Diversity in Tech with JJ DiGeronimo, President of Tech Savvy Women!

Diversity in Tech with JJ DiGeronimo, President of Tech Savvy Women!

#Diversity #Tech #DiGeronimo #President #Tech #Savvy #Women

All right welcome to the fortify your data podcast I’m here with Jay Jay D Geronimo that correct all right so you do a whole bunch of things you’ve written books you do you do like keynote speaking roles you seem to be always be traveling for one thing or another you

Run tech savvy women correct so you can say it’s certainly better than I can so just give us a little brief history on your background and kind of what how you came to be doing what you’re doing today that’s great well thank you so much for

Having me and I’ve been in tech since 93 I started in the telephone companies and then quickly migrated to data centers which I spent most of my career but in the sort of early 2000s I started getting promoted to bigger and better positions at the same time I started a

Family and I think just trying to manage everything happening at home and global teams it just it was complicated and I think the whole having it all really sent me for a loop because I think what many of us strive for is sort of checking the boxes and getting to a

Particular level and you find out that there’s a lot of things that happen behind the scenes and I started texting everyone in 2008 to just bring together like women intact that were hitting on all cylinders but could share ideas strategies and create a safe space to empower each other and that really was

The launching pad for my first book the working woman’s GPS which I documented and categorized all the information I gathered from women not only in tact but in medical and money STEM disciplines and I took those that conversation on the road and so while I was at my last

Company I spent much time talking to many women’s groups around the country which I realized that we were really struggling to get promoted finding the right sponsor effectively not working and getting to that c-suite and that really was the catalyst for my second book accelerate your impact yeah

And that book came out in 2016 it did okay and since then I think that’s kind of that’s been kind of the catalyst behind a lot of your your recent speeches talks keynotes right tell me a little bit about what that books really about so it’s interesting because I

Spent over two decades in corporate America working my way up and I was really struggling to understand why are many women in middle management is it because they don’t want to be there are they not qualified or the various other stories you hear in-between in the media

And so I spent about three years researching data that talked specifically about why women are where they are in sort of the organizational chart and I was shocked because while I was so busy doing my day job I didn’t have the bandwidth to really do that

Type of research sure and there are so many ways that women show up differently in the workplace that we are completely unaware of and even as being a woman I was unaware of and had I had a little bit more data and research that was research-based I couldn’t make more

Strategic decisions in alignment that probably would have helped me further my career at a faster pace had I had that in my back pocket okay and so somebody would grab this book if they wanted to understand some of the dynamics and maybe accelerate their progression in that kind of corporate hierarchy yeah it

Could be corporate I call accelerate your impact instead of how to get promoted sure impact means different things to different people some people want to get on a board somebody want people want to launch a product some want to get to that next level of their career trajectory so whatever your

Desire is you can use the information in the book to help you strategically align position yourself to gain the momentum you need to get to that next level of impact so that’s that’s interesting how do you gauge you know I don’t want personal how are you gauging your impact

Or what are your goals for your impact that’s a great question and I think this took some soul-searching on my part because when you’re in corporate America titles and salaries matter when you go out and work on your own to do good work sometimes you don’t always get the same

Level of title and necessarily the same amount of money and a couple of years ago somebody brought to my attention is to get rich on the energy you create and I think that for me the work that I’m doing really helps people unleash potential gives them permission to go

Further or go now rather than waiting to be 100 percent perfect before they raise their hand or fill in the fill out the application and the calls I get the emails like I did it I went for it I wasn’t going to do it I got the job I’m

On the board that that is super sweet so now when you when you’re when you’re going around are you are you looking at this from more of a general leadership focus are you looking this from more of a tech focus obviously women in tech is an overlying theme but are you really

Now you branched out are you really just talking to everyone luckily I have the opportunity and the invitation to meet many companies from credit card companies to car companies to engineering medical devices healthcare tech because the concepts the research the data is really applicable to professionals and and really people and

