Next up in our Keeping Up With the SciCheers series is Samantha, our Director of Operations. The last time we interviewed Samantha, she was just graduating with her Engineering Management degree. We talked to her about how she’s applied those skills in her career.
You’ve graduated with a new degree, Engineering Management. What sort of career path has that taken you?
So far, my background has taken me all over it seems! The great thing about working in technology is that it is fast-paced and always changing. This has allowed me to have several experiences that continue to grow my skills as an engineer and as a leader.
Due to my strong technical background, I was able to land my first job out of college as a Technical Project Manager. Basically, I managed projects for the engineering team working at AT&T Wi-Fi. I didn’t understand the technology right away, which was difficult, but my education has taught me to roll up my sleeves and learn hands-on. I worked closely with the engineering staff to understand their day-to-day jobs and how I can best help them as a project manager. I was even able to develop requirements for a tool that saved them months of work!
After that, I took a very sharp turn into a totally new industry, entertainment! It’s not what you may think though…I actually managed the technical projects at CBS. I learned about software engineering and trained in order to earn my Scrum Master and Scaled Agile certifications. These gave me the opportunity to lead software projects internationally where we found new ways to bring all of your favorite TV shows to your device!
Wow, you’ve done a lot! So what are you up to now?
Ever since I was in college, I always said that I “bridge the gap between business and technical teams”. It only seems fitting that I now work for the “bridge to possible”, Cisco! I’ve been able to take the agility I learned from software development and my networking background from Wi-Fi and apply them in a new way. I work with customers daily to ensure their technology needs are met, and consult with engineers when we experience technical issues. I love being able to wear both my business and technical hats in one role; it has really been my ultimate goal all along.
So what’s it like working as a woman in technology? Do you ever face negative stereotypes?
I have been extremely lucky in my career to have always been working for and with supportive people. In my very first job out of college, I was not only the only woman on the team, I was almost 30 years younger than most everyone else. But after going through engineering classes at school, I barely even noticed it! I earned the respect of my team by valuing their work and taking an interest to learn about their roles. Once I showed them my goal was to help the whole team, everyone treated me as an equal, despite my much more junior experience.
Working in entertainment, I was actually surrounded by a lot of women, which was a refreshing change. I learned so much from every woman I worked with about how to handle the pressures of our job with the right balance of grace and vigor. Unfortunately, I crossed paths with a few people who were not as respectful of women leaders. I managed this by finding ways to show my strengths to my senior leaders so that I knew I was valued. Luckily, my direct team was very supportive of one another and we were able to be an example of project excellence.
Today, I work for a company that is well-known for supporting women in the workplace. I definitely feel as though I can find support from anyone, even if we’ve never met!
What advice would you give to other women in the workplace?
Be strong! Find leaders that are supportive of you. You will find it much easier to succeed when you have great leadership. Always stay true to yourself and speak up when things don’t seem right. Those great leaders I talked about? They will be the ones to have your back if you fall, and lift you up even higher when you succeed.