In the days leading up to International Women’s Day, I had the good fortune of interviewing several fabulous women on FreeWheel’s leadership team. These dynamic engineers, product experts, sales leaders, services pros, and marketers are part of a global community of strong, smart women that empower our clients with the technology at the center of the New TV Ecosystem. In our first installment, several colleagues candidly share their story of origins – the inspirations behind their chosen career path, what drew them to FreeWheel, and their unique perspectives on what it means to be a woman in the technology industry. Read on to hear how they’re encouraging all of us to be stronger, together.
What inspired you to take on a role in the tech industry?
My dad influenced my decision to follow a path in technology even though he passed away when I was very young. One thing I remembered him saying—‘you are my daughter and can do anything you want to do to be successful.’ My dad gave me the confidence to take on a course of study that many women weren’t following—and excel. Today, as a parent of a young girl, it’s now my duty to help my own daughter believe in herself. — Diane Yu, Co-Founder and CTO
Back in high school, I excelled in math and science and found liberal arts courses very frustrating. It was clear that following the path of science and engineering was the right direction for me. When it was time to pick which field of engineering to follow, the dot-com boom was in full force—it was exciting and I wanted to be part of it — Paige Bilins, SVP, Product Management
It never was an intentional choice to get into technology, but it fits me. It was an exciting challenge coming to FreeWheel nine years ago when the company was brand new. I was the second account manager at the company. We had nothing figured out—every day was a new learning opportunity, the chance to roll up my sleeves and dig into the technology. — Evan Baldridge, VP, Client Services, Development and Planning
After law school and completing the bar exam, I knew I wanted to leverage my law degree in a way that was different than the typical practice of law. I had a little experience in tech post-undergrad working for an enterprise technology company as a junior sales person. It was my first intro to sales and to tech. And so I found myself at FreeWheel because it gave me the opportunity to combine my diverse skills and background. — Katie Back, VP, Enterprise Sales
My interest in tech started very early. When I was a child, a woman watched me along with another boy who was very focused on technology. At six-years-old he was already developing on an old computer and that was always very interesting to me. Honestly, he was a huge influence. —– Emilie Brulebeaux, SVP, Client Services
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a role in tech?
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is just because you are the only girl doesn’t mean you aren’t the smartest person in the room. — Paige Bilins, SVP, Product Management
It’s one of the best industries to be in, man or woman. As a woman, take on any opportunity offered and know you can do it. Even if lots of men are around you, be the exception to the rule. — Julie Selman, Senior Regional Director, EMEA Demand
Be your biggest advocate. Ask for mentorship. Even when companies don’t have dedicated mentorship programs in place, find people you look up to and an environment that’s supportive. At the end of the day, you need to feel proud of your work and what you are building. — Amy Pisano, VP, Enterprise Development
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is a complex industry that changes every day and if you don’t love that, you are in the wrong field. You must be inquisitive. Your power comes from a fearless quest for knowledge. — Julie Van Ullen, VP, Publisher Development and Account Management, Markets
Go for it. There isn’t a more exciting industry you could work in as long as you’re curious about everything. You’ll be working in an industry that changes the way we live, and I think there’s no greater challenge. — Marie Giesbert, VP, Marketing
Companies need to provide an environment that enables all employees to thrive. Look at the company you want to work for and then also look at the team, the environment and the culture. Identify with a company that puts in extra effort and a higher level of awareness—that will lead to fair opportunity and help you grow. And ideally look for a company with a woman in the leadership team, or at the very least being very vocal in their support of all their employees. — Diane Yu, Co-Founder and CTO
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
As your career changes, your choices change. In the early days of my career I didn’t think about life/work balance much. I was young with a lot of energy. I enjoyed my work and think it’s perfectly fine to work all the time if you love it—it’s important to feel a sense of achievement. Once you have a family, what you enjoy might change. I don’t believe in work/life balance just for the sake of having it. Not everyone has to run 120% all the time. — Diane Yu, Co-Founder and CTO
I don’t always maintain. There are weeks I feel like the best mom and best employee in the world and then there are those tough weeks where I drop the ball on one front or the other, and I have to be OK with that. The team that surrounds me both at home and at work—I trust them completely. I know they will always deliver for me and we take care of each other. — Amy Pisano, VP, Enterprise Development
More than ever I realize that you can’t get everything done in one day and you need to take time out for yourself to take a yoga class and go out with friends. You need to charge your own batteries to be productive at work. — Megan Baker, VP, Services
Some weeks I do it well, other weeks I do it very badly. I have two young children (ages 2 and 4). It’s important to try to find flexibility where you can and leverage the many tools we have these days to be connected (both to home and work) so you can get the work done and still be present with your family. — Julie Selman, Senior Regional Director, EMEA Demand
As much as I give my heart and soul to FreeWheel, it’s important to find moderations. I try to help my team to find balance as well. FreeWheel has always supported that people have a life outside the office. As Doug Knopper, Co-Founder and CEO, always says: your life and family should come first. He has lived by this motto with me and other FreeWheelers over the years. — Evan Baldridge, VP, Client Services, Development and Planning
What makes FreeWheel an attractive employer for women?
The tech industry is an important choice for women, and it’s great that there are so many women at FreeWheel. When I joined StickyADS.tv, I was one of few women. But all it takes are a few women to help change a male-dominated culture. At FreeWheel it’s great to see so many female leaders. I really enjoy the time I have spent so far with my new peers. — Emilie Brulebeaux, SVP, Client Services
There are so many strong women at FreeWheel – and we are very good at supporting one another and giving each other recognition. All of us have made a concerted effort to look at women candidates during the hiring process which has definitely resulted in an uptick in potential female candidates. — Megan Baker, VP, Services
The company is attractive to women precisely because there are no distinctions between males and females. You’re not being evaluated on your gender, only your performance counts. That’s pure equality. — Marie Giesbert, VP, Marketing
When you see other women excelling in your workplace it gives you confidence that you can succeed as well. If you go to a company and all you see are male leaders, it can be defeating. It also helps that I actually like coming to the office. — Katie Back, VP, Enterprise Sales
The women here, including Co-Founder and CTO, Diane Yu, are brilliant women, as is everyone. This is a company of intelligent people building an industry together and that’s how we see one another. I am proud to work for an organization that has so many impressive women in key leadership roles. — Julie Van Ullen, VP, Publisher Development and Account Management, Markets
Beyond their experience and insights, these amazing women are united in their passion for the tech industry and how we need to lift each other up to affect even more change – not just ourselves, but for the next generation of leaders and difference makers.
Stay tuned next week for our second installment.