“Be Greater than Average.” — NASA slogan
In December 2002 I interviewed at CDW for an account manager position. I was so nervous I would be late that I took a cab from Union Station to the CDW offices, less than two blocks away. Chicago was gray, painted in unwelcoming wintry colors – but the offices were bright with CDW’s signature red paint and the chatter of twenty-somethings cold-calling people who would become customers and friends.
During the tour of the office, I stood in a classroom. I knew I needed to work here – that this was a company that would invest in me and my coworkers. In January 2003 I was one of 23 people and five women in the new sales class. Over the past almost fourteen years, I’ve held sales, brand manager, business development, and solution architect roles. I am one of three people left from that class.
My first mentor was a fellow account manager named Karen (Mabus) Arrendondo. We never talked about being women in the technology field. We talked about excellence, achievement and how to grow a book of business.
As a brand manager, I learned from Jason Davis, Jessica Breich and Elizabeth Fink. They helped me to hone my presentation skills, how to leverage data to make decisions, and demonstrated how to be a force with integrity.
Chad Stevens, Eryn Brodsky and the RFID team gave me a home, selling to state and local as well as corporate customers. They encouraged me to indulge my curiosity and creativity in building value for our customers.
Maria Sullivan, Shaun Anderson, Tom Hudson, Christine Holloway, Tamara Queen-Fierte, Cindy Schwartz, Meghan Yorko – as a data center architect and emerging leader, each of them has challenged me — to raise my sales game, to be a better representative of CDW’s capabilities to our customers, to increase my knowledge base.
These women are pioneers in the fields of coding, programming, enterprise technology sales and strategy, social media, sending people to space. They find the solutions to help us be more. A great deal is written by women about what women can be doing to be cuter, better, more attractive. These are the rockstars we look to in order to be more.
Striving for Greatness – It’s a Human Thing
In what has become a career at CDW, I’ve been blessed to work with amazing people. Men and women who raise the game by listening to our customers and finding the solution that fits them best. My first impression of CDW, as a place where I could grow and learn, to evolve, was correct. I’ve attended conferences where women address the challenges of being great head on. Sometimes those conversations have to do with being a woman in a predominantly male environment, but most of the time, these conversations have to do with increasing market share, solving problems and becoming indispensable to our customers.
That is neither a male or female thing. That is a human thing.
Ada Lovelace worked on the Analytics Engine and is widely considered a key contributor to computer programming. She lived and died well before the first computer was created. NASA engineers in 1961 were not only men, they were women. They came from every stripe of humanity and were integral to putting a man into orbit. Isis Anchalee, two hundred years after Ada Lovelace was born, writes code that changes people’s lives.
On the advent of Ada’s birth, we should look around. We should see the other women in our midst, and recognize the advocates who have been there working with us for the last two centuries.
To all who came before me and to all that will come after. Let’s continue to challenge the status quo and raise the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Let’s be greater than average.