This, CDN showcased 20 exceptional women who play major roles in Canada’s IT channel. In Part Two of our slideshow, we profile the second half of this year’s list.
Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy, Westcon
When Westcon’s North American vice-president Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy first started her career, there were only a handful of women in the industry. And while it is still disproportionate, she’s seeing more and more women in the field. “What I find most encouraging is the number of young women entering the field today and I applaud companies like Cisco for developing programs to recruit some bright young people into our industry.” She believes in providing mentorship and guidance to young women in the industry. Diversity in the workplace is a critical element of success, she says, since it takes a diverse team to solve business challenges and innovate.
Shannon O’Connor, IBM Canada
IBM Canada’s director of business partners and mid-market Shannon O’Connor’s personal perspective and approach isn’t really about gender. “I am all about outcomes and I have a very strong need and commitment to deliver value. When I go to sleep at night, I will have the biggest smile if I know I accomplished something that got me a step closer to a goal or made a difference in a tangible way,” she says. “This industry gives us the privilege of working with people with a variety of skills and we can drive greater innovation together by capitalizing on this wider range of skills and perspectives.”
Carmela Orlando, Insight Canada
Carmela Orlando has two roles at Insight. One is to be the public face of the Canadian Enterprise, based in Montreal. Her second role is the senior vice-president at Insight North America, an IT solution providing powerhouse that carries more than 200,000 products and services for customers in Canada and the U.S. At Insight, her plan was to spread account services across the country and give them the technical resources and expert knowledge necessary for all areas of IT. The strategy worked and this move launched Insight Canada to the No. 6 position in the CDN Top 100 Solution Provider rankings for 2005, and eventually the No. 2 overall position.
Monica Rok, Advanced Knowledge Networks
When it comes to gender diversity in the IT industry, AKN president Monica Rok says she hasn’t seen a whole lot of change during her time in the business.”The leadership of our companies is still heavily weighted toward male leadership, and in terms of the telecom industry, it’s the same thing,” says Rok. “When we’re hiring, it’s not easy to find women interested in the roles we publish. We hire frequently, and it’s a challenge.” For Rok and AKN, the primary goal is to hire the right person for the job, male or female. But she’d like to see more women getting into the industry, because the right woman with the right focus can add a lot of value. She’d like to see more school initiatives which would lead to more women entering the industry down the road.
Read more: AKN’s coming out party
Laurie Schultz, Sage
Laurie Schultz, Sage’s senior vice-president and general manager for mid-market ERP solutions, says culturally, Sage is a global company that has diversity of all kinds at its core, and that global footprint and culture has perhaps made it a little easier for women to advance.To young women considering a career in IT, Schultz says her career has afforded her a wide breadth of experience. There’s much opportunity to gain skills in marketing or product management and be part of a global industry. “I’d say to any young woman, just be confident and be yourself. Women are very good multi-taskers and that’s a skill that comes in handy. Also, be very focused on delegating.”
Corinne Sharp, Microsoft Canada
Corinne Sharp, national director for Microsoft Canada’s partner network, grew up in a male-dominated household with her dad, a businessman, and two older brothers. What she learned was this: If you drive results and do your job with the right set of values and integrity, you will be just fine. “Did I meet some interesting characters along the line? Of course. I still do today,” she says. Microsoft Canada has created programs dedicated to, among other things, attracting, retaining and developing the careers of women. “We’re looking at ways to target technical females through our recruiting efforts and mentoring opportunities,” says Sharp.
Read more: Women in the IT Channel 2010: Corinne Sharp
Nicole Wengle, Softchoice
Softchoice’s vice-president of sales Nicole Wengle feels fortunate to have had a mentor and role model in the early days of her career. Jone Panavas, a co-founder of Softchoice, provided her with valuable counsel, and her example as a senior leader at Softchoice was an inspiration. “I try to follow Jone’s example,” says Wengle. “That means providing the same sort of mentorship to the women who are building careers in our own business.” Softchoice offers training, reward and recognition programs, and the opportunity to make a difference beyond the bottom line, she says, whether by joining the firm’s GreenTeam or its corporate philanthropic program, Softchoice Cares.”Work environments that cater to the whole person are an important part of the diversity formula.”
Read more: CDN’s Top 100 Solution Providers: Softchoice
Mary Whittle, Avaya
Mary Whittle, director of worldwide channel development at Avaya, makes herself available as a speaker and participant in panels or forums. “I was involved with the original WIT (Women in Technology) organization back in the late ’90s, but forums for tackling these types of issues don’t seem to be widely available.” Whittle believes there’s a need to create a compelling difference to attract young women. “How about being the first industry to have equal numbers of men and women in management, senior management and leadership positions? We’ve created the personal computer, the Internet and wireless communications, to mention just a few world-altering technologies. Surely we can figure out this gender imbalance.”
Read more: Women in the IT Channel 2010: Mary Whittle
Donna Wittmann, Cisco Systems
Diversity and work life balance are both priorities at Cisco, says Donna Wittmann, vice-president of partner organization for Cisco in Canada. “There are countless examples of our engineers who used to be on the road 70 per cent of the time and can now attend their kids’ soccer games,” she says. Just last month, Wittmann was a keynote speaker at the Explore IT event in Calgary, and was able to tell 750 grade nine girls about the various paths they can take within the industry. “They really saw the breadth of roles that were available. Making a difference is a really core part of being in technology,” she says, and that especially appeals to young women. “It’s very meaningful work.”
Read more: Women in the IT Channel 2010: Donna Wittmann
Mary Ann Yule, CDW Canada
Not only does CDW Canada’s vice-president and general manager Mary Ann Yule not see being a woman as an inhibitor to her success in the IT industry, but being a woman can actually be an advantage in the male-dominated field. “If you’re in a room full of men, when you go to speak, there’s a natural curiosity because there’s someone different talking now,” she says. “I never saw it as an inhibitor,” she says. “I’m a big believer that you can have what you want if you work hard for it. I always tell women who come into the company to just be yourself.”
Read more: Women in the IT Channel 2010: Mary Ann Yule