I think that for many folks my groupings really fall into women that aspire to do more than they’re doing today men that are looking to create more thought diverse teams and inclusive environments to match their customers and students that are looking to get the insights and

Sort of the inside track on how to make the most of their career okay so let’s let’s look at this way so let’s say I’m a man that’s looking to diversify his company right what are some some of the first questions and the first suggestions you would make what type of

Diversity do you have today okay well it’s a tech company so mostly white men why do you want diversity so I’ll send it just being a global goodness of your heart most people have to align a business value so some people want to do it because their customers they want to

Look like their customers some of people want to do it because they want to be more innovative diversity creates more innovation if done right some people just need to hire more people because they can’t find what they’re looking for in the comfort recruiting they’ve done

To date so I always say like let’s start with the business reason because if you can measure it you’re more likely to moderate rather than just saying hey let’s do it and try to do it so once we get the business value down then we

Really take a look at how do you recruit today there’s a probably 21 things you can do in your recruiting to really help you get more diverse candidates everything from how you write your job description where you put it what your interview teams look like and how you

Position opportunities so so like what are some examples of that yes this is this is I’m not I’m not immediately attaching myself yes like what are some things I could do recruitment wise that might attract diversity sure so women from research women only apply to jobs when they’re 100 percent

Prepared men generally apply at 60% so if you have a three page Job Description guess how many women you’re gonna get fewer than men right interests so I would say you want to condense your job description you want to group it into must-have requirements nice to have transferable skills and then also data

Around we’re really looking to build better diverse team if you have a percentage of this we’d be interested in talking with you and so that inviting language you want to make sure you use the proper language like if you’re using alpha star rock star unicorn rainbows you’re probably not gonna get that many

Women because women don’t categorize themselves as super stars rock stars alpha dogs sure the language NCUA at the National Center of women in technology has a list of words not to use in your job description is often referred to is the alpha dog one of those words

Dog is one of those words and rock stars and unicorns yeah I didn’t you know maybe I’m just I’m out of touch I haven’t seen many of those but if some job required me to be an alpha dog rock star I’d apply for that job and immediately you would yeah is that the

Job title yeah I guess that makes it so you know I’ve just had a phone call before you know we talked today and you know generally my friends getting interviewed she’s she’s an executive in the finance industry and the first question is what is your packaging to

Look like how much money do you need to make yeah that’s not the first conversation we would want to have we might want to know you know can I pick up my elderly parents too twice a week for what they need to do can I you know have some flexibility in my schedule

Yeah you know when I travel what are the requirements like women have a lot of things going on in their lives they when they change jobs they basically change their whole life when men change jobs they generally just changed the location they go to because they don’t have as

Many responsibilities outside of work as men do as women there’s a lot of single parents so I don’t ever look that people have are not married some people don’t have children but a broad stroke is women run eighty percent of what’s happening in their home okay okay so

That you know that this brings up a lot of points that I will be honest I have not thought of much as it’s great as a tech leader and shout out to my day job blue bridge networks we recently hired a marketing person and that process was

Traumatic for me and just in terms of finding that person and I’m guessing that based on this conversation there were at least 21 things that I did wrong because a couple of my friends who work in Silicon Valley women much of my career I I say women and build up a lot

Of social capital in the company that are in so they take a lot of thought before they moved in the next company about are they gonna get that flexibility if they need it now oftentimes they don’t even need it but they just want to know that if they have

To run out or they have to do something in the morning that they’re not going to be dinked by it you know Tech is so many hours like we can all appreciate the things we have to do outside of work and I think just making people feel comfortable that when

They do make this transition that you’ll help not only with the onboarding of the technology the messaging the brand but the onboarding of how they have to change their life to meet the new demands of this job yeah so and that kind of leads into a big problem that

Tech has in general which is work-life balance and and from my experience there seems to be two kind of philosophies there’s one that’s probably a little more popular where it’s you live here you know so we’re gonna make our work environment awesome but you are expected

