Middle school is an awkward season. Braces, break ups …and briefcases? Not your typical 13 year old birthday present but one that Hope received from her mom right smack in the middle of middle school. And though it felt cringe (as the kids say) to open this particular present in front of her friends, it also felt sort of perfect to her.
Growing up, while friends were playing make-believe and tag on the playground, Hope found herself creating an imaginary world where she was a business owner. A world with meetings, projects and employees - a typical Tuesday to many adults but a fantasy space of adventure and wonderment to a young girl in Florida.
A catalyst in her childhood was the beachside hotel that her parents owned, which gave her a first taste of entrepreneurship. Working alongside her parents, she was able to look behind the curtain at what makes a business run. She learned that running a business and leading a team requires significant effort and hard work. Her thirst for leadership was further propelled as she watched her mother, one of her earliest female inspirations, launch her second career by getting her PhD and serving as a corporate executive.
Fast forward, Hope now serves in a key leadership role as an executive at ShareFile®. As Chief Operating Officer, she is focused on transforming the way we do business to make it easier and more enjoyable for our customers to do their work. She gave us our own behind the scenes on how she got to where she is, her style as a leader, and how we can bring up the next generation of women in this space.
How did you get started in the technology industry?
I sort of fell into the tech space. After college, I followed friends down to South Florida and took a job at an app development consulting company. That was a big risk. I had consulting experience but no coding experience. To stay ahead, I would stay up late reading “how to” books at night to figure out what was needed for the next day. But I really loved that time; it was an important foundational chapter for me. I learned perseverance and grit first hand and picked up some development skills along the way! Eventually, our consulting firm was acquired by Citrix, and I had an incredible opportunity to be part of establishing the consulting practice for Citrix…including embarking on an adventure out West.
So you moved as a 20-something year old across the country. What was that like?
It’s hard for me to think about doing it now, but back then, I packed up my dog without thinking twice and drove my stick shift Passat to San Francisco (not the best city for a 5-speed). I moved in the height of the dot-com boom so finding a place to live was near impossible. After an extensive search, I found the perfect spot to call home…my street address was 710 ½ and my “½” was a one room basement apartment (you know, the kind with little windows up at the top). I experienced my first earthquake, I enjoyed the amazing cuisine that San Francisco had to offer (remember, I had no kitchen in a ½ apartment), and I got to solve really cool big problems that the dot.com’s and startups were encountering. I eventually moved back East and had the opportunity to move into the operational side of the business running Global Order to Cash, Support Programs and Business Operations for Sales. It’s been an incredible journey that I don’t think my 20 year old type-A, planning self could have engineered!!
What progress have you seen for women in the tech industry?
Early in my career, I worked with almost all men. I’ll never forget being in the middle of a big QBR (Quarterly Business Review) icebreaker and the prompt was “what book are you reading?” At that time, I had two little kids in diapers and I listened as each man rattled off quotes and titles from the latest business books. As it was approaching my turn, I could feel the anxiety increasing…what top ranked business book was I going to share? Eventually my turn arrived, and the only thing that came to mind, and my honest answer, was a book about potty training. With two kids in diapers and a really big job, it was honestly the only “self-enrichment” book I had time to read! I did get a good laugh so maybe I wasn’t the only one in the room going through this journey! And I learned a big lesson that day: being authentic was more than ok; it helped build bridges and bonds across that room. Male, female, parent or not - we are all just spinning plates and trying to be our best selves at work and outside of work!
The representation and diversity has gotten much better. Over the years, I’ve had amazing leaders who were advocates for women in the workplace. One in particular that stands out always explained that he makes a point to expand diversity. He said we each have to make a decision and be deliberate about representation when building teams, that representation doesn’t just magically happen. That intentionality has always stuck with me.
A lot of progress has been made. I think we’d agree that there’s still a lot of work to be done. What do you think we can and should be doing to further opportunities for women in tech?
As women, we need to pay it forward for other women. Whether we take the time to be a sponsor or mentor, we should be intentional to carry that onward. We need to carve out the time to do this and make it a priority for ourselves and others.
You play a key role on the leadership team at ShareFile. What does your team say about your leadership and what do you hope they see in you as a leader?
That I’m a fanatic about Powerpoint, data and telling a story - always be presentation ready! I’m sure I drive them crazy with this, but in all seriousness, I hope that they would say that I’m in it with them. That I’m in the boat rowing and I’ve got their back. I’m blessed to have worked with some amazing talent now and throughout my career!
ShareFile has a very vibrant culture. Which value do you align with the most and how does this influence your guidance and coaching as a leader?
Owning it. No one’s going to do it for you. Be bold - if you see a problem, go fix it. Don’t focus on why or how it became a problem…history is history. Just hone in on the root cause, take ownership, and go fix it! Another gotcha is trying to find perfection. Oftentimes, we get fixated on making something perfect but with the pace of business today, we generally don’t have a year (or even quarters) to work on something. Get a Version 1 out there for folks to react to and then iterate. Focus on taking baby steps, just make sure to start and actually take that first baby step.