This month, a group of 14 Seidenberg students and staff travelled over 1,000 miles to join 18,000 other attendees at the 2017 Grace Hopper Women in Computing Celebration (GHC) in Orlando, Florida.
With daily opportunities to attend an extensive career fair, interview with top companies, and attend panels on just about any subject you could ask for, the conference was a unique experience for each attendee.
A few of the students were able to join the Anita B. Worker Bees and volunteer for GHC. Seidenberg students and leaders of the women in tech club WIT@Pace Kaitlyn Bestenheider (MS in Information Systems), and Elizabeth Molloy (BS in Information Systems) were a part of the team that kept the official historical records of the event for the GHC.
“It was a great experience to know that our perspective would be a lens for future generations of Women in Technology to experience the 2017 conference,” says Kaitlyn. “I was so grateful to GHC for also linking to my blog on all of their social media profiles.”
The keynote speech that really sparked a fire was Melinda Gates. “I really enjoyed Melinda Gate’s Keynote,” said student Linda Zeng, “She stated that it’s time to recognize everybody discovers their interest in tech at different times in their lives, and listening to that has made me so proud to be at Seidenberg, where non-traditional students can thrive and strive for a tech career with all the resources provided to us at the school.”
Her call to action was to ask every person in the room to inspire or encourage just ten women to join or stay in the technology field. If just 2/3 of all attendees made this their goal, over 120,000 girls and women would be affected. That’s more than all of the computer science graduates expected for this coming May.
A truly humbling and enlightening experience, the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration left its mark on all who attended. Rohana Sosa (BS in Computer Science) summed up the experience perfectly:
“I am forever grateful for Seidenberg providing me with the opportunity to be a Grace Hopper Scholar. The entire experience was amazing,” says Rohana. “It was really fun going to the Icebar to make friends with other GHC ladies from different universities and exchange business cards with executives from companies such as Facebook. I will always remember the laughs, dancing, and fun times I spent with my Seidenberg friends at the career fair, Disney World, and the GHC Friday celebration.”
We already can’t wait for GHC next year. Thanks to Seidenberg student Kaitlyn for this excellent post!
Now in its 22nd year, the Leadership & Service in Technology (LST) award is bigger and better than ever, and this year’s celebration was an unforgettable evening.
On Monday, April 24, 2017, an impressive company of Seidenberg supporters came together as we honored Senior Executive Vice President and CIO at BNY Mellon Suresh Kumar for his pioneering leadership and innovative thinking in transforming finance and technology practices throughout his exceptional career.
BNY Mellon kindly provided the space and the catering for the LST awards at its downtown location. Guests enjoyed appetizers and a full bar during the networking hour before the main event. The room was packed with many of our dearest friends, including Seidenberg alumni, business partners, and friends from the Pace community. It was a warm atmosphere as people greeted old friends they hadn’t seen in a while, made new ones, and shared a fun evening and business cards alike. Seidenberg students were also present to give demonstrations of their projects facilitated by the NYC Design Factory.
When awards time came, guests were seated and Dr. Jonathan Hill, Dean of the Seidenberg School, introduced the first speaker of the night – our student, Niamh Fitzsimon. Niamh is an honors student, vice president of Pace Women in Tech, and resident Googler (she’s interned there twice so far and will do again this summer!).
“Because of you, I have been able to push myself above and beyond what I could imagine,” Niamh said. “You provided me a platform to grow my confidence, network, and skills, and I am extremely grateful for your contributions towards the education of myself and my peers. I am highly honored to share the effect of your donations on my community.”
Following Niamh’s remarks, Lucille Mayer, the Chief Information Officer of Client Experience Delivery at BNY Mellon took to the stage to introduce the keynote speaker. Lucille has worked with the evening’s honoree Suresh Kumar for over 25 years. “Suresh is not only a visionary, as you’ll hear for yourself, but he is also a leader in championing and developing talent,” she said.
Lucille briefly discussed success in the tech industry, including the top tech trends for the year such as augmented reality, which has seen a swift increase in recent years due to the creation of virtual reality headsets and the release of mobile app games like Pokemon Go.
