Interview by Brooke Lazar
Mary Beth Watson, solutions director at Randstad Technologies, provides solutions daily to clients. She shares her career experience with us.
Brooke Lazar (BL): Tell me about your role as a solutions director and what that entails. Is it a technical role, a sales role, or a combination of both?
Mary Beth Watson (MW):
A solutions director crafts technical solutions to business and technology challenges. The position is both a technical and sales role. I have found the most important skill is the ability to articulate a solution that assures the client that we understand their requirements and that we are qualified for and capable of delivering. The solutions director then creates a written statement of work, which the client revises with input until the statement fully reflects the understanding and business needs.
BL: You develop channel partners—can you explain this in detail?
I am involved in an effort that takes me outside of the normal solutions director role. I build partnerships with companies that sell technology and benefit from our ability to deploy the computer and networking hardware rapidly. My job is to find those companies, present our value proposition, and work through the paperwork required to formalize a business relationship.
Channel managers then manage these partnerships. A channel manager is a person who manages the business relationship between our company and our partners. I consider a channel manager to be a special sales role working in the interest of both parties.
BL: How did your career path lead you to Randstad Technologies?
When I came out of high school, I went to a technical college because I didn't have the financial resources to go to a state or private college. I earned an associate's degree in medical laboratory technology. From there, I went to an environmental research lab, and by the end of the year, I was at the top of the pay scale for someone without a bachelor's degree. Regardless of what I did or how I performed, my financial advance would depend on cost-of-living raises. A college degree would put me on a different pay scale.
That idea catapulted me back into school. I went for a degree in engineering. I was not going to let my education (either the nature of my degree or the lack of a degree) impede my career.
My degree is in electrical engineering, and I found my vocation in sales. I started in sales by working for a value-added reseller in San Antonio. Because the reseller was a small company, I had the opportunity to do the prospecting and the selling, as well as the design and delivery of the solution. That situation provided me with hands-on experience for technology solutions selling. I eventually became managing director of a national information technology consultancy and managed the Dallas office.
I stepped out of my career in search of a better work-life balance when I was called upon to become the caregiver for my spouse. After a long hiatus, my professional network provided me an opportunity to step back into IT consulting services, which eventually led me to my current position with Randstad Technologies.
BL: What are some of the obstacles you've had to overcome in your career?
The biggest career obstacle I've experienced has been a work-life balance. Pursuing a career requires the commitment and support of the people in your life. There is only so much emotional capital that each of us has. We have to make choices about how we spend it. My husband and I had a joke that periodically he would require "marriage maintenance." He wanted to know that he was important and at the top of my mind. It's easy to get wrapped up in your career, so you don't realize you may not be listening anymore, or you may not be engaged in your life to the degree that you need to be.
BL: Would you say it takes a while to achieve work-life balance?
I can't say I ever successfully did it, but I worked at it all the time. Usually, my husband would remind me that I had this other part of my life.
BL: What's the most significant element you've taken away from working at Randstad Technologies?
I had no experience and little understanding of the staffing industry. When I first came to Randstad, I came in on the staffing side, which is fast-paced and tactical, and I came out with respect for the successful people on that side of the business.
Secondly, when I came into staffing, I came in with a special project related to engineering. However, a year later we decided that we would no longer focus on this project. I had the option to take a more traditional role on the staffing side of the business. I was grateful that they gave me that opportunity, but it was not the best use of my core skillset, and I knew I would not be as successful. I then had an opportunity to move over to the solutions side of the business, and I am grateful to be where I am today.
One of the things I have learned is that when you are on a special project, you are vulnerable. There are learning opportunities, but there is also risk associated with special projects. Be aware of the risks if you want to look at unique opportunities.
BL: Who have been your biggest professional role models?
They've been my peers; the other women I have worked with in technology. I have watched them go through challenges in their lives. I watched them have children and manage their families, along with managing demanding responsible positions. I watched them navigate through the loss of a spouse. I watched them negotiate a divorce, and they show up every day and continue to do an outstanding job. They inspire me, motivate me, and counsel me. That's one of the reasons why networking is so important.
BL: How do female employees benefit companies such as Randstad Technologies?
I may be an outlier in this opinion, but I have always felt that men and women are different. I came through a working era and a generation where we sought equality. What I saw so often on successful teams was the contribution of each person that made the team so productive. Men and women have different perspectives and bring different contributions of equal value. When you have women in your group, you tend to have better communication. Women require more thorough and less nuanced communication.
BL: What benefits does WITI provide women in technology?
When I came back from caregiving, it was my professional network that plugged me into a great opportunity at AT&T. My network allowed me to get back into the technology space.
Networking takes effort and looking back, I am typically the one who initiates. I am the one who says, "You know, this woman needs to meet this woman because I think they could be beneficial to each other." I am the matchmaker who makes that happen. The earlier in your career you commit to putting one "after-hours" networking event a month on your calendar, regardless of how busy you are, the stronger and more resilient your career will be. I think WITI is a great place to make that commitment.
Brooke Lazar is the Multimedia Strategist, Digital Editor, and Content Manager for WITI. She has a BA in Professional and Technical Writing from Youngstown State University. To immerse herself in the writing world, she spends her free time reading and researching writing styles to edit individual manuscripts accordingly.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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