Ohana Conversations continues with our next featured guest, Ali Hromis. Ali currently works at Salesforce as a Release Manager, but shares her story of her career trajectory and the opportunities she’s taken advantage of.
How did you first become interested in technology?
I studied marketing in school and had internships in marketing and sports management at the same time, but I wasn’t jazzed about it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be challenged. My first job was with Apparatus, an infrastructure company. That was where I first started being around technology and learned what it took to go into it. I realized that being in technology wasn’t just coding.
How did your career begin?
I was a part of a rotational program through Orr Fellowship at Apparatus. My first rotation was in marketing, so it allowed me to experience and confirm that it wasn’t the path for me. The second rotation was as an operations specialist and through interfacing with clients, I was able to understand what their problems were and how process and efficiency played into consulting. My mind is process-oriented which led me into software development.
What are some struggles and advantages for women in technology?
Naturally, when people see women, they don’t think of them as technical resources. That’s a challenge in and of itself, whether it’s a conscious or unconscious bias. Women are growing up around things that aren’t as technical and aren’t being taught technical skills. Boys get the Legos and building blocks, and the girls get the dresses and jewelry. Dresses and jewelry aren’t exposing them to the engineering and technical concepts that they need to develop. Even before we get to the workplace we’re a step behind.
I have a brother, and growing up, when the lawnmower needed to be fixed, I was never asked to help fix it. I have a wonderful relationship with my dad, and I love him to death, but by the time my brothers were in high school they were able to fix the lawnmower. My dad didn’t think I would be interested in that. That put me at a disadvantage very early. Growing up, we’re not naturally positioned in a way that will make folks think we’re fit for this field.
As far as advantages go, I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve been very passionate. This is true of all the women on the board of Women in Hi Tech.
If you have the passion, drive and are willing to put in the work to catch up, people will run with that. They will say “How do we get you in front of people?”
How can you inspire that passion in others? I haven’t seen that kind of passion and fire in some of my male counterparts, or it hasn’t taken them as far. If you can really embody it and really understand it and move the whole initiative forward, people will typically support you in that.
Do you have any advice for women pursuing a career in technology?
I have so much advice…
Don’t get discouraged. I’ve had so many jobs, but not all of them were the right fit. And not all of the cultures were the right fit. I found myself in some challenging places that I just wasn’t for. No matter what, don’t get discouraged.
Stay confident, stay positive and always make yourself an asset. These aren’t technical concepts, but for me they’re a foundation of what keeps me going forward.
I don’t have to know code, I don’t have to know specific language, but I have to know how to always be an asset.
There’s always going be the question – am I smart enough? The answer is yes and give yourself time. Meet up with people and talk. Think, ”what can I do?”.
Figure out how you want to people to see you. For me, one of my biggest things is being helpful. If there are opportunities that don’t contribute to the core you, just focus on who you really want to be. Let the other stuff fall to the side.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. I was talking to somebody a few years ago and they said, “you can’t do everything, or you’ll be good at nothing.” In Indianapolis you have so many great organizations that have a lot of excitement behind them, and you have to be selective to really hit it out of the ballpark.
Who is someone you look up to and why?
Rosanne Burge – I met Rosanne when I was at Apparatus. She’s been somebody that I’ve worked with a couple times and looked up to throughout my whole career. She’s firm, fair and friendly – if you’re going to be a leader, be like that. She commands respect but in a very approachable way. That’s a very tricky balance to find. She’s very strong and bright and has this great ability to lead people .She has a mentorship approach.
Darcy Lee – Darcy is the current president of Women in Hi Tech. She has a very traditional background – she’s a female in STEM who studied chemistry and biology. Now, Darcy directs creative writers, is a mom, and is incredibly well-rounded. She has a unique ability to make people feel comfortable in their own skin. Darcy is one of my personal mentors, and she can sense when I’m doubting or challenging myself a little too hard and gives me the reassurance to keep going.
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