Q & A with Robbie
Interviewer: How did you become an entrepreneur? Was there an “aha” moment?
Robbie: We always had a side business in addition to our corporate lives... antiques, pottery etc. I was always different than my colleagues in all aspects. I did not take direction well; that did not make sense to me. I always volunteered for the weird offsite projects so I could create my own culture. I climbed the corporate ladder thinking the next one would be the right one for me, but it did not happen. I was successful but not complete. So, I took a trip to Colorado in the fall that year …the aspens were brilliant and I took lots of deep breaths and decided I needed to leave my job to figure out my path and feed my soul. It is a long story, but my employer became my first client and my first company was born.
Interviewer: Was there anyone influential in your business career?
Robbie: No and I think that is why mentoring and coaching others is so important to me. I just bum- bled along on my own. I had and still have a VERY supportive husband.
Interviewer: Any lessons learned or earned - things you would have done differently?
Robbie: There are many things I wish I had done differently, but the main one is I wish I had my boot- strap experience earlier in my career. It makes one nimble and agile and a much better problem solver without just throwing money at a problem. I boot strapped my first company I am VERY glad I had 25 years in the corporate world because that experience has also been invaluable.
What advice would you give young women considering choosing a career in tech?
Technology is a vast and varied field with many opportunities today and as far as we can foresee. Our world today is completely dependent on technology of all sorts, spanning every discipline from boring mundane things like payroll, to creating wearables, building spacecraft, or controlling drones and robots across the world. The possibilities are truly endless.
Technology is a great career for smart women who like a challenge and lots of opportunity. While it has been a male-dominated Wild Wild West for years, it is changing. An increasing number of women are embracing STEM, which is the basis of most technology careers. These women “stand out” and therefore their talents and integrity are more exposed than a man. This has both pluses and minuses, but if you understand that you must not take no for an answer and take your rightful seat at the table of technology (upsetting the table, as I like to say), you will succeed.
In considering technology, it is best if you are a person who loves:
Detail and precision
Complex problem solving
Often working under pressure
Collaboration - hard skills are only half of the solution, being a solid team player is essential.
When you are evaluating firms to join, if possible, concentrate your search on firms that already have a solid cadre of women at all levels.
What motivated you to choose to enter the tech space?
The technology world chose me. I was a research assistant at UNC Chapel Hill, putting my husband through his PhD program, and in order to do my job I had to learn to use technology to analyze the data we had collected. It was certainly challenging, because I am not a math and science person by nature, but once I unlocked the door to all that was possible with those 1s and 0s, I was hooked for life.
I found my sweet spot in technology management. My experience in those days as a research analyst and beyond, gave me the technology foundation I needed to be successful in managing it.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in tech?
There are always challenges but I like to look at challenges as opportunities. The gender bias is alive and well in technology, but not anymore than any other sector. I was always the only woman in the room, but I learned early on to not own that or see it as a problem, but as a fact. I had to stand a little taller, work a little harder, be a bit more agile … but as long as I could maintain mutual trust and respect (T&R) with my colleagues, it always worked out. Once that trust and respect was gone, it was time to move on.
Are there any perks to being a woman in tech?
I think it is always a perk to be a woman in any sector as we naturally bring a different dimension. With T&R in full gear, a woman is often rewarded/ sought after for her unique skills and intuition (yes I said intuition), however, I don’t think that this is unique to technology.
Since technology is still a male dominated field, being a woman in tech gives you an opportunity to stand out from others and be recognized and rewarded for your talent and work ethic.
For me, the perks are also the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of new products, techniques, and technologies. It is certainly never boring.
Careers are what you make them. I know some get dealt different cards, but it is up to each woman to make the most of what she has learned, earned, and been given and then leverage the rest. Sometimes that might mean “fake it til you make it,” and other times it is just being in the right place at the right time. The most important aspect is being to recognize it and act on it.
Women do not hesitate to ask for driving directions and the same should apply to their career. Seeking guidance should be second nature for women, to get where they want to go in their career. Asking for direction is a sign of strength, not weakness. So find a mentor or a sponsor to help you get to where you want to go in your career.