Women's History Month: Featured Women in IT

March is Women's History Month. We looked around the IT community and noticed so many strong women leaders. This blog highlights a few of them, giving them a chance to tell their stories. Donna Ryan, Sandy Zeng Yinghau, Julie Andreacola, Melissa Carlson, and Cheryl Nakamura were all generous enough to take some time out of their schedules to answer a few questions. This is what they had to say.

Donna Ryan

@TheNotoriousDRR

Tell us about yourself. What got you interested in this field and how did you get your start? What accomplishments have you achieved?

I’ve been a lifelong computer nerd, starting on a Compaq Portable running DOS 3.0. I built my first computer at 13, and have lost count of the systems I have built over the years. Despite my passion for all things tech, I went into the culinary field professionally, which led me to management in food manufacturing. Despite the lack of any formal IT training, I still became the de facto IT person, as I still had more knowledge than my co-workers.

A friend of mine tipped me off to a position opening at CDW, which was for a training program for new consultants. I was accepted for the position and started my formal IT career. After a year and half of self-guided study, I became an official consulting engineer specializing in SCCM.

I was awarded CDW’s Coworker of the Month award in 2016. With an organization of over 10,000 employees, it’s difficult award to win. Field engineers almost never win, so it was wonderful to bring the award home for all the overlooked engineers in my silo.

Talk about your experience in the industry. What are some things that stick out to you? What do you enjoy most about your work and the community?

 I’ve found most IT shops have no qualms with my gender or appearance. Wearing dresses and having pink hair, I tend to look out of place in most IT shops. But I have found folks are just happy to have an expert to help them become more successful. Of course, there were exceptions, but there isn’t a way to make an organization like that successful.

 What I enjoy the most about my line of work is helping clients make their jobs easier. When they get visibly excited about the potentials that MEM has to offer, and they then start to come up with other scenarios around the platform to solve long standing problems. Seeing that happiness and excitement makes my efforts worthwhile. The MEM community is an absolute pleasure to be a part of. It is accepting of all, and eagerly shares knowledge. There are so many avenues open to get help, each with many experienced people just itching to help. It also embraces and encourages new voices to share their experiences,only helping to expand the knowledge base.

In a sentence or two, what advice do you have for young women searching for success?

When starting out, it may be tempting to downplay your femininity in order to fit in the male dominated IT space. This may include wearing slacks instead of a dress, wearing muted makeup, or hiding tattoos. Don’t do this. Wear what makes you feel confident and powerful. Be who you are. When you are being your authentic self, confidence and success follows. If an organization has a problem with your gender or appearance, they aren’t worthy of your help or expertise. And it’s their loss!

Anything else you would like to add?

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.It’s hard to take that first step, whether that with posting a blog, speaking at a conference, or presenting to a user group. The community is hungry for new voices and perspectives, and you have something to share!

Sandy Zeng Yinghau

@Sandy_Tsang

Tell us about yourself. What got you interested in this field and how did you get your start? What     accomplishments have you achieved?

I have always been interested about IT, there isn’t actually any reason for that. 😊 I didn’t study much computer when I was in school, instead I went to administrative management business school. When I moved to Finland 20 years ago, my education and work experience couldn’t get me any paying job, but I was lucky and got accepted as trainee for IT-support, like a help desk. I was very happy and excited that I could use my IT skills to help others, and also learn from my co-workers and my customers. My biggest accomplishment is be awarded as Microsoft MVP, with all the help I got from community.

Talk about your experience in the industry. What are some things that stick out to you? What do you enjoy most about your work and the community?

In the beginning of my career, I had no idea what I would become, or which area I should be focus on. I am interested in so many things, like an explorer, seeking directions. And one day, I found out that I can use SCCM 2007 deploy software, so that I don’t have to run around to each user’s computer install applications. When I got my hands on SCCM, I understood this system is so powerful and I knew immediately this is my goal. Working with ConfigMgr also led me to the MECM community! I enjoy most that I get to know people from this community. Some of them became my best friends.  

In a sentence or two, what advice do you have for young women searching for success?

I don’t know if I can give good advice for this, in my young age, the world is totally different. 😊  Do what you love to do and just do it! Don’t be afraid of failure, I have failed many times in my life, failures are just part of our experience and path to our success. Connect with people. Communities will help you build your strong network of connection with others. This will help your career in any industry.

Julie Andreacola

@JAndreacola

Tell us about yourself. What got you interested in this field and how did you get your start? What accomplishments have you achieved since then?