“Success depends upon the user or the client experience of the technology,” she said. “Technology is no longer about being the guy or the woman behind the curtain . . . technology is the business.”
She then introduced the evening’s keynote, Marie Wieck, General Manager at IBM Blockchain. Marie discussed the exponential growth of data and the benefits of diversity.
“Some of the stats in tech right now are quite frankly astonishing,” Marie said. “Think about data. In the last two years we have created more data than we have created as a species in the time period prior.”
She added: “Those people who can mine insights of out that data are the people who are going to accelerate their business.” Data analytics is certainly a burgeoning industry right now as companies scramble to make sense of the immense volume of data that is now collected through websites, social media, and other digital interactions.
Marie also spoke towards greater diversity in the workplace, particularly regarding more women in technology. “What constitutes the best performance you can get?” she asked. “New perspectives that help you see things in a different way and that is fuel for innovation.
“It’s not those who have the highest IQ but those who have the biggest EQ [emotional quotient] . . . and what brings higher EQ? More women.
“When you have three or more women on a board, you begin to get financial results.”
Marie noted that 36% of the Seidenberg School’s student base are women compared to a 20% national average – a statistic we are proud of and are committed to improve.
“You have to teach people the art of the possible . . . 74% of girls are interested in STEM, but only a third of them pursue it,” Marie said. Many of the girls who pursue STEM had mentors, teachers, counselors who pushed them.
“When you think about gender partnership, role models don’t have to be people you know. We also have to advocate for the people you don’t know.”
Marie finished with an inspirational request. “We know Pace is a trailblazer. We know BNY Mellon is a trailblazer . . . mentor a student. Share the opportunity to highlight someone who is doing something exceptional. Give people a voice. Share the wealth.”
After Marie’s keynote, alumni and Seidenberg Advisory Board member, Matthew Knell, introduced the Emerging NYC Innovator Awardee, Sara Chipps. Sara is the CEO of Jewelbots, which produces programmable friendship bracelets that can connect with other bracelets in the surrounding area, enabling wearers to send each other secret messages using code. The bracelets are aimed toward middle-school girls to encourage them to get into STEM education.
As Jonathan Hill remarked after her presentation, “Technology isn’t about selling for top dollar; it’s about giving back in some way.”
Dr. Hill then introduced the honoree of this year’s LST award.
Suresh Kumar is the Senior Executive Vice President and CIO for BNY Mellon, where he is leading the Client Technology Solutions organization to become the industry leader in delivering innovative solutions that enable clients and employees to succeed.
Suresh gave a wonderful presentation with excellent advice for our students and the community overall. His exemplary leadership style was apparent as he spoke: “I’m really privileged every day to work with an amazing group of colleagues all over the world,” he said.
“We all come from different places, different backgrounds, but each of us rely on education to get where we are. And the Pace Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems has long leveled the playing field . . . regardless of gender, ethnic background, and income.”
The LST award honoree went on to talk about how companies should embrace innovation and disruption for great results. Using Amazon as an example of a company that constantly innovates its techniques, offerings, and practices, Suresh warned against remaining stagnant, particularly when your competition does not.
He also had four ‘rules to live by’ (or at least conduct business by).
1 – Focus on execution. Being the best is better than being first
Innovation is important, but means nothing if you have a bad product. Google wasn’t the first search engine, but it was the best when it was released. Doing a phenomenal job is 1% innovation, 99% perspiration.
2 – Evolve your business model
It’s important to keep up with (and create) what people want. Suresh described a period of four phases of how business models have evolved and have to evolve to stay ahead: the arrival of the internet in the mid-90s, the social media revolution in the mid-2000s, collaborative spaces (now) and autonomous working (emerging). Successful business models were platform-based and enabled consumers and providers to get together and create something valuable
3 – Reduce latency between end users and developers
Skype had 27 engineers. What’s App had 33. Instagram had 13. What made them create such a powerful product in such a short period of time? Constant innovation, and enough people on the team!
