LST Honoree Speaker Series: Judy Spitz, Part III

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.

Part one

Part two

Tickets for the LST Awards in April are available now!

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?

This was the first event in our three-event series, with the next taking place on March 22nd with Nicholas Donofrio, IBM Fellow Emeritus (Ret.) IBM Executive Vice President, Innovation and Technology, on our Westchester campus. The final event will be an interview with Austin A. Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer (Ret.), JPMorgan Chase, at our NYC campus on April 19th.

The LST Honoree Speaker Series is part of a run up to our annual benefit, the Leadership and Service in Technology Awards. Tickets are available now!

Thank you so much to Judy Spitz for an unforgettable day!

LST Honoree Speaker Series: Judy Spitz, Part II

See the first part of this interview here!

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.

Tickets for the LST Awards in April are available now!

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.

Head to part 3 of Judy Spitz’s amazing interview here!

This was the first event in our three-event series, with the next taking place on March 22nd with Nicholas Donofrio, IBM Fellow Emeritus (Ret.) IBM Executive Vice President, Innovation and Technology, on our Westchester campus. The final event will be an interview with Austin A. Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer (Ret.), JPMorgan Chase, at our NYC campus on April 19th.

The LST Honoree Speaker Series is part of a run up to our annual benefit, the Leadership and Service in Technology Awards. Tickets are available now!

Part 3

LST Honoree Speaker Series kicks off on International Women’s Day with Judy Spitz

Although it wasn’t planned, the fact that the first of our LST Honoree Speaker Series fell on International Women’s Day was serendipitous to say the least. The event was part of a run-up to the Leadership and Service in Technology (LST) Awards, an annual benefit for the Seidenberg School during which we celebrate outstanding individuals who best exemplify leadership and innovation in the tech field. This year’s award will be going to Suresh Kumar, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at BNY Mellon. Tickets can be purchased at various levels for this fantastic opportunity to attend the reception, network with industry professionals and alumni, and support the Seidenberg School.

Judy Spitz is the Founding Program Directory of the Initiative for Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY). She received the LST award in 2012, when she was the Senior Vice President and CIO at Verizon. On Wednesday March 8, a crowd of over 100 students, alums, and friends from the Pace community got to hear an incredible interview where Judy shared the wisdom she has collected over an eventful career.

The event was introduced by Seidenberg advisory board member, Helen Altshuler, a senior engineering leader at Google, who remarked that “progressing in technology and making strides is a common goal for women and for men. The more people we can bring into this conversation, the more we can progress as a community.”

Progress was a key theme of the event. As Seidenberg student Niamh Fitzsimon opened the interview by asking about Judy’s career and advice for success, it quickly became clear that being open to different paths of progress is crucial.

“Don’t be so tunnel visioned,” Judy cautioned. “While you’re en route to doing what you want to do, there will be opportunities that come onto your radar and the key is not to be too rigid about whether it meets your checklist; whether you think it’s the right move. It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder. This idea where you’re going to get the next job then the next and the next in a linear fashion – that’s not going to happen. In a jungle gym, there are lots of different ways to get to one place. If some paths opens to you, move in that direction. You might end up having to turn back, but you’ll have learned something along the way.”

Words many of our extremely driven, motivated students needed to hear. When you are so focused on following a strict career path to get to where you want to be, you could become blinded to opportunities that offer an alternative route to the end goal – or even ones that take you somewhere else entirely, somewhere that ends up better than your original plan.

Judy also outlined her 5 steps to success. Given the 8 step plan offered by Amtrak CIO Jason Molfetas during his Big Data Innovator talk last fall, perhaps the first and foremost step should be “Come up with a list of steps”!

Judy Spitz’s 5 Steps to Success

1. Be a great storyteller

“It doesn’t matter where you are in your career,” Judy said, “Whether you’re at the beginning and you need talk to the people you work for about what you are doing and why it matters, or you’re middle management and it’s about collaboration with your peers, or whether you’re in a leadership potion and you need to motivate the people you expect to follow along, you’ve got to be able to tell a great story.

“Storytelling has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You get better by thinking about it ahead of time, finding a hook; that hook is how people follow along. And rehearse your story. There has never been one time when I’ve had to stand up and give a presentation when I haven’t rehearsed it beforehand, out loud. Just standing there and reading what you think you want to say is a cognitive process. If you just practice in your room beforehand, I guarantee you will fumble it.”