To be here like the whole time you know we’ll give you a daycare we’ll give you this you know what we’re progressive but you know you’re salaried we anticipate you working 16 hours a day obviously some of that is a little light-hearted joking but that seems to be the kind of

Gist and then I’ve also been to some places that are here hey you here for a paycheck get your eight hours get in and get out but that doesn’t always work well from a coverage standpoint especially if you’re a mid to small-sized company what do you see I

Guess more since – since you’re a little more well-traveled what are you seeing in terms of the trends that like work or life balance and tech companies that’s great well I think I’ll start with why people stay at companies sure so people stay at companies because they feel like

They belong they feel like they have there’s a bigger purpose to what they’re doing and that there’s a career trajectory for them it doesn’t have to be immediate but over the next thirty six months there’s opportunities should they continue to do great work so I think keeping those in mind as a leader

Is important and then realizing that there’s always going to be that project deadlines that customer cut over that migration that’s gonna happen throughout the quarter throughout the year but when there’s not those types of things giving people flexibility is often helpful because they do have to get some of the

Stuff in their life done so that they have peace mind when they’re at work and so I think for leaders it’s really important to know your know your people know what they need and sometimes you need to sort of kind of customize a little bit and I

Think one of my biggest lessons for leadership is saying yes it’s just as important as saying no and leadership is about having that balance of things we’re going to say yes to and things we’re going to say no to because I find a lot of tech companies say yes to many

Many things and just deplete their teams yeah so well that’s interesting too when you look at your your career history up until now what do you see as the toughest leadership role you’ve had and who and why so I think some of the toughest leadership roles I’ve had is

The ones that change every quarter where you really just can’t catch your legs underneath you because the bleeder ship above you isn’t clear on what they’re trying to accomplish and so they’re constantly changing the decks and the goalposts and I think those are the hardest leaders to work for because

Generally to me that means the leader is unsettled and probably there are a lot of leadership experience because good good things often take time and if you keep changing whether it’s the project’s the customers the ways you’re going about your products what you’re going to market with every three months to meet

The needs of their leaders it just it creates a lot of chaos and burnout and so where I was kind of going with that too is so I’ve worked in a corporate environment before where you know the the boss only has direct feed into the people that he has directed directly

Reporting to him but then they have direct reports and they have direct reports so in that kind of framework when you’re trying to interact with people even as like an outside vendor you’re noticing that that each leader can only influence a tiny section of it so if you are let’s say three

Hierarchies up how do you influence all those people how do you know your your employees I mean it really comes to making the time I think it really comes down I mean it doesn’t take much to swing by have lunch with a certain team get a roll up

Of information per team I think being too busy often gives people permission to be detached and then they can point the fingers but real leaders know what’s happening at various levels and maybe not every intimate detail but they make the time they make the time and they

Empower their leaders too and I think there’s you know many situations where you work for people that are great at managing up but not so much at managing down okay and that can be challenging for teams and you can generally see that if you have high turnover and so how do

How can leaders empower women and tech that’s a great question so first and foremost understanding the statistics I think understand that women wait to the time they’re 100% ready to prepare so having some one-on-one time with your with your high potential diverse candidates and some of the ones that you

Want to be high potential understand their career goals understand what’s happening in the whole realm of what they’re working on and then giving them strategic projects that not only give them the experience and the stretch opportunities book from some executive visibility so project allocation is really instrumental on fostering talent

And oftentimes you know wait projects are divvied out it’s like okay well you’re you do this you do this you’ve always done this and there’s a real opportunity in project allocation and then talking about career paths women want to know that there’s an opportunity to add more value and so talking about

Potential ways to do that and the beautiful thing about that is that women don’t expect immediate turnover or reach for action it could be a 36 month time line but at least they know somebody has their back and someone is mentoring and sponsoring them for rooms they’re not in