4 – Organize innovation efforts by service
Unfortunately, the IT department in many companies is still not considered to be the backbone of operations. That said, an emerging model of IT looks promising – teams are small, self-governing, and are empowered to make decisions and make a difference in a large company. When given the freedom to innovate, IT teams can change the whole way an organization works for the better.
We are truly delighted to honor Suresh Kumar and his wonderful work as a leader in technology and in his work with staff at BNY Mellon.
Thank you to Suresh Kumar and BNY Mellon for your contributions to the Seidenberg School and for hosting this year’s LST Award reception, ensuring it was a fantastic night for all.
“The gifts you have provided tonight are much needed,” Jonathan Hill told guests in his closing remarks. “Thank you.”
Our deepest gratitude also goes out to everybody who attended the event and showed their support to the School, whether by buying tickets or donating. Thank you to Lucille Mayer, Marie Wieck, Matthew Knell, and Sarah Chipps. Thanks also go to Deth Sao, our director of development, for her unending commitment to organizing an incredibly successful event.
We look forward to seeing you all again next year!
A team of Seidenberg students and faculty jetted to Tucson, Arizona, for the fourth Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) conference, which took place on March 31-April 2, 2017. Seidenberg students applied for and obtained travel scholarships from Cisco, Facebook, as well as the Pace CyberCorps program in order to attend this event. This year, around 800 cybersecurity including students, academics, and industry professionals attended the conference for technical workshops, career advice sessions, mentoring and networking, inspirational keynote talks, and a career fair. Some of the companies in attendance included Google, Cisco, Facebook, IBM, AT&T, Bank of America, and the U.S. intelligence.
Who was on the Seidenberg School team? Students Norissa Lamaute (MS/CS’17), Siobhan Kiernan (MS/CS’19), Kaitlyn – Kait- Bestenheider (MS/CS’19), Adriana Aluia (BS/IT’17) and Elizabeth – Lizzie- Molloy (BBA/IS’18), as well as faculty Dr. Li-Chiou Chen, Dr. Pauline Mosley, and Andreea Cotoranu attended.
The Seidenberg team wasn’t just at the conference to take it in – they were active participants. On the conference’s GenCyber day, which was filled with activities designed for high school students, the team hosted a Cyber Arcade. The arcade is a set of five challenges: cyber jeopardy, raspberry pi puzzle, cryptography with cipher wheel, mini-drones, and password strength. Seventy-five high-school students and teachers from the Tucson, AZ area attended the arcade, designed and run by Drs. Chen and Mosley with assistance from the entire Seidenberg team.
Seidenberg was also represented on the conference main stage! Norissa Lamaute gave a lightning talk on Musical Cryptography. Norissa’s research implements musical theory to create a consonant cipher that allows for the exchange of secret messages. This project also includes the work of Alexa Piccoli (MS/CS’16) and is advised by Dr. Chen and Andreea Cotoranu.
“The Women in Cybersecurity conference is always a greatly inspiring experience,” said Adriana Aluia. “This is the second year I’ve attended and every time I leave with new friends and connections.”
Kait Bestenheider added that “the opportunity to meet with so many successful women in a field where women make up only 11% of the demographic was simply amazing. While sometimes we might be the only woman in the room, there were almost a thousand of those women in the same room . . . This is a network of women ready to inspire and lead other women to their own success.” Kait covered her experience in her blog, Kait Tech.
Lizzie Molloy also found inspiration at the conference. “My WiCyS experience is something very hard to put into words, not because it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was everything I was expecting and more. […] One of my biggest takeaways from this event was the strong bond I createed with my fellow colleagues. [Together] we realized we can do things we always wanted to do and more. This experience has helped me shape my academic and professional future in many ways. There are more experiences and opportunities available that I never thought were even possible.”
Now that the 2017 WiCyS concluded, we have just started preparing for the 2018 event! We look to continue Seidenberg’s legacy of WiCyS engagement by presenting in the poster session, giving talks and hosting workshops at the 2018 WiCyS in Chicago, IL. If you have an interest in cybersecurity or you are currently working on research projects in cybersecurity, we would like to speak to you. Contact Andreea Cotoranu, Assistant Dean for Academic Innovation (email@example.com) with questions.