2. Think non-linearly but execute in a linear fashion

“See both the forest and the trees: you have to be able to stand back and get the big picture so you can get an idea of what matters and what doesn’t,” Judy said. By seeing the big picture, you learn which smaller parts are the most important and can execute tasks in a way that makes sense on both the minute and grand levels.

“However, you also have to be the kind of person who can go down to the minute letter and actually do the work.”

3. Have passion

“Passion is what drives you to go to work when you have reasons not to.”

4. Be accountable

“Don’t ask yourself ‘did I do what I was supposed to do?‘, but ask whether the project did what it was supposed to do. If you just think about your own performance, you’ll never get promoted. Ask people what you can do to help them.”

5. Have humility

“It’s never about you.” As close as you can get to a project, sometimes the decision you want to make isn’t always the right one for the project. Remember that it’s not about you, it’s about the work.

Continue reading part 2 of Judy Spitz’s interview here!

This was the first event in our three-event series, with the next taking place on March 22nd with Nicholas Donofrio, IBM Fellow Emeritus (Ret.) IBM Executive Vice President, Innovation and Technology, on our Westchester campus. The final event will be an interview with Austin A. Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer (Ret.), JPMorgan Chase, at our NYC campus on April 19th.

The LST Honoree Speaker Series is part of a run up to our annual benefit, the Leadership and Service in Technology Awards. Tickets are available now!

Part 2

LST Honoree Speaker Series brings award winners to Pace

A special event series will take place during March and April. The LST Honoree Speaker Series will bring past winners of the prestigious Leadership and Service in Technology (LST) award back to Pace University for a set of lunch and learn events that should be on everybody’s calendar.

Each event takes place on a Wednesday from 12-1:30pm.

As well as getting the opportunity to learn from a set of remarkable trailblazers in the field of technology, attendees will enjoy a free gourmet lunch, free swag, networking with industry leaders and experts, as well as Pace alumni and fellow students, and the chance to win $100 in a raffle!

Register for events below!

March 8 – Judy Spitz, LST Honoree

Founding Program Director: Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY), Cornell Tech

RSVP for Judy Spitz here

March 22 – Nicholas Donofrio, LST Honoree

IBM Fellow Emeritus (Ret.) IBM Executive Vice President, Innovation and Technology

RSVP for Nicholas Donofrio here

April 19 – Austin A. Adams, LST Honoree

Moderated by Mike Zbranak, Managing Director Deputy Chief Information Officer, Chase Consumer & Community Banking, JPMorgan Chase

Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer (Ret.), JPMorgan Chase

RSVP for Austin A. Adams here

The series is part of an exciting run-up to this year’s LST Awards Ceremony, which takes place in May. This year, Senior Executive VP and CIO of BNY Mellon, Suresh Kumar, will be recognized for his innovation within the tech field. The ceremony is a fantastic opportunity to network with professionals and Seidenberg alumni working within the technology industry.

Seidenberg alumna Lynne Marino (MS-IS ’92) gives an incredible gift: life

Lynne Marino MS-IS 93)
Lynne Marino (MS in IS ’92)

Lynne Boyles Marino graduated from the Seidenberg School in the class of ’92 with her Master’s in Information Systems. Not only has Lynne’s career since then been amazing, but she recently gave a friend an incredible gift: a kidney.

Lynne’s career has spanned working in the telecommunications and finance services industries, including working at IBM and AT&T, but it’s clear what the most rewarding thing she’s ever done is – something that, when she speaks about it, there is resounding passion in her voice.

“What I hope to do,” says Lynne, “is to inspire somebody else to be a donor.”

Just last year, Lynne underwent surgery to remove her kidney so it could be transplanted into another person. The other person was a friend and previous employee that Lynne hadn’t seen in 20 years.

But Lynne wasn’t worried about donating something so significant to someone she hadn’t seen for a long time: “She had worked for me 20 years ago and was a fantastic employee. I knew from then that she was very diligent and always followed the rules; Whatever the doctors told her to do, she would do it. We recently had a reunion and she flew from Kentucky to White Plains visit me – she has a timer on her phone that tells her when to take her anti-rejection pills.  So it looks like nothing has changed.”

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Lynne with recipient Tamara in a pre-op meeting

When Lynne heard that her friend was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder that runs through her family, she knew she wanted to help. The recipient and her insurance provider covered all of the costs, so all Lynne had to do was undergo several tests, keep herself in good health, and prepare mentally for the procedure. Was she afraid? Surprisingly, no. “I felt like it was really going to be fine. Nothing was going to happen. They take really good care of the donor and put you on a wellness floor afterwards, so recovery is as painless as possible.”

