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08 March 2018

Build bridges that don’t fall down

Zoë Rose (Alumni)

Zoë Rose (Alumni)
Consultant | Technology transformation | London

This week I interviewed Susie Wee, the Vice President and CTO of Cisco DevNet and DevNet Create, during the Cisco Champion Radio. She is brilliant!

Please listen to the recording here, while I summarise key points that stood out to me, nothing compares to listening to it first-hand.

This Cisco Champion Radio episode was themed to highlight one brilliant woman in technology in honour of #InternationalWomensDay. Susie told us what the best thing about being a woman in technology is, being unforgettable. It comes with the territory. Her two most inspirational leadership role models were:

  1. Her father, who always wanted to be an Engineer, but pursued the medical field for financial reasons
  2. Her thesis advisor, William F. Schreiber. Susie was Dr. Schreiber’s first female PhD graduate and taught her to keep evolving in her career - while theoretical research is important, practical hands on experience will make a bigger impact.

Susie talked about our jobs being not to progress ourselves in a small box alone but to progress society; build bridges that will not fall down.

Dr Schreiber advised her “Every 10 years in your career you get to do one big thing”, and he truly lived by this in his career. Susie is no stranger to achieving big things. Her achievements include:

  • Founding DevNet, the development community for infrastructure and application developers
  • In less than 3 years being able to grow the community to more than 400,000 developers
  • Joining an ice hockey team, working at it for 10 years and becoming the best player.

If you know me, you know I'm quite vocal about what being a leader means. Susie was able to condense this down to two points:

  1. Be authentic - If you really believe in your mission, your team, and the people you are helping, then you're going to be able to do more. Being authentic, to Susie, is helping others to be themselves, truly understand who they are and what they ultimately want to achieve.
  2. Be a coach – Develop an environment that encourages teamwork. Effectively working together can build something bigger than ourselves. Being a part of something bigger is what motivates Susie.

Whilst it sounds like a silly thing to ask, we still enquired, would she recommend technology careers to other women and/or girls? Unsurprisingly her answer was “Yes! 200%!” There's a myth about technology careers, that if you're a computer person you sit alone in a basement staring at a screen all day. This simply is not true, both Susie, and I can confirm, our job, as technological specialists, is to work with people, build teams, and create solutions that make our lives better.

Finally, I asked, what can we do to support other women coming into technology careers; we being humans, not simply women. Susie laughed and said actually her leadership team is more than half women. How did this happen? By hiring the right person for the position, she said. Susie does not set quotas, she does not give points to men or women differently, Susie values skill, capability, and passion.

It is sometimes true that women struggle with fighting for themselves, or with standing up and saying, wait I can do this better. Susie encourages us to take a moment, understand our people, and recognise when they may need a bit of additional support to gain that inner strength that she's worked so hard to achieve; basically, be kind, and hire good people.

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