Kim Perdikou graduated from Pace with an MS in Information Systems in 1993. She has held positions with companies like Dun & Bradstreet, Reader’s Digest and was the CIO then Executive Vice President at Juniper Networks. She has been the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of iPhotonix, an Optical and SDN company, since April 2015. She is also an Investor and Chairwoman of the Board of REBBL, an herbal beverage company. Kim additionally serves as a Board Director of CyberArk, a technology cyber security company. She is also a member of the Advisory Board for Trunomi, a financial technology company.
She’s also an incredible human rights advocate. As an incredibly accomplished alumna, Kim has had a lot of experience which helped her uncover one of her strongest passions: fighting the global problem of human trafficking. We spoke with Kim about her experiences and unique perspective.
What was your journey to your current position as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors at iPhotonix like?
I had been invited to dinner with a friend in Bermuda and met a young couple who were on holiday. The guy was in a startup and was friends with the CEO of iPhotonix. When the CEO was looking for a new board member, he reached out to me. I joined the board and, when the chairman left (his company was acquired and there was a conflict of interest), the shareholders asked me to be chairwoman. I did say no for about an hour and then they congratulated me! Case closed.
Did you come across unique challenges as a woman in technology?
When I was 5 my mother saw a program on TV about mathematical children who are different and she tried to contain me in that ‘different’ box because I was very into math. What happened was I thought if I am different I am going to be different on my terms!
So I was. One time when my father sold a car at work and came home, he brought a new record player – the first we ever had. My brother and sister sat and watched the record go round and sang to the songs and I sat at the other end of the table, aged 5, counting the money. I did the taxes for my dad’s business when I was 12.
When I discovered there was a glass ceiling, I realized “I’m never going to be a director.” My husband didn’t understand because he’d started his own businesses and done everything he’d wanted. “Don’t be ridiculous, it’s all in your head,” he told me, and even though it isn’t all in your head, he was right: my own behavior was stopping some of my progress, so I had to change my behavior.
I had this very wrong belief that if you worked really hard your boss would recognize it and you’d eventually get a job doing what you really should be doing. That is utter rubbish. You need to know where you want to go, picture it in your head, and talk to people to find out how to get there. Men know exactly where they want to be. Part of the behavior is our own behavior – if you go along with what’s expected of you, you won’t ever break free of those expectations.
I started taking steps to change my behavior. Here’s an example: men talk to each other about sports, so I learned to play golf so I could have a conversation with them. I ended up loving golf so much I didn’t allow business on the golf course! And the men enjoyed playing with me so much it normalized our relationships. That allowed me to be seen as a person, rather than a woman who they couldn’t relate to.
How else did you change your behavior?
I would do things to be helpful that weren’t necessarily part of my job, which would benefit others but not me. For example, a software group was going to be moved to another executive but they didn’t want to move it yet because it was so ‘delicate’. Even though it wasn’t my job, I ended up running it, putting out fires every day, but the other executive was the one getting paid and promoted.
One night, I was complaining about it to my friend and I’ll never forget what she said to me. She told me I was the problem. Because I was the one doing it. I had not set any boundaries. I was the one who was doing work outside my job that someone else was getting rewarded for. I wasn’t very happy to hear it, but she was right. Once I got past how I felt about her ‘advice’, I went into work and asked for a conversation where I told them that, with all the extra work, I’m not focused on the things I should be, and so I’d like to move the software group – and the date I’m going to do it is April X. They said “we can’t do that to this guy!” and I replied “they are moving the only decision to be made is who they will report to.”
Breaking the mold is key
Everybody who is not happy in their careers blames “my boss, my this, my that,” but it’s up to them to change their situations.
You will not change what other people do, but you can change how you behave, how you react, and where you want to go.
If you want a job, you have to ask for it. Don’t sit back and wait for someone to recognize your talents. Ask for promotions in a non-confrontational way without time pressure. And don’t start doing the job until it’s actually yours.
