The business of understanding corporate culture and its influence on work behavior is making its way to becoming a top priority for many fast-moving technology companies. To achieve the highest levels of performance and productivity, successful companies know they must take care of the people that are in the best position to help their businesses soar. Unfortunately, some companies have had to learn this the hard way.
It’s one thing to talk about employee well-being, diversity and inclusion, yet another to lead by example, ensuring that actions speak louder than words. Cultural evolution is a process catalyzed and sustained by leadership. It requires that policy, practices, and measurement are intentionally aligned to ensure that desired change is achieved.
Larry Senn, often referred to as The Father of Corporate Culture, declares that “organizations become a shadow of their leaders”. This creates the opportunity for employees to reflect the culture modeled by top leadership. To understand more about how individual leaders are creating and modeling cultural change in their organizations, we interviewed Director of Software Engineering at Code42, Julie Galleberg.
MNAiC: Tell us a bit about your role.
JG: As a Director for Software Engineering, my goal is for my teams to efficiently and effectively build software that provides value to our customers. My role is to ensure my teams can achieve business goals as well as their professional goals. To succeed, teams must be staffed with team members that have the appropriate skill sets, clear requirements, and sufficient resources to do the work to build quality software products. Technologies are continuously evolving so learning is necessary to ensure the teams acquire the skills needed to implement proper solutions. Providing these resources for learning is an essential part of my job. Teams need clear requirements to implement solutions that meet our customers’ needs, so collaboration with product managers is key and I need to be certain that communication is happening.
Guiding the professional growth of team members is another very important responsibility. I strive to build leaders and team members that will contribute to the success of the business. Growth of employees is done through training and providing opportunities for new challenges, which includes researching new technologies. High functioning teams provide the most value to a company. Building self-managing and innovative teams is a passion of mine because I feel this is the best way to build a high functioning team. Trust is essential in providing the opportunity for growth. Everyone makes mistakes as they take on new roles and unfamiliar tasks. It is what they learn from this that helps them grow.
MNAiC: What were the greatest influences on your technology career choice, and direction? If something specifically happened that triggered your career decision, what was it?
JG: When I made the choice to enroll in post high school education, I was at a loss as to what I wanted to do with my future. I took general courses until I was able to find my passion. I was leaning toward Physical Education. One of the courses in this program was Computers in Education which gave me a first taste at very basic programming. I enjoyed the work and decided to look into technology related fields at the University I was attending. Computer Science struck me as interesting. I talked with the Dean and enrolled the next semester.
I was the only female in most of my classes and the only graduating female in my class. The courses were challenging but what I enjoyed most was problem solving and working on team projects. What further encouraged me to pursue a career in technology was my internship the summer before my final year in school. I was hired into the Business Applications department and tasked with building a new system used by internal users. I was assigned a mentor to guide me, but the project was completely on me to deliver. Within three months I was able to build the system, train the users, and deploy into production. It was the most satisfying feeling to build something that solved a problem for the users.
This internship solidified for me that a career in technology was where I wanted to be. However, I couldn’t have predicted at that time that I would become a director of software engineering. At that point in my career, I did not see myself as a leader. It was future projects that tested my competencies and brought forth opportunities for leading teams, starting as a technical leader, moving into a manager role, and now a director.
MNAiC: As a whole, women in tech in the U.S. leave the industry at a 45% higher rate than men, further reducing the potential for women to assume leadership roles within tech. What do you think are some of the unique challenges women face in this male-dominated industry?
JG: Technology changes so fast, it can be hard to keep up when you are also trying to raise a family. It becomes a balancing act. Finding the right balance is essential for building a career in technology, yet feeling you are dedicating enough time to your life outside of work. Early in my career I worked hard but turned down opportunities that would conflict with my family life. As my children grew more independent, I found that the work ethic I maintained throughout my career still offered me opportunities later when I had more time to focus on expanding my responsibilities. It all comes down to choices, regardless of your gender.
MNAiC: Have you ever had to overcome (or help other women overcome) these challenges? If so, what did you do?
JG: Several times as a leader, I have been able to work with other women who had the same challenge of balancing work and family. Fortunately, technology has allowed more options for flexible work schedules and working from home. Having this flexibility allows parents to better balance their work and home life. Finding a company that values your contributions yet allows for flexible hours and occasionally working from home might be the best option for parents that want a career and a family.
