Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why Technology?

People often ask me how I got into technology, given my upbringing in rural Maine and my undergrad education at Bates College in English literature and French. I began my career logically enough, as an editor. I was teaching readers how to use a software called SAP, with articles specializing in finance, HR, supply chain management, and data warehousing. The challenge was that a lot of our authors were subject matter experts, and some were decent writers. However, many more of them spoke English as a second or third language. So on top of the language barrier, they were attempting to explain a complex technology. They all had day jobs and the articles were at best a side project and at worst a nuicance, so the article drafts were often hurried, confusing, and missing vital steps.

So imagine you're an English literature major trying to decipher how some consultant wants to optimally structure your InfoCubes in an ideal data warehouse. There was a lot of jargon, acronyms, and ideas to research before I could even get at what I thought the author might be saying. I often ended up learning about the topic online, rewriting the article based on what I thought the author had been getting at, and asking for a fact check of the new article I'd written. What I discovered through this process is that I was fascinated by what SAP software could do to streamline, automate, and transform a business. With my background, the editing came second nature, but the technology grabbed my attention.

Realizing how exciting technology was, I founded a research department at the publishing company to study what users wanted, and ultimately deliver articles, newsletters, and conferences to meet their needs. I later learned that this is considered product management, which I fell in love with all over again in grad school.

I had the good fortune to land a job at this software company I had written articles about, SAP, for almost 5 years. While at SAP I attended a conference that transformed my future in technology, the Grace Hopper conference for Women in Computing. Even though I was working for a software company, I still suffered from impostor syndrome, a term Sheryl Sandberg popularized in Lean In. Attending this conference, surrounded by thousands of technical women, instilled a new confidence in me that allowed me to apply to, and graduate with honors from, the high tech MBA at Northeastern University.

So my career in technology has been a circuitous route. But I wouldn't have it any other way, because I bring a unique perspective that someone with a more traditional business or computer degree lacks. As my classmates and colleagues inform me, I "write good." :)

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