And giving them sort of the highlights of what they do to make that happen yeah so you’ve obviously you’ve interfaced with people in smaller cities midsize cities small companies you know giant ArtPrize companies is this more of an issue in anywhere in particular or is this is this pretty uniform are the statistics

The same all around or is Silicon Valley more diverse or is you know are the Midwest more diverse I think the beautiful thing is all the folks I get to me throughout a year I mean tens of thousands of people is people want to do good work they get up every day wanting

To put their best foot forward and I think the most important thing is people want to work for managers that care about them in some level that it’s just not about the deal or not about the product at launch that they generally care about their teams and I was

Fortunate enough to see Jack Welch a few years ago and he when I asked him about diversity and leadership he said you know be the best manager you can be and you’re never gonna have to worry about talent because people are gonna want to

Be on your team and so I think it is a leader by leader situation regardless of where you are there are good people there are good leaders there’s bad people have bad leaders and I often see people mid-career and how you’re looking to work for good people because they

Feel like that’s even more important than the work itself sure yeah I mean there’s a there’s a little inspirational slash maybe not inspirational meme that goes around LinkedIn pretty frequently that’s people don’t leave their jobs they leave their bosses that’s right so yeah I mean it definitely feeds into it

So when we’re looking at getting more like women involved in tech in general right so this is this is actually a problem that we have here fortify your data from the podcast side of things is getting more female guests because it’s hard to find them it’s hard to get get

Them on I’ve also noticed that if you take like a pool of people at least that I have approached in the for to be on the podcast women are more likely to not agree to it or at least need more data you know – before they decide to jump on or not

Whereas a lot of the statistically a lot of the men I’ve approached it like yeah pick a time I’ll come on down right now I’m like well let’s you know let’s talk about what we’re going to talk about first right so so like even in this

Situation you know but if I look at all the you know if I’m trying to find tech enthusiasts and tech leaders there’s the profound amount of them that I find on the Internet are all men right so how how are how do how do we get more

Women in kind of those roles or how do how do I find more these women’s talks I think that the more women you have talking right and in some of these more prominent roles or at least out there then the more women are going to kind of

Jump in right I completely agree and it’s very similar to even recruiting is you know use the women that you already know to help you recruit yeah because sometimes it’s just like well do I have time for this am I the best person what would I talk about and even when TEDx

Started they asked 10 men and 10 women and nine men said yes and two women said yes yeah women are always like why me am I ready I think someone else could do it I don’t think I’m the best person we have this self-talk that we pay probably

A little bit more attention to sure and the women that actually stand out and step out often have more self-advocacy and self-efficacy is when you have a vision for what you want to do and believe you can achieve it and you can only do that if you stretch before

You’re ready so if you have a lot of women playing and safe and wait until they’re 100% prepared they generally are not going to step out and say oh I can figure that out and so when you look at women intact by the age of 35 56 percent

Of the women leave so the women that state often have sadness high self-efficacy sure because they’ve been put in situations where they not sure they can figure it out but they’ve trained themselves that ultimately they’re going to get it done they’re gonna pull it across the line so a great

Way to get more women involved is to ask them it like I will give you three women that you can interview and then ask other women that have been on or even people that you work with on a regular basis hey I want two or three women that you would

Recommend because it’s I I would have I feel like I would have a better understanding with tech-savvy women of other women that would say oh sure I’ll do that where it’s sometimes a little bit difficult if you’re just kind of looking out at the sea and saying oh

There are any women yeah that’s and that’s exactly what I do I actually just you know I open up doors in my house and I yelled at ya you know that I hope that somebody shows up but I guess that’s that’s that’s fair I’m definitely like me personally I’ve definitely already

Shoot aim kind of guy or it’s like can you do this I’m like I’m sure I could figure it out what is it sure you know if it’s you know it’s jumping out of a plane here can you fly like that we’ll try it right I could drive a car what’s

