Women in Tech: “Women empowering other women is a spectacular thing”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, we 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 Theresa Miller, Principal Technologist at Cohesity.
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?
Three years ago, we 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 Theresa Miller, Principal Technologist at Cohesity.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Theresa Miller, Principal Technologist at Cohesity
Theresa Miller is a Principal Technologist at Cohesity. She is an IT professional that has been working as a technical expert in IT for over 20 years and has her MBA. She is uniquely industry recognized as a Microsoft MVP, Citrix CTP, VMware vExpert. Her areas of expertise are in Cloud, Hybrid-cloud, Office 365, VMware and Citrix. She is also the founder of the community blog https://24x7itconnection.com.
What first got you interested in tech?
In a way, I “fell” into technology. Early on I thought I wanted to be an accountant. However, by the time I made it to my junior year in college and was taking accounting classes, I realized this was the wrong career path. From there, I investigated other career options. I found out there was a 100% job placement rate for technology degrees at the time, and it just made sense to choose that career path. I went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in business administration and office systems.
How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Early in my career, I taught technology training courses and dabbled in the desktop space where I worked hands-on fixing PCs before shifting into working on servers and software. From there, I pursued several different avenues in my career that were driven by a constant desire for change and growth. Regardless of where I was employed I trusted that gut feeling around when I needed to learn more, shift and change. Then I went after it whether it was within the current enterprise I was working or a different one. I continually build on my existing skills to further my career.
If a door closed on something I requested, I would find another way to support seeking and learning what I was looking for.
Did you receive support from your family and friends?
Yes, spending over 15 years of my career in roles that required off-hours support, on-call, and maintenance windows that occurred overnight and weekends family support was critical. Without it I wouldn’t be where I am at in my career today.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
Learning is something that I can control. If a door closed on something I requested, I would find another way to support seeking and learning what I was looking for. For example, online instead of in person. Always keep in mind that when it comes to learning and educating yourself there is always a way to make it happen whether someone approves it or not. For example, if the reason a training opportunity was turned down was budget then speaking up again when the budgets are being done is important to make sure it’s included for the next opportunity.
A day in Theresa’s life
I am currently one of three principal technologists at Cohesity, a Silicon Valley-based enterprise data management company that is transforming the way organizations manage, protect and gain value from their data. In my current role, I focus on the cloud, including Microsoft Azure, AWS and Office365. In this role, I integrate with a variety of teams across the business, establishing relationships with the product marketing managers, product managers, sales teams and technical engineers. On the customer side, I provide feedback based on conversations I’m having with customers and industry experts to provide strategic direction. It’s a role that I really enjoy.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I have a unique set of recognitions in the tech industry that are highly regarded worldwide. I have attained certification as a Microsoft MVP, Citrix CTP and VMware V-Expert. Very few people attain all three of these recognitions, and it has provided me with a number of connections that have helped me succeed in my career. Additionally, it creates a new level of visibility for my company.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
At one point in my career I served on a collegiate educational board where we took a closer look at this. A couple things came from this research that may or may not be completely accurate, but interesting nonetheless. The study showed that if you do not introduce girls to STEM at the middle school age group then they often do not consider technology as a career path or even think to. So if you look there are more and more programs available for girls of this age group today. The other part of that study showed that women typically choose careers that provide them some form of human response, and the top career choices were in the healthcare and educational fields.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
If a woman happens to make it to a career in STEM I think that one of the largest challenges can be just as simple as learning to speak up. For some this is easy, but for most it is not and is something that needs to be worked on and overcome. For me personally, growing up I was not taught to speak up or speak out of turn. This was a challenge for me to overcome. Everyone in the room should speak up in every meeting including us women, and all women need to own that.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
I recently spoke at the Watermark Conference for Women in San Jose, CA, and being there gave me some insights into what it might be like if there were more women in this space. The first thing that stood out to me is the level of support and energy from everyone. Attendees included all genders, but definitely more women were in attendance, which was the opposite of any other technology event I had ever been to. What I learned is that women empowering other women is a spectacular thing. The reality is that we need everyone at the table in all enterprises, but the impact of more women in technology is definitely something to ponder, and could be significant.
Diversity as a whole is such a broad bucket as it is inclusive of gender, race, associations, beliefs and more.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
Diversity as a whole is such a broad bucket as it is inclusive of gender, race, associations, beliefs and more. I agree, the diversity discussion is definitely gaining momentum publically, but the enterprise adoption of a truly diverse experience is still behind. We need to keep the discussions going and support everyone always — until it is no longer a problem.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?
When considering a career in technology, it’s important to understand that the career opportunities are a broad spectrum and do not just revolve around computer screens without human interaction. Opportunities in technology come in many forms, and there are opportunities that appeal to all personality types. Yes, coding is an option, but there are other opportunities available in engineering, architecture, networking, applications, leadership, project management, technical marketing, and the list goes on.
As for some parting advice. Be sure to speak up in every meeting, build a professional network of people throughout your career, and never be the smartest person in the room to stay humble; but to also make sure you are always learning something new.
More Women in Tech:
- Women in Tech: “Unconscious bias is a real, continuous problem.”
- Women in Tech: “If no one gives you the right possibility to grow, you must create it alone.”
- Women in Tech: “There are opportunities for remote work women could tap into”
- Women in tech: “Feel brave applying for that job you want”
- Women in tech: “Don’t forget that your career will evolve.”