There’s a female-central club on Pace University’s New York City campus that all women in technology fields should check out. Pace Women in Tech (WiT) is a Seidenberg organization that empowers young women technologists. WiT is led by President, Jennifer Rhau, and co-President, Sammy Chen Li. We got in touch with Jennifer to learn more about her and the club she heads.
Jennifer explained that she started going to WiT meetings during her first years at Pace: “in Seidenberg, we have a peer mentorship program for all freshman. In this program, one of our assignments is to go to a Seidenberg Club event with our mentor.”
It just so happened that Jennifer’s peer leader from her university introduction class was the then secretary of WiT. She learned about the club meeting from her peer leader and scheduled a time to attend the meeting for a class assignment.
“My mentor ended up canceling, but I went alone and loved the environment the club was based on. So I vowed [at] that first meeting with my friend Tiara to one day ‘rule Seidenberg’ with WiT,” explained Jennifer.
Flash forward to now, and Jennifer is the president of the organization. It seems her vow to “rule Seidenberg” with WiT has come true. But ruling comes with its own challenges.
“WiT has had very rocky beginnings where we met randomly and weren’t very established,” she explained. With her and Sammy’s leadership, the group will continue to strengthen immensely.
“We try to have very informal meetings, [and] we are always set up in a circle. When the [current] board took over this year, we decided our main goal was to create a safe, fun, supportive community. Everyone talks about everything. We just eat and talk, while we (the board) sneakily slip in helpful tools for navigating the workplace and school. In the future, we want to continue sneaking in more opportunities and information,” shared Rhau. “It’s very important to us that we don’t become a monotonous club.”
Under Jennifer and Sammy’s leadership, it is certain that becoming a “monotonous club” is out of the question. They both work tirelessly to make the club open and comfortable for everyone—even though the organization is dedicated to women. According to Jennifer, “everyone can join!” They certainly want everyone to see the work going on in WiT.
“You should join it for the community, but also because we are so supportive. Not only supportive in an emotional friendly way, but we share opportunities we find and things we’ve learned along the way,” Jennifer shared.
Overall, the organization is dedicated to empowering women in the technology industries. Their organization gives a safe space to women navigating an industry dominated by individuals who identify as male.
“It doesn’t always feel like it, but all STEM fields are almost taboo for women. Even [now] it’s so hard to be heard,” explained Jennifer. “Then, when we get farther along we start getting imposter syndrome. It’s always a climb, but if we get enough women into STEM fields, future women won’t have to feel the same way. It will be a norm and no one can say anything to make us feel unworthy.”
Jennifer’s work as president is going towards making sure that the incline for women who have to make the climb into this tough industry gets easier each year. Her vow to “rule” Seidenberg was realized with her current title at WiT. Her newest vow? To leave a legacy behind.
“I would love WiT to leave a legacy in Seidenberg,” Jennifer expressed. “We have another club at Seidenberg called [the Pace Computing Society] (PCS). It is involved in so many activities in Seidenberg. They even hosted the peer mentor project launch! I want that to be [WiT] in the future when I come back to visit.”
WiT will always carry an inclusive legacy, especially under the reign of Jennifer and Sammy. You can join WiT for meetings every other Monday in the Seidenberg Lounge 12:10pm to 1:10pm.
Follow WiT on Instagram (@PaceWiT) to keep up with all of their events!
On Thursday, October 25, the Software and Systems Engineer at AJA Video Systems, Inc., Jeff Coffin, spoke on the New York City campus for a discussion on the topic, “Embedded Linux: What the Heck is it?” Students had the opportunity to dive into what an embedded system is all about with Jeff. The talk took the form of an interview, where Jeff was posed questions by a very special Seidenberg student – Charlotte Coffin, aka his daughter!
Jeff, current AJA Software and Systems Engineer as well as former American Airlines Software and Systems Engineer, specializes in the operating system known as Linux. The operating system runs most devices that people use every day along with running most of the internet. With an industry professional who has vast knowledge of such an integrative piece of technology, it gave students an opportunity to use critical and creative thinking skills.
Students also received the opportunity to speak with Jeff about his many years of experience in the technology industry. Networking also occurred at this event located in the Seidenberg lounge.
If you missed out on this event, no worries! We have many more speakers lined up for the rest of the Leadership in Technology series.
November 14 – Peggy Yao
Goldstein Academic Center, 12:00pm
Tech Collective Lunch & Learn: Mindfulness for Professional & Personal Success
Wednesday, Nov. 14, the Westchester campus is hosting another segment of the leadership series starting at 12:00pm at the Seidenberg Lounge in Goldstein Academic Center. Special guest, Peggy Yao, will be a speaker at Seidenberg Tech Collective’s lunch and learn. Her speech will be dedicated to the topic, “Mindfulness for Professional & Personal Success,” a topic not often associated with the technology industry. Students will be able to learn tips for a more mindful outlook, network with Yao, and free lunch is, as always, provided. RSVP here to attend.
November 28—Merin Joseph
Goldstein Academic Center, 12:00pm
The Seidenberg Tech Leadership Series
The next event in the series will be on Nov. 28 at the Westchester campus at the Seidenberg Lounge at 12:00pm. Merin Joseph will be giving insider experience from her position as Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at WESTMED Practice Partners and WESTMED Medical Group. Students can attend this event to get networking experience and tips on how to succeed in their chosen fields. RSVP here to attend.
