“Lead by example” advice from the women in the SAP Champion & Mentor Programs
Ada Lovelace is recognized as the world’s first computer programmer and how wonderfully appropriate that she has a day named in her honor.
Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration of the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering, and math’s (STEM). It was founded in 2009 and held every year on the second Tuesday of October to encourage more girls to go into these fields. 
This special day recognizes Ada Lovelace’s [1815 – 1851} achievements, as an English mathematician, who created the prototype of the first computer program to generate Bernoulli Numbers, and was amongst the first to foresee the creative potential of the engine. 
Her vision was unmatched by her peers and unrecognized for many years.
To share in the inspiration of ALD, one only needs to consider that children learn best by example and in fact, so do most adults.
So, in the quest to learn more… I reached out to the amazing women within the SAP Champion & SAP Mentor programs with a few questions about how they got into technology and their advice to our young, upcoming powerful women.
Stacey Fish: Did you always know you wanted to work in technology?
Tammy Powlas: Not always, but I was intrigued when I was in Junior High. I checked out a book at the library that featured a system analyst (who happened to be a woman) looking over green bar dot matrix paper. I have my dream job now as a senior business analyst.
Sue Keohan: To me, learning to program was like taking some things I already knew I loved, like foreign languages and mystery novels, and putting it all together in one package. I could learn a programming language and solve the mystery of how to make this thing do what I needed. I was never a math geek or science geek in school, so the fact that I felt so passionately about computer programming was very surprising to me and to those who knew me well.
Heather Hill: Not at all. I started my career in accounting but found a love for building reports and finding insights. I used to customize reports to get the info I needed which is where I found my love for data and the ability to find wisdom that can create an impact for a company.
Michelle Crapo: Yes, but I didn’t always believe that it was an option. When I was in High School there wasn’t an internet. There were typing classes. Then there was one class for “BASIC” programming. You had to have excellent math grades to qualify for that class. Once I set behind that green screen and typed in my first command I was hooked. I could create something. With just lines of code, I could make something happen. Just by using simple math (at the time) it was amazing to me. It was a bit like magic. Back then I believe it was a class of 20+ people. I was the only young lady in the class.
Stacey: What advice would you give to girls and women who want to pursue a career in tech?
- Contribute to the community. You learn more by paying it forward. I think it is noble to contribute. Freely share knowledge, present at events, share your insights via blogs and social media
- Try to obtain internships. I have met many great people when I was an intern and also those who served in internships
- Perform volunteer work – you learn by giving back!
Michelle: There are women who are already here. We love what we do and would be happy to help you. If possible, find a mentor. Take a trip around the internet to see what is out there. It’s no longer just a career in tech. You have to decide how deep into the code level you want to go. Do you want to start your job focusing on interfaces, backend development, frontend development, or something low code?
Once you know that you can go on to pick what language you want to learn. Then start searching for some actual examples, some forums, some places where they could do a quick overview to make sure it is a right fit for them. Jump into it with your whole heart. Try not to doubt yourself if you can note figure something out, get help. It never hurts to ask.
Sue: I wish I had some global wisdom to offer; some piece of info that would enable all people, including, but not limited to women, to achieve what they want to in the tech space. I don’t!
But that is one thing that makes the SAP Community so great – there are so many points of view, so many people who are willing to help from such diverse backgrounds. You never know where or how you will get your next light bulb moment, but it could easily be here.
Danielle: The key to success for me is to “treat everyone the same.” I see people who give a different level of attention or priority based on their perceived assumption of a person’s level of importance or title.
Stacey: What career advice would you give your younger self?
Tammy: I would remember kindness in the workplace; the saying “I’d rather be kind than right” goes a long way. Also remember the saying “what you think of me is none of my business.” At the end of any interview ask, “Is there anything about me or my background that wouldn’t make me a good fit for this position?” Only once after asking this question, I didn’t receive a job offer. It works!
Allie Trzaska: As great and important as it is to have a plan, sometimes things go awry and it’s okay to try something new!
Michelle: Computers will not be all programmed by the time you get out of college. When I was in High School that is what my advisor told me. There will be times when you wonder if you made the right career choice. If you enjoy what you are doing, don’t let anything or any one person stop you. Remember to ask for help when it is needed. Learn from your errors. It’s fine if you don’t get 100% of everything correct – that is an impossible goal. You can be your normal shy self, that’s all right. You can also speak and present things. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll be able to do.
Stacey: Why is it so important to attract and retain women in technology leadership positions?
Michelle: Attract and retain – Is this any different from men to women? I don’t really think so. Things are now at the most flexible they’ve been since I’ve started my career. Offer things like working from home when possible. A four-day work week can be attractive.
Compliment a job well done. Listen to suggestions with an open mind. Be aware that each person will bring their own viewpoint to look at a problem. Think about each idea as if it is something worth your time. Any good employee will leave if they don’t feel appreciated.
Future missed opportunity – fewer young women will not move into the technology realm without some good role models. Some very strong leaders would be in other careers.
Tammy: I don’t think you attract diversity of ideas if everything is the same. Diverse teams get along better and produce better results, based on my many years of experience.
Heather: I started my career in technology over 10 years ago working in male dominated industries. It was very isolating. It only takes one woman to start the inclusion. Once there’s one woman leader then it encourages others. In addition, stats have been published in recent years that having diversity in leadership increases revenue.
On the side of retention, I feel that is a bigger topic. The culture of an organization must be inclusive to retain great talent whether for women or others. An organization can’t only publish a metric to meet a diversity goal and not create the culture shift within their organization. This is key to attracting and retaining diverse talent.
What inspires you when you think about Ada Lovelace Day?
Please share your comments below to the questions asked above.
- On Being a Woman in Tech, Sue Keohan
- SAP Women in Tech & FemaleOneZero Fireside Chat: The Rise of Women in STEM in India & Nepal, Sarah Borda
- SAP Women in Tech. Our 2021 Growth, Sarah Borda
- Lets Celebrate Womens Equality, Michael Ameling
Conquer the World – SAP Collaborations with organizations such as:
- the UN EQUALS program
- Grace Hopper Opensource event
- Through Girls Power Tech
- WiDS Silicon Valley @SAP