IT is my second career so I didn't have a traditional path. I grew up in a house where you were expected to use technology and know how to fix it when it didn't work.  My father worked for IBM and we had easy access to personal computers in the 80s.  He taught me how to troubleshoot the issues instead of fixing it for me. I chose to go into IT when I returned full time to the workforce after having children.  It gave me the flexibility I was looking for to continue to be really involved in my kids education. As far as accomplishments, my career has steady grown in responsibility and pay.  I've been able to choose roles that I enjoy and give back to the community.

Talk about your experience in the industry. What are some things that stick out to you? What do you enjoy most about your work and the community?

I've been working in the industry full time for 18 years.  I love learning new things and that's a requirement for success in IT and systems management.  I also enjoy being part of the MECM community because of the support and willingness to help others.  User groups have been an instrumental part of my success and learning. They are free - you just have to show up and ask questions 

In a sentence or two, what advice do you have for young women searching for success?

First, be bold and take risk.  I regret not doing that when I was first getting started. It starts with asking the questions that might feel stupid.  Know how you best learn something new and set aside a couple hours a week to learn.

Anything else you would like to add?

 For the parents out there, teach your children to be good troubleshooters. Don't fix their technology issues for them, instead teach them how to figure it out.  It's a skill that will benefit them no matter what career they choose.

Melissa Carlson

Tell us about yourself. What got you interested in this field and how did you get your start? What accomplishments have you achieved since then?

I went to school for Information Technology and earned my Bachelor’s degree from D’Youville College, located in Buffalo, NY where I grew up. My uncle was in the tech field and I was intrigued with how he got to travel and help customers solve their business needs with technology. I got my start in the tech world when I interned for a Chamber of Commerce doing database work. From there, I was lucky to be brought on as full time IT staff and had several help desk roles after that. One of my greatest accomplishments was graduating the Associate Consulting Engineering (ACE) Program at CDW. During this 18-month program I gained Microsoft technology skills as well as consulting skills that has got me to where I am today in my career. It was a lot of hard work and dedication, but I am so grateful to be where I am today.

Talk about your experience in the industry. What are some things that stick out to you? What do you enjoy most about your work and the community?

I have the privilege of helping clients translate their business needs with technology. Not every organization needs are the same, so learning how each industry segment works has been helpful for me. I have learned that the industry is always changing and evolving, so self-learning is very important. I like playing around with new technology and being able to test features and solutions on my own. This way I know I can provide the best support for my clients. I enjoy being able to help clients become more mobile utilizing Microsoft’s Endpoint Manager solution with SCCM and Intune. Hearing how mobile solutions are helping users be more productive and automate processes makes me feel like I am making a difference.

In a sentence or two, what advice do you have for young women searching for success?

My advice is to never give up and find your passion. There have been times where I have doubted myself, but those specific moments have been the most I have grown both personally and professionally.

Anything else you would like to add?

This industry is great with bringing people together and helping each other out. Networking and building your brand goes a long way.

Cheryl Nakamura

We're proud to highlight and celebrate one of our own teammates here at Recast Software. Cheryl is one of our Senior Software Engineers.

Tell us about yourself. What got you interested in this field and how did you get your start? What accomplishments have you achieved since then?

I've been working in Software Development for the past 25 years. I've loved anything computer related since junior high school. It’s been fun to watch where technology has progressed and become such a big part of our everyday lives. I'd say my biggest accomplishment is learning to adapt what I've already learned to new technologies and projects and never backing down from a challenge.

Talk about your experience in the industry. What are some things that stick out to you? What do you enjoy most about your work and the community?

I worked in many different business sectors (retail, banking, research, automobiles, airline, medical devices, international trade, etc.) using desktop, web, middleware, and database development tools. I enjoy learning about ways that technology can help a company succeed. It’s exciting to be apart of seeing a vision be made into reality. I've also met a lot of great people along the way and have learned it’s a good thing to be a geek and be proud of it!

In a sentence or two, what advice do you have for young women searching for success?

To young women looking to do technical work, go for it. Always be open to learn new technologies and work on new projects. Have a genuine interest and curiosity about any task given to you. In the IT industry, as a woman, sometimes people will assume you are not technical. Don't let that stop you! Best to just laugh about it and prove them wrong.

Anything else you would like to add?

I have days where I can't figure out how to do something or feel overwhelmed by the task on my plate but have learned over the years that by working with others, researching, and thinking it out, I always get it done and love the sense of accomplishment.

Thank you

to these five, and so many more, for being great role models in the community!