Ohana Conversations: Rosanne Burge

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You may know by now that Ohana was founded by local Indianapolis tech entrepreneur, Cynthia Pizarro (and if you didn’t, you do now!).  So when we saw that August 9th was National Women’s Day, we knew that we had to jump on the opportunity.

But when our very diligent Marketing Associate and Orr Fellow, Lexi, started to do some research, she realized that August 9th was National Women’s Day… in South Africa.  So in true startup fashion –  we turned failure into opportunity!

Today we bring you an interview with a woman who is very near and dear to our hearts and well-known in the community.  A woman who took Ohana’s newly planted seeds and turned them into a real startup – Rosanne Burge!

Rosanne’s interest in technology sparked when her high school college counselor said a Computer Science major would be a good fit for her because of her interest in math and science. The counselor said that Computer Science was going to be “the next big thing”, and Rosanne had no clue what she was getting herself into!

How did your career begin?

I took my career counselor’s advice and pursued a Computer Science major in the mid-80’s when there weren’t a lot of women in technology. I didn’t have a computer at the time … I had never even seen one. I just really like to be challenged and learn new things. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of talk about women, or the lack of women, in technology. It was just, “oh, I’m a woman in technology”. What was talked about more was the lack of Americans in technology.

My career ultimately began when I went to pursue my MBA in Finance. With a background in Computer Science and Finance, I wanted to bridge gaps between the technical and business side of companies. The ability to see both sides has helped me tremendously in my career. I started out at a company that’s now Accenture, and I got to work with a lot of intelligent people. I learned best practices early on in my career because they had a really defined process for everything. I learned not only how to implement technology but how to be consultative in everything that I did.

After working for Accenture for a few years, I dipped my toes into the world of startups. I was the very first employee at a consulting company called Haverstick, which was started by four men in technology. I worked there for 10 years, and by the time I left, it had grown to 550 employees. I loved working for a small company because we were all working together towards one goal. We had each other’s backs and were able to develop personal connections with one another. I still see people that I used to work with when I meet with clients, and they tend to be the first people I call if I need something!

As Haverstick grew, I missed the feeling of it being a startup. After my time there, I worked for various startups and investment companies and served as a COO or Head of Operations at most of them. It’s been really fun to watch the startup eco culture structure in Indianapolis and witness it within organizations.

Why do you think Indianapolis became such a hub for tech?

Everyone here is so supportive and wants to help. Several years ago, there were a few very successful people, and they’ve stayed and helped the community. There are people who have sold their companies but are willing to invest in others with monetary support. These people have stayed active and are involved in the business community on a personal level. For example, Howard Bates continued to be involved with and help fund startups. These people can easily retire, but they have such a passion for helping people succeed and helping Indianapolis succeed. There are lot of people who are willing to invest money and time into the city.

What are some of the struggles and advantages for women in technology?

Struggles: You must feel comfortable working in an environment when there’s not a lot of women. Having 6 brothers helped me with this. I was comfortable speaking my mind. However, there are a lack of women and role models, especially for young women. Women in technology start to drop off in high school and college due to the lack of mentors and role models. You need to go out of your way to find organizations that support women.

Advantages: Once you find them, the organizations that support women in technology are a huge advantage. Women and Hi-Tech started in the 90s, and then began growing like gangbusters here.  It’s so exciting to see that. It doesn’t only involve IT Tech but Engineering, Science, Medical, etc. Other Indianapolis organizations that support women are Linking Indy Women and Indy WiT, just to name a few.

Do you have any advice to women in technology?

Get involved. Nobody is looking out for you but you, so you have to look out for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask and speak up when you have something good to say or to offer. Find a good mentor and be willing to reciprocate. When you see success, or you have something to offer, be willing to offer it to the next generation.

Who is someone you look up to and why?

Gail Farnsley. Gail was the CIO at Cummins for many years. I met Gail as part of Women and Hi Tech and always viewed her as someone I’d like to aspire to. I had a lot in common with her in our backgrounds. I think it’s so fascinating for somebody to have led a technology organization in such a technology driven company. Gail’s experiences and how she continues to give back to the community are awesome. Gail has done so much for the Indianapolis technology community.

Ali HromisI met Ali when she was an Orr Fellow at Apparatus.  Ali is on the board of Women and Hi Tech, and she’s now working at Salesforce as a Release Manager.  I’ve always been amazed by how hard she’s worked and her successes.

Stay tuned – Gail and Ali will be featured in future interviews!

 

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