The difference but as far as well I would just say to as women you know women sort of feel grateful to be in the in the industry and so we don’t often want to like take too much of a risk that we could possibly screw up which I

Don’t think it’s the right approach but generally happens more often other because we work really hard to get at that table and a lot of us are like gosh II just I want to be valuable I want to show I want to provide a lot of impact and sometimes it’s just nerve-racking I

Feel that way too yeah I could see that and I think that a lot of the people that you know are hesitant to jump on a podcast for example are afraid of saying something stupid which is funny because I’m on the podcast yeah I guarantee you there are

Many stupid things I’ve said so far and there will be more it happens it’s a numbers game if you talked if you talk too much eventually you know dumb things will come out but so that’s where we were at if I’m trying to like look at

What roles NIT women are attracted to is there is there some common thread so a personal experience that I have I’ve gotten anecdotal evidence not real evidence I know it’s a lot of women time to kind of gravitate towards developer roles at least locally the people that

I’ve met I see very few women and routing and switching roles for example or telco but like when I do see women though your programmer you know you are not even necessarily God like like you like you I design things like that sure is there a trend that you see there or

Well it’s interesting harvey mudd which is a large educator for women in tech computer science no such things they actually went back and reworked the titles of their programs because through research they learned that women want to have and all a bigger impact to what they’re doing and so they made it more

Global in nature and so they instead of just computer science they said computers that are going to help mankind or you know they have all different titles that they use to attract women because women want that altruistic value beyond what they’re doing so if they’re working at a hospital talking about how

Many lives they’re saving or how much medicine they’re getting to the patient’s sooner anything that you can tie a bigger value to seems to lend more towards women and the way that they think and so talking about money quotas number of deals pipeline none of that a–fun women are like completely

Disconnect from all those words because it’s like a grind it’s a number and if you talk about how many lives you’re saving more how you’re getting information in people sooner so they can make these types of decisions you generally can pick at least the interest yeah and I mean program is programming

Whether you’re doing UI or a router from a router girl but I think it’s positioning a lot of it is positioning okay so if you if you say hey you’re going to sit in a dark room and configure a si firewalls all day that’s probably not the way to recruit no but

If you said hey you’re gonna sit in a room and you’re gonna protect children from data that could impact that could negatively impact them in 35 schools sure so that’s okay that makes sense again things that I have mislabeled because apparently you know my recruiting efforts are and it just takes

A little more thought and I think the bottom line is men and women show up differently they think differently and both have value both have the same types of smarts you know but overall we have different and that’s the value of inclusion and diversity and when you have different

People at the table how you’re able to create a more inclusive messaging system inclusive products that handle both genders and even different ethnic and diversities it makes sense so when I look at so at least locally and especially when I’m when I’m traveling around and looking at events there are a

Lot of events that are geared for women in tech exclusively like hey you know this is kind of the this is the women in tech event gee what is what is your take on those do you do you like those obviously I think that there’s definitely place for them and I’m

Certainly not opposed to them one time I showed up and I was the only guy and I’m like oh I shouldn’t have been here gotcha right so do you think that that kind of those those things are helping or do you think they’re isolating I guess it’s my

Guys question one of the reasons I started tech savvy women in 2008 is because I would attend all these cio events around town and in the region and there were just five six women yeah but then when I would go to the corporation’s you know I’m like where

Are all your women women are so busy doing the work and I always say you know you need to get out you need to network the opportunities to get together with like women in a small group that’s safe is had research shows is very productive and can be very helpful and actually

Help women advance throughout their career because they have sort of that safe space but the reality is as many women need sponsors and sponsors are generally people that have social capital that you don’t have and those people are generally one and two levels above you so if you’re only going to

Those events you lose the opportunity to meet strategic people that could help open doors for you or put you on a short list that are generally men and so what I tell women is you need to have sort of more of an advisory board of resources

That you call on that know who you are or what you’re trying to accomplish some of them have to have social capital my connections for you or recommend you for a role and so I encourage women to get out more often than they do and be strategic about how you network

