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Profile: Tracy Rankin, VP, OpenShift Engineering at Red Hat

Women in Tech: “I’m always searching for my next opportunity”

Dominik Mohilo
women in tech

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 Tracy Rankin, VP, OpenShift Engineering at Red Hat.

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 Tracy Rankin, VP, OpenShift Engineering at Red Hat.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Tracy Rankin, VP, OpenShift Engineeringwomen in tech at Red Hat

When did you become interested in technology?

I became interested in technology at a young age. My father worked for IBM and we were fortunate to have one of the early personal computers when they came out, which I loved to play on as a child.

Then at secondary school, IBM sponsored a programming class at my school. There were only 4 of us in the class so we had a lot of personal interaction with the instructor. I took a chance and asked the instructor if he needed an assistant during the summer, which he did. During that summer, I mainly did computer setup for the group, and then ended up interning with that same team for my final year of secondary school and through university.

That opportunity gave me so much experience and from that moment, I knew it was the industry I wanted to go into.

How did you end up in your career path?

As mentioned, I always had a keen interest in computers but at university, I also became very interested in how businesses worked. I was fortunate enough to participate in a pilot program at my university to receive a BSc and MBA in engineering. There were only 3 of us selected and, helped by the experience I already had interning at IBM under my belt, I excelled in my degrees.

I don’t feel that I’ve ever had obstacles to overcome in my career;for the most part I have had opportunities to grow and shine. My first opportunity was day 1 on the job post-graduation. I walked into IBM without a job, as the team I was hired into was sold to another company. I was given 3 days to find a new job. Using existing contacts, I managed to find one and was able to jump right in. I learned a lot from that experience.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

I was given so much support from my mum and dad growing up. Being an only child, my parents were always my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. They always encouraged me to be the best person I could be, and grounded me from an early age which I truly cherish now as I look back. Now that support system has grown to include my husband and daughter. I would not be able to continue to grow professionally without the support they provide.

My role model has always been my grandmother, I was inspired by her accomplishments of being a great single parent, while also working hard in her job.

My role model has always been my grandmother, I was inspired by her accomplishments of being a great single parent, while also working hard in her job.

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

If I’m honest, if anyone has ever tried to hold me back, I didn’t take any notice and instead, it pushed me even harder. I am fueled by doubters and by those who do not think I am right for the job. I’ve had people say I wasn’t the right person to take on a certain responsibility and to that I would always say, ‘give me the role and if in a few months you do not think it was the right decision, then let’s revisit’. Never once did it end up being the wrong decision.

A day in Tracy’s life

I am currently the Vice President of Engineering focusing on Red Hat OpenShift. I have a team of so many talented associates that work in upstream Kubernetes, producing the leading container orchestration platform available to customers today.

Most of my days are looking at how I can best support my team to accomplish our goals, pivot points and figure out how we overcome hurdles. I have the pleasure of being able to speak to customers most weeks to learn about their successes and any concerns they may have. I love learning and understanding how they use the product; we use that information so that we’re better able to change the future for them.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the fact I have been able to achieve all that I have whilst balancing being a mum as well. I spent 6 years of my career working part time, as a technical manager, and also caring for my daughter before she started school – all so I could advance my career during that time and still achieve my goals. I think I’m a good role model for her in that way to know that I was able to be there for her.

I will never forget the look of amazement on my daughter’s face recently when she found out I got a promotion. I could see she was really proud of what I had accomplished. It makes all the difficult times of balancing a career with motherhood worth it.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

There are so many girls and women that can succeed in tech, they just need to believe in themselves. A lot of the time they don’t believe they can, for various reasons. I always tried to look at myself not as a ‘woman in tech’, but as a person looking to achieve my goals. I’m always searching for my next opportunity and feel motivated to prove that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

One challenge that I think is a big one, yet might seem insignificant on the surface is concerning a woman’s physical presence. Many women don’t take up the physical space a man does in a room. For example, women don’t usually have loud voices.

I have found throughout my career that I have to find a way for my presence to command the room, in a meeting, or a setting where it might otherwise be easy for me to become invisible. I’ve also had to find the right balance of how to project my voice and assert myself without sounding angry or agitated.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

Yes it would, but not because women are smarter or can do better, but because the best collaboration comes when there are different ideas brought to the table. Teams need a balance of personalities, opinions and thoughts to have spirited discussions. Teams that are composed of like-minded individuals do not always produce innovative ideas or challenge the boundaries of ideas. We need diversity to excel.

There are so many girls and women that can succeed in tech, they just need to believe in themselves.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

The results are starting to be seen already. We are starting to see diversity appear more and more across the board, and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can realise our potential.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?

I would advise any woman to set goals for herself – look at what you want to accomplish, and how you can go about achieving those goals, in the immediate, short, and long term. Once you have something concrete to work towards, you’re more likely to persevere in adversity. And believe you deserve a seat at the table- once you start accepting yourself as an equal, your peers will do the same.

My last tip would be to recognise your limitations, and try to conquer them so they don’t hinder your overall performance.

More Women in Tech:

Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

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