Women in Leadership Forum

October 6, 2017 Appirio

By: Julie Barker

Appirio believes that a diverse and inclusive workforce is key to building meaningful relationships and delivering the best results to our clients. We want to foster an atmosphere where folks can bring their whole, unique selves to work each & every day. To demonstrate our commitment to women in technology & leadership, we are proud to have launched our first ever Women in Leadership Forum in Indianapolis at our Global Headquarters on September 14th.

After the event, I sat down with some of our attendees to hear more about their experiences at the forum.

Meet some Appirians:

Kim Heger, Sr. Director of Change & Culture

Rachna Greulach, Director of Revenue

Elizabeth Friedland, Sr. Director of Communications

David Williams, Manager of Consulting Services

What was the best part of the forum?

Kim Heger: Taking time to personally reflect on what I need and want in my career, sharing that with others and creating a network of people that I can connect with on a regular basis when I need help achieving my goals.

Rachna Greulach: The best part was hearing the stories and experiences of colleagues that I don’t get to interact with on a daily basis, and to know that many of them share the same feelings and thoughts I have.

Elizabeth Friedland: Though Appirio has a relaxed, informal culture to begin with, it was amazing to be able to truly let down any walls or professional personas and get to know one another on a deeply personal, intimate level. I admired all of my fellow women leaders going into this event, but being able to understand their vulnerabilities, hopes, and fears made me respect them on a whole new level.  

David Williams: We have some very strong women at Appirio. The obstacles they faced, and still face every day, are just not things I think about daily. I was very impressed with them and how they handle themselves. These women are strong leaders who need my support, which I will gladly give.

What 3 key takeaways would you share back with your team about the event?

       Rachna Greulach:

  1. I need to identify an advocate, a mentor, and a coach.
  2. I need to give more thought to my short-term and long-term career goals.
  3. We are all responsible for maintaining Appirio’s culture in the face of transition and change.

       Kim Heger:

  1. Get serious about identifying a mentor.
  2. Take responsibility for the development of myself and others. Share my story with others, be more vulnerable and confident in my leadership abilities.
  3. Change is hard, we all cope and adapt in different ways. Everyone has a personal story that has shaped and influenced who they are, how they interact with others and respond to situations at work. Reach out, ask for help, don’t get in my own way, talk it through with others who understand who I am and we will be stronger individuals in the end.

Elizabeth Friedland:

  1. How we view ourselves often doesn’t match how others view us. It was interesting to have women express their doubts about themselves, only to have the others in the group shocked to hear it. I’m making a point to tell the women around me how strong and competent I think they are, just in case they don’t always feel it themselves.
  2. Showing “weakness” can make us stronger. Strong leaders — male or female — aren’t afraid to let others in and reveal a vulnerability or two.
  3. We’re all in this together. Lifting up one female leader lifts up everyone around her.

David Williams:

  1. Appirio is a company that actually walks the walk, a lot of companies talk about this stuff but we at Appirio are actually doing something!
  2. The number of women and minorities in leadership beyond the 1st level manager position were shocking. I expected higher. I’m glad we have the awareness and are working on making progress!
  3. There is more that I can personally do in my daily activities to make things better and now I will actively do so.

How do you feel empowered as a woman in leadership at Appirio?

Elizabeth Friedland: In previous places where I’ve worked, women were pitted against each other, as if there was only room for a handful of successful women. I’m so fortunate to work at Appirio where women (and men) are truly supportive of one another and advocate for their fellow colleagues in meaningful ways. I came out of this conference knowing that I have a large support network of incredible female leaders who have committed to being my sounding board and advocates.  

I also sat down with some of our executives to gather their perspectives & thoughts on this important subject.

Glenn Weinstein, CIO

Jen Odess, VP Office of the CEO

Latane Contant, CMO

How does Appirio foster women in leadership?

Glenn Weinstein: We believe that Appirio is a stronger company when its leadership team is diverse, including a balance among genders.  We’ve tackled gender diversity head-on, making existing leaders aware of the subconscious biases and other dynamics that often result in a lack of women in key roles.  Our leaders also look in particular for women in individual contributor or first-line management roles that have strong leadership potential, providing mentoring and encouragement to apply internally for more senior roles as their careers progress at Appirio.

Jen Odess: Through our focus on Diversity and Inclusion we have tools, resources, and opportunities to learn and grow as individuals and to make others more aware in our company. I also think the women on our executive leadership team are trying to make a serious effort to be more open and reach out to the other women in our company to encourage, support and develop from within more leadership opportunities for women.

Latane Conant: We’ve been able to bring a lot of women into more senior roles to help pave the way. So it’s the, “if you can see her, you can be her,” role modeling that I think is critical for women to see so they stay in the business at our company. It also sets the tone across the executive team that women are high performers and a critical part of our success formula. Generally appirio is extremely transparent and not hierarchical. We are very open to new ideas and differences of opinions. This makes it easier to feel comfortable raising your hand with ideas & improvements; naturally we want to have people with the ideas of improvements go and lead those effort so our culture enables the surfacing of those ideas which in turn actually creates new opportunities for people. Honestly, that has been my own path. When I see an area of opportunity, I volunteer to go solve it. That’s what creates opportunity, and Appirio thrives on that. We are a metrics driven organisation, so results speak for themselves. I think this really helps women because it’s about what you achieve, not anything else. It’s also not necessarily about tenure or moving through a band structure. Those traditional types of formats create huge barriers for women to move up — and get into — places of influence.