When going for a promotion or new job, I learned that talented executives would outline a plan of what they were going to do and wouldn’t actually do it until they had the job and budget to accomplish it. Once I started to learn how people did things at the executive level I became a lot more prepared. I would have a list of things I would do and things I would not do. And I would stick with it.
Tell us about your work with REBBL and Slavery is Over? Why is it important to you?
Juniper Foundation built a relationship with Not for Sale (NFS), which is an innovative not-for-profit to re-abolish slavery. When I learned that there are more slaves in the world today than when slavery was first abolished I knew something different had to be done to solve it.
My friend Dave Batstone, Founder of NFS, had the idea of creating companies in the most economically challenged areas, where people who are the most vulnerable to slavery live, in order to address the supply chain and change the economics of the area.
There are so many vulnerable people in the world. They are vulnerable because they are so poor: there are no jobs, no money to be made, so when somebody shows up in their village promising them jobs and money overseas they jump at the chance.
They are told they will be given passports and work visas and that they can work in the USA or UK and make enough to send back home to support their families. Of course they jump at that. But when they arrive in a foreign country with only the person who brought them, they are threatened and told they have to pay everything back at an extortionate price. They are also told they are in the new country illegally, so they are forced into prostitution and other slavery and have to work 24/7 to pay off debts that will never get paid.
Dave’s idea was to disrupt the whole supply chain so that people never got into the position where they were so desperate that they would agree to leave their villages, with these people, in the first place. So several companies that were mainly dependent on labor in those villages were created. We wanted to create jobs with dignity, so looked for reasons and valuable commodities a company could use from the area to create business in specific locations.
Dave had a Montara Circle meeting of business, sports and government people to brainstorm ideas in 24 hours. They looked at the Peruvian Amazon where there are villages where whole families are indentured to collecting minerals used in the U.S. car industry. So we looked for something indigenous to the area that was also unique to the area and could be used for business. We discovered an herb called cat’s claw. We ended up creating REBBL, a beverage company that creates drinks from cat’s claw and other indigenous ingredients. The product is very good – and that is important for financially successful businesses. But the true difference is the impact of a clean dignified supply chain created which can give back to fund the next set of businesses. 2.5% of REBBL’s revenue is donated to creating new businesses, so the whole network feeds itself.
You can change the world. The way to do it in any sustainable fashion is the same as anywhere else: through economics.
This is the third in a three part post covering the Judy Spitz’s incredible interview with Seidenberg student Niamh Fitzsimon. The event is the first in a series featuring previous winners of our prestigious Leadership and Service in Technology (LST) award.
The event was rounded off with a brief Q&A session. Judy had excellent responses for our students, such as Ava Posner’s (BS in IT) question about her motivation for making a path for women.
“In my opinion, the technology field NEEDS us,” Judy replied. “It’s proven that in teams with more diversity you get better results. Women control the majority of purchasing power around the world. With product developers being mostly men, we may not be getting the best product ideas.”
Another question was about the hardest hurdle Judy has come up against. She immediately demonstrated her finesse with her first step to success – being able to tell a good story.
“At one point in my career, I oversaw the organization that delivered software to the networking engineering organization within Verizon. The network organization is the engine room in a company. The guys- all guys – who ran that organization were all engineers from the south. These were guys who were working for the phone companies their whole lives. They were older than me and they were true blue engineers. Well, in walks Judt Spitz with her PhD! I didn’t know anything about engineering or networking and I was supposed to be the partner that helped deliver the software. They had no interest in working with me. It took me a long time to figure out how to get past that.
“What I ultimately did was I brought my entourage with me – a group of people who knew me and liked me and supported me. We went to meetings and there I was surrounded by these guys who WERE comfortable with me. There’s two things you can say in this kind of situation, which are ‘gosh darnit you’re going to GET comfortable with me’, or you can say ‘what can I do to make you comfortable?’ Because the end goal is not about me, it’s about getting the software delivered. I’m being paid to deliver the software that the organization wants – remember, it’s not about you, it’s about whatever you need to accomplish. Over time, they began to realize I did have some skills – not necessarily in engineering, but about management, delivering software on time; the type of thing that makes their lives easier.”
