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Profile: Carol Lee, CFO at GoodData

“The combination of tech IQ and people EQ can set you apart in the tech world”

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Carol Lee, CFO at GoodData.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Carol Lee, CFO at GoodData.

Carol Lee, CFO at GoodData

Carol is passionate about driving growth by aligning financial decisions with the company’s strategy. She serves as financial partner cross-functionally and leads to deliver operational excellence and financial results. Carol has 20 years of finance and accounting experience in high-growth technology companies. She was most recently Vice President of Finance at Konica Minolta where she reported directly to the President of the fast-growing Managed IT Services division. She is also experienced in M&A valuation and due diligence, with a track record of over 20 recurring revenue-based transactions. Carol holds a B.A. degree in Psychology and Business Economics from Pitzer College in Claremont, California.

What got you interested in technology?

When I graduated from college in the late 90’s, I stumbled upon an opportunity at a tech start-up in the Silicon Valley and have never looked back since. I enjoy working with technical talents, learning how their minds work, and the fast pace of the tech world.

I first majored in psychology in college as I was (still am) fascinated by the study of the human mind and behavior. I started taking some business analysis courses sophomore year just for fun, then realized I am passionate about developing my analytical thought process.

My first job was as a financial analyst at a tech company and my career path started from there. Several years into my career, I realized just advancing my subject matter expertise is not enough to get me the growth I crave, so I learned to develop the soft skills that helped get me leadership opportunities. In a way, my early interest and study in psychology have helped foster growth in my analytical career.

Life teachers come in many shapes and forms.

My parents have always been supportive of my education and career ambitions. My dad started from humble beginnings as a laborer at a seafood market to later become the proud owner of that establishment employing over a dozen employees. My mom never had the opportunity for any schooling when she was young but she managed to raise three children, made sure all of us got good grades in school and helped my dad run his business all at same time. They taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance and made me appreciate the opportunities I have.

I am very fortunate to have had or still have very supportive bosses, mentors, and teachers, past and present, females and males. Life teachers come in many shapes and forms. I learn from a variety of people, including bosses, peers, business associates or even people I admire from afar. These learnings are instrumental in my career growth and professional advancement.

Today, I make a conscious effort to pay it forward. I find fulfillment in helping hard-working, talented people get noticed and match them with opportunities.

That said, I do sometimes (more so earlier in my career than now) face prejudice from others that I don’t belong, or feel judged by other attributes other than my professional abilities. I drown that negativity by getting better and better at what I do. It seems to have worked out well for me so far.

A day in Carol’s life

I am the CFO at GoodData, an embedded and distributed analytics company headquartered in Silicon Valley.

The company is in a high growth phase expanding into new markets with the latest technology in Machine Learning. Everything is very fast paced and ever-changing. My calendar is usually filled with calls and meetings, both internal and external, so I allocate time every day to be introspective — reflect and plan, usually at the beginning and at the end of the day.

I am proud of building a high-performing team with diverse talents and viewpoints who are committed to a common mission. When people with different talents and thoughts come together to collaborate and march towards a common goal, incredible progress happens.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

The problem I hear often is there aren’t enough women in the funnel to fill leadership roles, board seats or any positions in general in tech.

It is rooted from fewer girls than boys in STEM in school, so it needs to start with the younger generation. When I was looking into enrolling my daughter in Girl Scouts a few years ago, the activities listed on their website was still very gender biased. I am delighted to find out they have since redefined their program for girls as (G.I.R.L) Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader with a focus on STEM and entrepreneurship.

In the meantime, companies in tech can help by making their environment and culture more inclusive for both genders.

They say dress for the job you want or model after the leader you want to be — but there aren’t enough women for us to emulate and learn from.

I see some noticeable positive changes with inclusion every couple years or so. It is nowhere near perfect, but I think we are heading in the right direction. It will take a decade or two to fully balance the gender gap in tech as we start with the younger generation through educational opportunities and opening doors for the emerging women leaders.

Throughout my career, I have benefited from a variety of leadership programs for women and minorities. To name some: Women 2.0, Girls in Tech, Asian Business League, Financial Women of San Francisco, and Watermark.org. Here at GoodData, we have a group of talented and ambitious women spearheading a Women in Leadership program. I look forward to contributing any way I can to foster growth opportunities for the emerging women leaders.

At the same time, I think it is important to make sure these diversity discussions are not about us vs. them, women vs. men, color vs. white. Diversity is about inclusion. We should welcome both women and men to drive change together. I am a mother of two school-aged children — a girl and a boy. It is my hope that by the time they enter the workforce, gender will not be a factor in whichever profession they choose.

Obstacles

They say dress for the job you want or model after the leader you want to be — but there aren’t enough women for us to emulate and learn from.

When I started my career as a financial analyst, the CFOs were all wearing polo shirts, khaki pants, and loafers. Not a very good look for me! Beyond the superficial, I have to learn through trial and error, lots of awkwardness, on how to disagree, voice my dissenting opinion, and make my voice heard as a woman.

Other simple things such as where to sit at the table — physically sit, and how to act in professional social situations — do we act professionally to maintain the credibility we have worked so hard to build or do we relax to foster social bonding like one of the guys? Those are real issues women face but are all tough to articulate and seek advice on. Being a woman in a leadership position, I am often approached by young women to seek advice on these challenges, so I know they are not just from my own experience but from the voices of the young women in tech today as well.

Society still has double standards for men and women. Even after spending years building a solid professional reputation, it was not until I have repeatedly proven I can be as tough and effective as any of my male counterparts in the most difficult situations that doors to senior roles opened for me.

Tips & tricks

While you are working hard to develop technical expertise in your chosen field, don’t forget to grow your soft skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to see other’s perspectives. Women tend to have an innate sense of intuition; learn to channel that. The combination of tech IQ and people EQ can set you apart in the tech world.

Sheryl Sandberg, an iconic female tech executive and a driving force for gender equality, is described by her boss as having a rare combination of high IQ and high EQ. Her style is known to be effective yet relatable. She is able to give candid feedback, drive business results and at the same time embrace authenticity and humility. Those are the leadership qualities I strive to have and I think they can serve well in tech or any other industry.

The tech industry today is still predominantly male-oriented, and while it is changing, it is not going to change completely overnight. It has been proven that when you change your internal world, it will have an impact in your external world. My advice to women who want a tech career today is to develop your inner confidence, charge forward. Don’t let a few bad apples discourage you. You are not what happened to you, you are who you choose to be. Adopt a growth mindset, strive to reach your potential and be unstoppable!

 

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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