Finding ways to simplify your life outside of work can also allow you to have a successful career and spend quality time with your family. I took the advice of a former director who suggested getting a housekeeper. Having an organized and clean home was important to me but trying to give 100% while at work and spend time with my family at night, I was failing on all fronts. The money I spent to hire a housekeeper was well worth the stress I took off myself and I found I could focus on the things that really mattered. Giving back to the community was also important but again took away time from my family. I decided to volunteer for my son’s hockey booster club. I felt I was contributing but in a way that wouldn’t conflict with family priorities. By taking a look at where I was spending my time and what really mattered most, I am to give more emphasis to my career and my family.
MNAiC: What do you think are three things MN Businesses can do to help remove these barriers in order to promote and retain more women leaders in technology?
JG: Have flexible work schedules. Be understanding of the commitment to family and allow employees options to choose hours that work best for their families. Employees that have a good work ethic will achieve greater results if they are allowed a better work life balance. Flexible hours apply to both genders. Allowing all parents flexible options gives their spouse more flexibility to excel in their career as well
Provide a work from home option. Even if it is only once a week or as needed, this option will show your employees that you value them and trust that they will do the necessary work regardless of being in the office or at home.
Demonstrating gender equality when leadership opportunities arise is the most convincing way to show that your business believes that women are equally competent as their male coworkers. Provide fair growth opportunities to all genders. Show proof that choices are based on competence as opposed to gender bias. Any female can be as effective as a male, they may just do so in a different manner.
MNAiC: What can young aspiring women technologists do today to prepare themselves for a future career in leadership?
JG: Any opportunity you have in school, sports, extracurricular activities, or community events to take a leadership role, do it! Be bold and take a stance on topics you feel strongly about. Learn to argue your viewpoint. The first few times may be scary, and you will make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and keep putting yourself in a position to have these opportunities. I was a shy, awkward child that avoided any chance of having to speak in front of an audience or lead because I was afraid of criticism. During college, I took a job waitressing and it was the best thing I could have done to push myself outside my comfort zone. I was forced to interact with people and it was the start of getting a better handle on my fear and anxiety. I still have those fears and anxiety, but with continuous experience, I have been able to succeed in leadership roles.
Code42 is a proud partner of the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards Program. Recently, two high school honorees spent the day at Code42 in downtown Minneapolis engaging with numerous IT professionals, while experiencing their inclusive and empowering work culture. Pictured left to right: Heidi Daumen – Code42, Claire Jensen – South High School in Minneapolis, Anna Heebsh – Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, and Emily Wagoner, Code42.
MNAiC: Why do you think it’s important to move toward more gender consciousness in tech leadership?
JG: I truly believe that a person of any gender can excel at any position if they put forth the effort. Leadership comes in so many forms. The key attributes of great leaders are listening to others, trusting in their team members, and being humble. We all make mistakes but as a leader, if you are willing to admit to those mistakes, your team will be more open and willing to innovate knowing that failure is acceptable. Employers need to be open to different leadership styles. Having a diverse leadership team will bring more unique, innovative strategies for driving business success.
MNAiC: What advice would you give to women who aspire to advance their career in tech?
JG: You can control your own destiny. Regardless of limitations in your past, do not let them prevent you from achieving success in your career. Use past situations to learn and drive forward. I have made so many mistakes it is hard to mention all of them, but I do not regret taking action, learning from mistakes and persevering! There are many opportunities in technology so start by trying a role, finding what motivates you (whether it be as an individual contributor or leader in a technology role), and then be willing to take chances. In the end you won’t regret the experience you gain from trying something new.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Code42, is the leader in data loss protection, visibility and recovery solutions. Native to the cloud, the Code42 Next-Gen Data Loss Protection solution rapidly detects insider threats, satisfies regulatory compliance requirements and speeds incident response — all without lengthy deployments, complex policy management or blocks on user collaboration. Security, IT and compliance professionals can protect endpoint and cloud data from loss, leak and theft while maintaining an open and collaborative culture for employees. Founded in 2001, more than 50,000 organizations worldwide, including the most recognized brands in business and education, rely on Code42 to safeguard their ideas.
ABOUT MINNESOTA ASPIRATIONS IN COMPUTING (MNAIC)
MNAiC collaborates with businesses, organizations and schools to inspire, support, and empower young women in high school to become our next, best Minnesota technology talent. Want to get engaged with the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing program? To learn how your organization can support the computing interests of young women in Minnesota and lead the movement to disrupt gender equality in tech, contact Russell Fraenkel, Director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships, Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence, at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (612) 659-7224.