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Technology Leadership: Finding My Voice As a Woman in Tech

April 18, 2018

Last week, I traveled with more than 30 Mediacurrent team members to Nashville for DrupalCon 2018. It was a great week to learn about the future of Drupal and Digital, as well as spend some time with the Mediacurrent team.

While I was in Nashville, I was able to participate in a business panel at the very first Decoupled Summit. As I sat at the table with my co-panelists, I noticed something that hadn’t been on my radar before - 3 of the 4 participants on this panel were women. At a Technology conference that’s still fairly unique, and it wasn’t lost on me. 

What’s better, all three of us are working in different roles across our organizations, each uniquely contributing to our team’s success. Suzi Arnold is a Backend Content Architecture/Engineering Manager at Comcast, leading a team that’s solving challenges across their business. As a Chief Technology Officer, Karen Stevenson is in the driver’s seat when it comes to leading technology implementations at Lullabot. 

As for me, I didn’t always consider myself a part of the “Women in Technology” (WIT) community - and some would argue that I’m not. After all, I’m not a developer that’s logged hours in front of complex code. I’m not a designer who has painstakingly created beautifully customized designs. I’m not a Digital Strategist with deep technical Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills.

In discussing the challenges that Mediacurrent and other agencies face by pioneering new frontiers, my role in technology is just as meaningful. 

As Director of Client Services, I work with both our clients and team members to solve complex digital problems in a way that produces ROI, as well as fits within the budget parameters for the client. This means I hear common threads that I communicate to our team and beyond. It means I am teaching and learning something new everyday. 

One of the topics we covered at the summit is When and Why to use a decoupled architecture. As I've had the opportunity to lead our customers through this discussion many times I was able to highlight the benefits and challenges I've seen. My role is that of trusted advisor, guiding clients through defining requirements and goals to make these complex decisions.

I’m helping customers tackle other big technical challenges as well, like localization. It may be discussing which technology approach to choose, which URL structure is appropriate, or even how to measure their efforts to understand success. I’m working to help clients understand how they need to move their business and their digital properties forward to accomplish their goals in a measurable way. That takes a great deal of investment in the technologies and trends in the market.

So, my part in “Making the Internet” (great T-shirt, Pantheon!) is shaping the features and functionality that are most important to customers. It’s contributing to the paths forward in order to help build the world-class open source CMS that is Drupal. I am focused on the long-term vision for both the clients I work with and the technologies we use. 

This makes me, and the other amazing women on that panel, a part of the less than 25% STEM workforce that is female. What’s worse, according to the US National Science Foundation, between 2006-2014, the number of women graduating with a degree in computer science actually declined.

Studies show time and time again that diverse teams get things done. Diverse teams ensure the end user is represented in the design and development process, allowing teams to better meet the needs of a diverse target audience. 

I’m proud to be one of the growing number of the WIT community, and I want to do my part to encourage others. I’ve set a goal of consciously making a bigger effort to foster community. At Mediacurrent we have an internal “Women in Technology” Slack channel where we can discuss events or forum topics, as well as encourage each other to succeed. I am committed to ampifying that in the future.

I’m also taking the idea home to my 2 daughters. I have made a conscious effort to show them how STEM fits into their world today. I’ve invested in toys like Osmo and GoldieBlox to teach them that engineering isn’t scary. So far, my 9 year old wants to be a Chemist. My 5 year old? A Mermaid. But maybe that’ll translate to Marine Engineer one day. 

These ideas and thoughts aren’t new, and there’s no quick fix. But it’s an important challenge that I’m glad to be a part of. Being a Woman in Technology takes many forms, and each role plays an important part to success. Over the coming months, I’m planning a series of interviews about this topic with other leaders, so be on the lookout for that series soon.

I’d love to hear from others in the WIT community as well and hear your thoughts on this challenge. You can find me on Twitter at @shelliehutchens if you want to continue the conversation. 

Additional Resources
Diversity at Mediacurrent: A Path Forward | Blog
Technology Is Not A Boys Club | Blog

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