Yeah that makes a lot of sense because again like I want to totally think that there should be kind of you know women and tech events that are that are those safe spaces for women to kind of share their ideas but I also see that there

Are we have a lot of those events particularly in Cleveland for example and I never see any of those girls at any of the cio events or any of the other summits so there has to be some kind of cross-pollination of ideas and that’s that’s the part that I get

Concerned about yes and so what I say for IT managers I teach directors do is bring three women with you yeah bring three women with you like you’re their boss bring them with you because you have to have a succession plan for some of these folks and it’s great because

They generally get the work done most of the time which is fantastic for the organization but I often get those calls you know we were acquired my boss left they’re outsourcing the IT team what should I do now I said my first question is what is your network look like yeah

People who are always doing the work and not working on their like on the network that helps support from there where they are and where they can possibly create impact next it’s difficult to jump quickly when you’re always doing the work though that makes a lot of sense

And you you know you’re somebody with a really strong personal brand do you think that that is harder or is just kind of counterintuitive to the general mindset the most women have in tech where they don’t necessarily want to build a strong professional personal brand because I feel like that’s one of

The things that drives me for example to go out to some of these events sure and have the podcast now the great worth the book you know it’s I feel like sometimes when I hit post or put something on my phone jeepers oh my gosh why did I do

That it’s nerve-racking well it’s not easy to put yourself out there it’s not fun either to your point I make mistakes I say the wrong thing I you know I make a fool of myself but I just I just I believe in the bigger work that I’m

Doing and I think that’s what pulls me through because if I take myself too seriously if anyone I probably won’t come out of the house for sure yeah I think that there’s not a month that goes by that I don’t post at least one cringy thing you know or at

Least this crunchy to me and other people don’t see it that way because most people just want to see you’re doing something they don’t you know if they care more about the overall objective right they don’t care about the tiny mistakes and there are many oh

And we’ll tell you too and they’ll call you they’ll tell you and maybe you really you just cannot take yourself that seriously and I think having a bigger vision for what you’re doing and believing in that will help with all this little stuff that doesn’t go right

Because there’s the list is long yeah for sure so any advice for women listening to this podcast now I think if I had to give advice right now let’s do something different this week get out of your office take somebody to lunch that’s one or two levels above you reach

Out to someone you admire read some books or articles put some things on audibles find ways to empower yourself differently than you did last week I love it I love it so we have a little bit of time left to plug anything you want to plug tell us about any events

Are doing it’s good tell us what’s next for you sure sure so I appreciate it so some of the fun things that I work on is I do I have an online course site which I’m starting to create more of and how to find your mentors and sponsors

Because this is so tricky for so many professionals of how to do the right thing and how to find people that are actually going to help you rather than just take you for coffee all the time and so I’ve just launched a an online training with four specific courses to

Do to build the mentors and sponsors that help you create the momentum you desire so that’s great and you can find that on tech-savvy women net okay and then it’s our need to do overnight retreats for professional women get them to network with new women in different ways like cabin retreats or houses

Probably rent houses hire chefs okay we bring in yoga and we do a lot of great discussions around career and impact desires so that you know you’ve got to step out of out of your everyday routines sometimes to think about bigger activities and alignment so I think

Tech-savvy women that has all of that data and then they can connect with me on LinkedIn of course for sure we’ll have both of those links on the on the show notes for audio and video so yeah that’s that’s what we had today I really appreciate you taking the time to come

Down here and talk well thank you so much Michael it’s so great to have the opportunity to talk about ways to integrate more diversity in tech for sure and I will take you up on your offer to give me leads I’m more women to

Jump on the 5k happy to do so all right thank you thank you

Like it? Share with your friends!


What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
confused confused
fail fail
fun fun
geeky geeky
love love
lol lol
omg omg
win win


Choose A Format
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
Youtube and Vimeo Embeds
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds
Photo or GIF
GIF format