December 12 –Daniel Barchi
163 William St., 12:00pm
The Seidenberg Tech Leadership Series
The last event in the series will be on Dec. 12 on the New York City campus at the Seidenberg lounge at 12:00pm. The last series speaker, Daniel Barchi, will be giving the inside scoop on his career goals and experiences as Chief Information Officer of NewYork-Presbyterian. Students can join in on this final event to get networking experience and tips on how to succeed in their chosen fields. RSVP here to attend.
We hope to see you at these events for the Seidenberg Technology Leadership series!
On Wednesday, November 14, Peggy Yao, the first Mandarin-speaking Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher in the Tri-State area, is coming to the Westchester campus for a Tech Collective Lunch and Learn on “Mindfulness for Professional and Personal Success.” Peggy will be on campus to meet students and impact our School’s community in a positive way.
Yao, an alumna of the Pace University, attended several classes in Pace University’s Lubin School of Business Masters of Business Administration program from 1979 to 1981. She used her learning experiences to grow a lifelong dedication to community service and charity. As an MSBR teacher in Chinese schools and senior centers, local libraries, and the Tzu-Chi Foundation—of which she is an active member—Yao has served the community with her approach on growing stronger personal physical and mental health.
This event comes at a perfect time as the stressful season of midterms has just finished up. Students will have the opportunity to dive into a conversation about mindfulness and mental health with Yao over food provided by the School.
The event will take place at 12:00pm on the third floor at the Goldstein Academic Center. Students will have the opportunity to network and chat with Yao in the Seidenberg lounge.
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!
The discussion started with Esther Kundin, Software Architect & Infrastructure Engineer in Big Data at Bloomberg, discussing how, “In school, you work hard, do good, and get A’s. Then you move on… When you start your career, things don’t always work that way. You have to learn to tell people what you are doing. You have to be seen as both technical and professional.”
Later during the Q&A, she continued, “In school, when you are given a homework assignment or problem, it’s a closed assignment. The solution has already been found. You are also finding it. In the real world, the solution has not been found. There’s no right or wrong way. It becomes a question of,‘Can you get it done efficiently and effectively?’ …and it’s all very collaborative. A group project in school is not the same. In school, it’s a small project. In the real world, it’s an open-ended project with a lot of people and personalities working on projects that are sometimes neighing on impossible, but you make it happen.”
Other fantastic advice was given by Danielle Lahmani, Global Head of Engineering Training & Documentation at Bloomberg. “If you are able to get a mentor very early on, that’s going to be incredibly helpful in navigating the network that you are in.” She went on to discuss how “Cinderella Syndrome, where you just put your head down and just work” simply doesn’t work in this industry. You have to “build technical depth and presentation.”
Pinky Dewani, Head of Engineering for Bloomberg Indices added her take on how to be successful early in your career, “Translate technical ideas and design and implementation ideas depending on the audience you’re working with,” meaning to be able to explain things to everyone from your very technical team to the investor or even end-user who might not understand technology at all. The ability to understand it well enough to break it down for anyone will make you a valuable asset to any team.
On the topic of navigating the gaps for getting women in to midlevel management, Kundin suggests working on smaller projects for the first few years, but becoming the go-to person for a specific type of projects. Then, “you want to ask for larger projects.” She continues, “Sometimes you have to take that risk and do something that’s very scary and that may be hard for you, but that is ok.”
Dewani followed up with “Don’t be afraid of change, but actively seek it” describing how there is no growth without change.
Lahmani lead the conversation on things she would like to see more of to help women find success in tech careers. “I’d like to see more internships being offed to women. It’s the first step in terms of proving your worth. The more we see people like us in a technology community, the more normal it is.” She went on to describe the importance of having models in mid- and senior- level management positions because having a role model gives us something to strive for. They can also act as mentors and sponsors.
Jenny Gu, Team Lead of Listed Derivatives Volatility at Bloomberg, discussed how frequently teams have 7 or 8 men in the room and you are the only woman in the room. She suggests trying to help women out. “Ask them their thoughts. Give them a chance to talk… Women underestimate themselves. Maybe all they need is some support and a little push.” She later said, “I know women who are where they are now because someone gave them a little encouragement. They are very grateful to the people who gave them support on the way. Everyone can show their support to other people. Those little things can make a big difference.”
Later in the discussion, Dewani made one of my favorite points of this panel. “We worry too much about asking for permission to do things. Just fix it. Try out new tools. The more we do it, the more we increase our own skills and our own reputation as a leader and a doer.” She said if your team needs a driver, step up and do it. Don’t wait for someone else to come along who might not even be on their way. “Never, not even once, have I been asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
Lahmani seconded her statement with, “If we can overcome this, I think we can achieve a lot.”
Lastly, I’d like to thank Yunfei Xu, Global Head of Engineering for Portfolio Risk Analytics & index Products, for her comment stating that, “You have to give back.”
And this author is inclined to agree!
In the WIT community, I have never heard a mentor ask for anything except that you pay it forward. Help someone else in the field. You will never be able to repay the people who helped you in any other way than to make their investment in you worthwhile and by helping the next generation of women in tech.
I genuinely hope my work in WIT@Pace and my personal blog contributes to the community in some way as I work to pay it forward and become a valuable resource for other trying to learn to navigate this field for the first time. My experiences at many WIT conferences have been utterly amazing and I as reflect on my very first conference, WiCyS 2017 which you can read about here, and my first trip to the Grace Hopper Celebration, I am humbled, grateful, and thrilled to be plugged in to such a powerful network of women which started right here at Pace!
Thanks to our student Kait for another fantastic blog 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!