Interview by Brooke Lazar
Sarah Moore, vice president of IT Applications at Randstad USA, has had over 17 years of experience linking IT with business. She answers a few questions about her career.
Brooke Lazar (BL): As an IT leader, your job is to "bridge the gap between IT and the rest of the business." Can you share more about this process?
Sarah Moore (SM):
There's a misconception that IT is part of the business we do. I say that it's "bridging the gap between IT and the rest of the business" so people realize that we're all part of the same organization.
It's important for IT organizations to get involved with how the business they support runs. We're doing things at Randstad where we've created an IT business partnership role. We have an IT business partner who aligns with the leadership in each of our different operating companies, as well as with our back office leadership.
These folks are the ones that understand how the business operates. They're sitting in on the leadership management calls. They're part of the daily activities at Randstad. With the information, they help IT understand the business perspective of what they're asking.
They can also be on the front lines with each leadership team to help them understand the IT perspective. I find that when IT organizations aren't successful, it's because they develop an "us versus them" mentality with their business users. Having a business partnership helps to bridge that gap because it opens dialogue from both sides on a regular basis, instead of just when issues arise.
It's a hard role to be in. It's important to look at everything that comes up, and apply it with a logical mindset, as opposed to an emotional mindset. This type of reviewing ensures that what's best for Randstad is first priority, not just for the leadership team or the IT organization.
BL: When did you realize you had a passion for technology?
When I was in first grade. We had an Apple II in one of my classes. The program we used was fascinating because I always liked word problems and math. I always had something to try and find the right answer for. Using the program, moving the logo, and seeing these pixelated pictures on my Apple was amazing. It allowed me to code where the pixels went on the screen, and I would have to tell it to turn a certain number of degrees. Manipulating the computer was a lot of fun.
The other thing that sparked my interest was going to my mom's office. She was an administrative assistant for the president of the Dial corporation, and they had individual PCs in their offices at that time. It felt like my mom always had to work, so I would be with her there in the evenings or on the weekends. She would hook me up with a computer, so I got the opportunity to get used to computers, which at that time were foreign to most people.
BL: What advice do you have for other women pursuing a career in this field?
The biggest way to be successful in this field is to have self-confidence. Don't be afraid to go in and play around with new things, and know you're not going to bring the world crashing down. Not having that self-confidence is going to keep you from helping technology move forward.
For women that are younger, the most important thing is to not be scared. I was lucky because I went to an all-girls high school in Phoenix, Arizona, and I never had to worry about impressing the boys. It was an education-focused environment. I went to Georgia Tech, which was 70% male, and the background from my high school allowed me to walk into the computer science classes and ask questions with confidence. I was there because I had just as much of a right as anyone else. It didn't dawn on me often that I was the only female in the room. I was just another student.
BL: Have you sought mentorship throughout your career?
Yes. I had mentors from the start, and I continue to have them. Mentorship never stops. I have both male and female mentors. They are former leaders who I've worked for, as well as folks that I've met while networking.
At some point, you have to realize that you're constantly learning, and you're always going to be asking questions. You can't be afraid to ask questions, otherwise you're not going to learn. I'm constantly asking questions because it's a natural curiosity for me. I look for different perspectives. If I only have my perspective, then I'm not learning; I'm pushing my perspective on other folks.
BL: What do you enjoy most about your career?
I love mentoring. I've had folks on my team that I've watched grow. They went from individual contributor roles, with a box defined around them, into people that were willing to ask questions, push the boundaries, and do great things.
BL: Did parts of your job ever discourage you solely due to your gender?
Absolutely. I have worked in organizations along the way where I was the only female on a team or in a leadership area. I would be relegated to specific duties that I'm convinced were solely due to my gender. For example, if we were having a leadership team meeting, I would be asked to take the notes, which was discouraging. Randstad has been the best company that I've been part of. There are no gender barriers. My advice for other women is if you feel like you don't fit, don't try to force it. Find where you do fit.
BL: Do you think the issue of inequality between men and women in technology will ever be resolved?
I've often thought about that question, and I don't know the answer. There's a natural predilection toward STEM for males. I know that we're doing a lot as a country to open up the STEM fields for younger girls, but when it comes to equality in the number of men and women in technical jobs, I'm not sure that we'll get there because of that predilection. When it comes to technology jobs, your gender doesn't matter. But I don't know that we'll ever have the volume of women that we do of men. We have to continue to make sure we're opening up those doors so that girls that are interested feel welcome.
BL: Why is being part of a network, such as WITI, important for women in technology?
It keeps dialogue going about the need to continue programs for young girls. WITI also provides the opportunities for mentorship. It's beneficial to get those perspectives outside of your work life and to talk with folks that aren't in the situations that you might be in, to get another perspective.
Brooke Lazar is the Multimedia Strategist, Digital Editor, and Staff Writer for WITI. She has a BA in Professional and Technical Writing from Youngstown State University. To immerse herself into the writing world, she spends her free time reading and conducting research on writing styles to edit individual manuscripts accordingly.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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