Recovery is also short – just six weeks, and Lynne was back in the office after two! “I love my job!” she laughs. Like a lot of our alumni, Lynne works in finance, and even though she wasn’t able to lift anything over 10lbs during recovery, she was eager to return to work.

The recipient of Lynne’s kidney now has a clean bill of health, which is exactly what’s so wonderful about organ donation. When Lynne speaks about it, she is powerful, persuasive, and passionate. “It’s a big benefit for me to be able to say ‘Hey, this is the best gift I’ve ever given!’”

Donating a kidney is an incredible gift. At any given time, around 120,000 people are on the donor list waiting for a kidney and 15 people die every day while waiting.

Lynne with her surgeon after being cleared to go home
Lynne with her surgeon after being cleared to go home

There are many policies in place that exist to help out donors. For example, if you donate your kidney and one day in the future need a new kidney yourself, you go straight to the top of the list. Also, say a child had a disease that meant he would one day need a kidney, and his grandmother wanted to donate but it wasn’t yet needed (and when it was, she may not be around anymore), she could donate to a stranger and, when the time came for the child to need a transplant, he would be prioritized. There are some really incredible arrangements for just about any situation you can think of  – all to encourage people to donate now, knowing that they or their loved ones will be taken care of in the future.

Did Lynne suffer any lifestyle changes brought about from her donation? Given that she had to think about her response, the answer is “not really”. She has to stay hydrated (which is good for you), eat well (again, good for you), be conscious of taking any medication that could adversely affect her, and maaaybe hold off from that last glass of wine. Lynne says, “the average kidney donor lives longer than the average person, because they are quite healthy.”

This article may not convince you to hop onto the surgical table right now, but keep the possibility of donating a kidney to save someone’s life in your mind as you go through your everyday life. There are plenty of people who have donated a kidney to someone they don’t know alongside all of those who donate to loved ones.

In the meantime, there is so much you can do to help people suffering kidney disease and a whole host of other ailments.

  1. Donate blood. According to the Red Cross, around 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the USA. Every 2 seconds, someone in the US needs blood.
  2. Become an organ donor. You can get it on your driver’s license – some states automatically set you as a donor but many don’t, so check and opt-in for donation. That means if something happens to you, your body can be used to save lives. You can also download a dedicated donor card.
  3. Discuss your wishes with your family members. Even if you’re listed as an organ donor, family might step in and say no. It’s important to have a discussion where you let them know that it is your wish to help others if something happens to you.

An Interview with New Seidenberg Advisory Board Member and Pace Alumnus Matthew Knell, VP of Social Media and Platform Partnerships at About.com

Matt Knell headshotMatthew Knell is one of our favorite alumni for various reasons. A hardworking student who went on to an exciting career in social media and digital marketing, Matt is a thought leader in the industry, having spoken at conferences including SXSW Interactive, Social Media Week and SocialFresh, and having been featured by leading publications including Fast Company, CNBC, PR Week, TechCrunch, AllThingsD, and Advertising Age.  He also contributes regularly to publications and maintains a thriving site discussing digital media trends on Medium.

Even while leaping from success to success, Matt has never forgotten his experience at the Seidenberg School. He is always happy to attend events and lend his support – which is why we asked him to bring his expertise to the Seidenberg Advisory board (spoiler alert: he accepted).

We recently had a chance to sit down with Matt, shortly after his appointment to the board – giving us a unique chance to learn about Matt’s career, inspirations, and very particular selections for making a PB&J. Enjoy!

What motivates you to support the Seidenberg School in so many ways?

I was the first in my family to go to college, and Pace has a soft spot in my heart because of that. Scholarships and great instructors gave me a great way to get out of what could have been a very ordinary and average life. Not a bad life, but ordinary. When you have the opportunity to learn from great staff, people who really care, the community, you want to give back to that and help other people so they can have the same chances you did.

How would someone get to where you are now?

The way I’ve built my career is about being open to different things and trying things that are interesting. I was an Information Systems major, which gave me a fundamental understanding of how systems work. Learning how things are put together helps because you learn in time that everything in life has a system. Understanding the core frameworks of systems helps you figure them out. If you can understand how a system works, you can master it.