What are some of our goals or objectives in having more women in leadership at Appirio? How do we plan to achieve this?

Glenn Weinstein: Our goals in having more women in leadership are to grow our revenues, profitability, market share, and long-term core strengths.  We need more women in all roles at Appirio in order to remain competitive in our market, so it’s necessary and important to have strong representation of women in our leadership ranks.  To increase our proportion of women leaders, we are taking any and all steps available, including coaching and mentoring programs, Lean In circles, awareness programs, statistical analysis of retention and attrition data, gender-neutral job descriptions and hiring practices, and visible support from senior leadership.

Jen Odess: A key goal is to make Appirio a culture of true Diversity and Inclusion that surpasses industry standards and sets the bar for gender equality and women leaders in the hi-tech field. We (Appirio) have a spotlight on this initiative and plan to grow from within and hire from outside. Statistics show that profitability of companies with gender- balanced senior teams outperform the industry average by over 34%.

Latane Conant: I think our true selves are our best selves. So my personal goal is that every Appirian can bring their true self to work everyday; regardless of any demographic. Ultimately I want everyone to feel like they can spin up ideas, drive change, or vocalize areas of improvement; particularly if those folks are on the front lines with our customers. This is what will make us relevant and competitive for the long haul.

What’s it like to be a female executive in our industry? Any tips?

Jen Odess: It’s not easy but it is inspiring. There is truly a lot of opportunity in this space, and most hi-tech companies are looking for more women leaders. I do think there is a fine balance between maintaining who we are individually as a woman (whether that be introverted, feminine, confrontational, etc.) and knowing that stereotypes are still a very real problem. But it has to change and we are already in the process of that change. More women are showing up to work being their true, authentic selves. From a tip perspective, I personally strive to be a calculated risk taker and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, I believe these two things have helped me get to where I am today. I also think that it is our duty to be passionate about uplifting other women whether through mentorship, connections, or opportunities.

Latane Conant: The notion that you have to be a science or math major to be in technology is completely ridiculous and holding women back. Tech companies don’t fail because their code had a bug or because the product did not work; they go out of business because they could not market and sell their solution. So they built something that did not address a real customer pain, they did not effectively tell their story, they did not effectively connect with customers, they did not provide great customer service–this is why companies fail. Translating market needs, telling stories, and supporting customers are incredibly valuable skills that don’t necessarily require a STEM background. My tip – screw the stereotypes; bossy, bitchy, nice, executor, emotional. Your biggest strength may be what people are afraid of. So embrace what people think is a weakness and make it a positive. It may just be your secret sauce.

Lastly I sat down with our Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager to hear how this women’s forum is part of our overall strategy.

Patrice Jimerson, Sr. Program Manager of Diversity & Inclusion

How does the Women’s Forum fit into the Appirio Diversity & Inclusion Strategy?

Patrice Jimerson: The Forum was not only an opportunity to hear first-hand the voice of women in the organization, and see how people communicate, but also to understand the climate of the organization specifically from the perspective of women.  I will continue to observe and engage with various demographic segments of the company as I craft the formal diversity plan.

What other Diversity efforts are in the works?

Patrice Jimerson: My first 90 days have been focused on understanding the policies and processes associated with human resource management, especially professional development practices, leadership competency expectations, employee engagement efforts, and the recruiting and staffing model.  Partnerships within HR have led to an enhanced presence at the Grace Hopper Conference (including GHCI this fall), an LGBT virtual happy hour in early October, and a cultural competency module on doing business in India to be launched before the end of the year.  When complete, the diversity strategy will include a palette of events, and learning opportunities, to be deployed over the course of 2018 which will include infusing D&I thought leadership into existing organizational deliverables like succession planning, performance management, formal professional development opportunities.

What can Appirians do to support diversity & inclusion at Appirio?

Patrice Jimerson: Cultivating an inclusive culture is everyone’s responsibility; being open to other perspectives and recognizing that we all experience the workplace differently is a key element of being an inclusive place to work.  Talk to your co-workers — learn about their past so you can better understand what drives them and how you are more similar than you may think.  There will be plenty of opportunities to expand your cultural awareness and engage with your co-workers at new levels; embrace those opportunities with the intention of learning something new and also sharing what makes you unique.

In summary, the forum was an extraordinary event that ended up challenging me personally as well. As a HR leader, I am in a role where I give advice and talk to others about their careers and passions on a daily basis. But for this event, I was able to focus on myself and apply the learnings to grow personally and professionally.  I was reminded that I work alongside some badass women and men that are accomplishing amazing things and have so much passion and energy for propelling our organization forward while uplifting other women in leadership. I’m proud to be an Appirian woman!

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