillips-Brown is an SDR manager at Thanx, a Denver-based SaaS startup that helps retailers and restaurants target and engage with the customers who are driving the most value to their businesses.

 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?

I’m still early on in my career, but one of my proudest moments was watching our SDRs exceed their team quota last month. The buzz on the floor was incredible, and it was great to see everyone so pumped up.

Outside of that, I would say watching any SDR get promoted into a new role is exciting. Most of them are fresh out of college and just figuring out what they want to do, and seeing them pave a path for themselves is a really cool feeling.

 

What would you like to accomplish next?

I’m eager to see the SDR team continue to exceed their goals — not just numbers-wise but also in their own career development. I know we’ll see more of our team members get promoted into account executive and national SDR roles going into the new year — which I’m really looking forward to — in addition to seeing our company grow as a whole.

I’m also working toward a master’s degree right now and am learning about more effective ways to lead and motivate my team.

 

As women, we tend to justify ourselves through phrases like ‘I just wanted to’ or ‘I just think.’ The best advice I got was to eliminate the word ‘just’ from my vocabulary.”

What challenges have you faced as a woman leader? What advice do you have for other women facing similar challenges?

I definitely struggled to get my voice heard in meetings with male counterparts when I was first starting off — not just in a management role but as a rep, too. I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) that my opinion is just as important, and sometimes that means you have to speak up, repeat yourself and say it with confidence. I’ve found that by following those three steps, people will listen and take you seriously. As women, we tend to justify ourselves through phrases like “I just wanted to” or “I just think” or “I don't know if this is the best idea, but.” The best advice I got was to eliminate the word “just” from my vocabulary.

 

DHI Group Inc. women in tech to know Colorado
Photo via DHI Group, Inc.

From her early days as a software engineer to her current role as the VP of product for recruiting software company DHI Group, Inc., Alison Kane has accomplished quite a lot. She’s helped champion company growth efforts, orchestrated business transformations and turnarounds, participated in successful M&As, led capital-raising efforts and been part of initiatives that were pivotal in digitizing industries.

She’s worked with startups and Fortune 500 enterprises in industries ranging from travel and adtech to publishing and, now, HR. At the heart of it all is her passion for building high-performing teams and helping them achieve their career aspirations — all while driving value for the business and its customers.

 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments in your career?

I’ve been involved in some fascinating and industry-leading projects as well as major industry consolidations. However, what makes me proudest is seeing the career progression of people who worked with me early in their careers and are now blazing amazing trails.

 

What would you like to accomplish next?

I’m working at Dice and driving innovation that I believe could be game-changing for the technology recruiting industry. I love the company, I believe in our mission and I work with an awesome team of people. In fact, “Win Together” and “One Team” are two of our core values.

 

Never sacrifice your integrity. Be your own advocate and let your voice be heard, but remember you learn more when you listen.”

What challenges have you faced as a woman leader? What advice do you have for other women facing similar challenges?

Like anyone else, I’ve had career successes and disappointments, but I honestly haven’t faced challenges that are gender-specific. So, I’d give the same advice to anyone. Have the courage to stand your ground on those things that are non-negotiable to you. Never sacrifice your integrity. Be your own advocate and let your voice be heard, but remember you learn more when you listen. Surround yourself with people who you respect, not necessarily people you agree with. And last but certainly not least, don’t take yourself too seriously!

 

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