I’ve learned to be open to new ideas and, as much as possible, to be flexible in work environments. I  try to be the nicest person in the room. Relationships help you get far in life, and having a core group of people who you help and who help you is never a bad thing. I try to make the world a better place and to do the right thing by people. I don’t always get it right –  I don’t think anyone does. But, don’t let that make you afraid to make mistakes, because you’re going to. If your heart’s in the right place and your motives are pure and genuine – then you’re probably going to be alright.

For fun I took a personality test, and found out my personality type is “virtuoso”.  I think it describes me well.

Who has inspired you in life and why?

All people I know have inspired me a little bit at a time. This industry (digital media) allows people to be creative and it’s inspiring to see people problem solve when presented with new things that have never been seen before.  Each job I’ve had, I’ve been lucky enough to have a mentor to help me through things.  In terms of outside of work, I’d have to rank  Jim Henson as an absolute genius. What he built with the Muppets was genuinely amazing. I’ve always thought Kermit the Frog was very pragmatic and you see a lot of Jim in him.

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Probably respected. Treating people fair and equitably means you’re always going to do things that people don’t like. You can be kind and thoughtful in horrible moments of life, and people remember that, even if you’re doing a difficult thing.

Do you think you’d be in your position if you were a jerk?

No, definitely not. The CEO talked to a lot of people who know me and this is where being the nicest guy in the room really matters. I think good hires are a strong blend of character and talent. No one likes working with a jerk.

What do you think about when you’re driving alone in your car?

Typically what I’m gonna do next, make next, how can I make my job better – it’s forward thinking.  But you’re just as often likely to find i’m thinking about the next Mets game and where I can get a great sandwich.   

How do you make a PB&J?

Generic Wonder Bread (though I do love Trader Joe’s Texas Toast when I can get it), creamy not crunchy PB. It has to be grape or strawberry jelly, and if it’s grape, it has to be concord. Cut the crusts.

What would you do if you won $10 million in the lottery?

Besides buying a house and paying all the debts, give to animal relief organizations. They gave us all our pets; we’d like to give back. Invest in tech businesses – giving start-ups like Codapillar a chance to grow.

Matthew Knell sneakersBest gift you’ve received?

When I was a kid, I wanted a pair of Ken Griffey Jr sneakers so badly I got a job to save for them, but I didn’t end up getting them. A few years ago, they made a retro version and my wife got them for me. Getting them was a culmination of 12-year-old Matt’s delight and glee.

What were your experiences when the internet first started to roll out?

I was a junior in high school. I remember being one of the first to get on Staten Island’s internet provider. My first experience with the internet was Compuserve and I remember vividly playing text-based trivia games you’d play for $4 an hour. Email addresses were all numbers @compuserve.com

I remember AOL being the hot thing because it has pictures. Old AOL chatrooms, followed by IRC, which was the next wave of ‘how do you get on the internet?’ Then the web browser came along. When I was a junior in high school I taught myself HTML, then I started going to Pace. Having the experience of watching the internet grow was really cool.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you have to have?

Food, obviously! My wife, of course, somebody to talk to. Then probably my iPad because I can do so much, even if it doesn’t have connectivity.

You’re still on that desert island, but you now have all the items in this room: what would you build?

(In the room: a long conference table with 12 chairs. A TV, lots of snacks)

Does the island have internet access? A superentertainment system. Plus, I have Chips Ahoy!

You wouldn’t try to get of the island?

Not if I have everything I need!

Tell me about one of the items on your work desk

I have a bunch of things. A picture of my wife. A little plastic Wall-E toy, and a Wall-E and Eva, which reminds me of my wife and I. I have a LEGO business card holder – a reminder that you can always keep building on things, and if things aren’t working out you can always build them again. them. And, of course, a Pace t-shirt.

What’s the best advice you can give to technology students?

Talk to people – especially people who aren’t technology students. Get out and learn from people who are not technologists.  The number one personality type I hire is a technologist who can actually communicate. It’s wonderful to be smart and be able to build the most awesome things, but if you can’t communicate it to others, it’s just not going to happen. Go to conferences. Go to hackathons. Meet people – your 20s are for building a life.

This is New York: invent a pizza topping

Chopped up Nathan’s Fries. They get just gooshy enough that if you cook them they get soft, and they’d go great with the cheese.


Thank you, Matthew, for a wonderful conversation and we are looking forward to having you as a member of the Seidenberg School Advisory Board!

Read Matt’s Medium post about his Pace University experience.