Next Level Networking: Patti Smith

WITI News Staff

September 12, 2016

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Patti Smith is the leader of the Orlando WITI Network. Though her participation in the field of networking is notable, she has also put extensive work into the technology industry. She has navigated her way up the career ladder and shown what it means to not only be good at what you do, but to also be passionate about it.

Julia Miglets (JM): You've done a lot of work in the networking field, specifically honing in on technology. What brought your work to the success that it has today?

Patti Smith (PS):I started out in banking before PCs were in use (I am now aging myself). I was part of the installation of the first ATM at our bank. Teller machines were used to take a deposit or cash a check. As a teller I was able to find other features these were capable of. I discovered that you could look up a balance, check the status of items, and see all accounts related to an individual.

I then met a woman who was in technology who told me about a job at our local school district; they were establishing their first computer lab. I read about computers, played around with them, and wound up teaching myself. I then taught students with educational games. I gave faculty their first introduction and taught them many different things - putting their lesson plans online was a great help to them.

In my spare time I took basic functions people can use a computer for and taught community members in a series of weekly classes on simple computer tasks. We did things like using a spreadsheet to balance a checkbook and adapting to "keyboarding" or "typing" and they were really successful.

After working with the local schools, I was recruited at Houghton College to start their first Help Desk. I worked my way up the ranks, from the Help Desk to Network Administrator to Assistant Director then Director. Then I was recruited by a company called Collegis (now Ellucian) to become a CIO with them.
I then became the Ellucian CIO with Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. In 2009 the contract to outsource IT at Valencia ended and rather than relocate my family I accepted a position with Valencia as Assistant CIO.

JM: Women have always had challenges with earning equal opportunities. What would you say has been the biggest personal challenge in setting yourself apart for success?

PS: The biggest challenge is getting your voice heard. As women, many of us believe our voices aren't being heard so we feel a natural tendency to speak out more. It may not be as prevalent today as it used to be. There seems to be a belief that women simply weren't as technical as men. Sometimes we still believe that when in a room full of men we need to prove ourselves when we actually don't.

JM: What kinds of creative avenues does your network use to stand out?

PS: We leverage all members of our network to help us find new and creative ideas. We had a speaker who has done creative work with places like Disney and Busch Gardens and she talked to us about how to be creative in our work. We also work with a university that produces students who work on major movies and videos. We continue to reach out to our contacts for speakers and we have a vast array of professionals who reach out to those they know who would be interested in presenting and sponsoring.

JM: What is the mission statement that you and your organization would like to impart?

PS: Our mission statement is To build a strong network of women in technology and empower them to become successful in Central Florida, our state, our nation and world-wide. Building your social network is critical. I believe we recognize the power that comes from networking and the success we can achieve by networking at the personal level, not just technically. You can network via LinkedIn or other mediums but face-to-face connection is so important. Once you meet and have a genuine conversation with someone it gives more meaning to a conversation that might be via email.

JM: How do you think more women and girls can be encouraged to pursue a career in technology? What would you say to inspire them to take advantage of opportunities?

PS:We work to encourage women and girls via our public school and college systems as well as through personal and professional mentoring programs. My goal is to find out what someone's passion is and find ways to convert that to a career in tech. The field of technology is vast. Having knowledge with the breadth and depth of the field allows me to focus on the aspect of technology I can discuss with someone helping to encourage them specifically.

Julia Miglets: read other articles by Julia here

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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