Another question came back to women in technology. One of our students, Kendra Jackman, asked if Judy had thoughts on why fewer women are interested in tech careers, or why they choose not to pursue them.
“The lack of women in technology is not universal,” Judy said, indicating that the issue of so few women pursuing computing careers is not replicated in other countries. “I don’t think there’s anything different genetically between women here and in the rest of the world. It’s cultural. There are a lot of disincentives and cultural bias. In the 90s, when personal computers came into the house, it was assumed to be a toy for the boys: they took them apart, gamed on them, games were created for boys, and it was around then that women started to be less interested in technology and computer science. Once it gets going, it perpetuates itself. When you think about role models in technology, who do you think of? Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates: it becomes a stereotype. When you’re a female student and you peek into the Intro to Computer Science class and all you see is men, you think ‘I don’t see anyone like me’. And there are all kinds of unconscious things that go on in those classrooms. Guys don’t want you on their teams, they’ve been hacking longer than you, they don’t think you’re as good as them.”
Judy’s solution to the problem is simple: “The more women in computer science, the more women in computer science. As you get more women into the classroom in computer science, the classroom culture starts to change. The more the culture changes, the more women in the classes. I think the most effective you can do is require every undergraduate to take an Intro to Computer Science class and make that class fun.”
Finally, Judy rounded off the session by answering a question about leadership. “The most important thing about leadership is to understand that it’s a relationship. It’s a relationship between you and the people you want to follow you. It’s about them, not you.
“Make sure you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Don’t think the key to success is to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t have to be the smartest, you have to be the person who can assemble the best team.”
Judy’s last remark was to advise everyone to surround themselves by leaders who act the way described above as they will learn from their habits.
The event was closed off with a raffle for a $100 gift card, which was won by student Rachel Gonzalez – congrats, Rachel! Coffee’s on you, right?
Welcome back! This is the second part of Judy Spitz’s incredible interview with Seidenberg student Niamh Fitzsimon. The event is the first in a series featuring previous winners of our prestigious Leadership and Service in Technology (LST) award.
One of the topics that kept reoccurring during Niamh’s interview with Judy is something very close to our heart at the Seidenberg School: women in technology. Niamh herself is Vice President of the student organization Pace Women in Tech. She asked whether Judy found that being a woman ever played a part in how she worked with her teams.
“No, it never changed anything that I did, one way or the other. I will say that there’s all this data that shows that women feel like they need to meet 120% of the job requirements to apply for the job. Men are in the 50-60% range. Don’t look at job ads and say oh I can’t do that part I shouldn’t apply for it. Men look and say ‘oh, I can do most of those things’ and that’s plenty.
“Once, early in my career, I got called into the senior executive’s office and he said ‘I want to give you this job’. I said to him ‘I’m not sure that I’m qualified for that job’. He looked at me like I had three heads. I’m not sure he’d ever had anyone in that office he’d offered a promotion to who said no, thanks. The lesson is that if someone who knows you thinks you’re qualified for a job, you probably are.”
Judy went on to tell the audience to trust themselves more. “Your instincts are usually the right instincts.”
While on the topic of women in tech, Judy took some time to talk about how WiTNY came to be.
“The number of jobs in the technology industry has gone up but the number of women participating has gone down. During my time at Verizon, I became alarmed at the small amount of women coming up behind me. Who was going to be the next CIO? I got the WiTNY program going, a 5 year initiative to get more women studying STEM.”
The Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York, or WiTNY initiative, aims to significantly increase the participation of women in STEM fields in the New York market. Through strategic initiatives, WiTNY mainly works on enabling high school girls preparing for college to focus on STEM paths and secure rewarding and lucrative careers within the tech field.
As an institution with our own Women in Technology initiatives, like STEM Women Achieve Greatness (SWAG) and Pace Women in Tech, we think WiTNY is a wonderful, extremely valuable project.