Women in Tech Global Conference Voices 2022: Speaker Sharon Mandell at Juniper Networks

Sharon Mandell is the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer leading Juniper’s global information technology team. In this role, she leads the ongoing enhancement of the company’s IT infrastructure and applications architectures to support the growth objectives of the company. She and her team are also responsible for showcasing Juniper’s use of its technologies to the world.

Prior to joining Juniper in 2020, Sharon was the Chief Information Officer for TIBCO Software and previously developed her leadership strategy at Harmonic, Black Arrow (now Cadent), Knight Ridder, and the Tribune Company. Throughout her career, Sharon developed a level of expertise in cyber security and compliance, enterprise architecture and road mapping, data and analytics, digital transformation, and customer service.

Sharon is passionate about supporting women in STEM careers and in her free time Sharon serves on various arts and education-related boards. She also proudly serves on the computer science advisory board at Temple University.

Especially for the WomenTech Network, Sharon agreed to give an interview, share her story and experience.

Watch Sharon's talk "How to Achieve Better Business Outcomes by Creating an Inclusive Workplace", and other inspiring sessions on our YouTube channel.

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⚡️ Save the date: Women in Tech Global Conference 2023 will take place on May 9-12!


Tell us about your experience as a Women in Tech Global Conference 2022 speaker.

I appreciated the opportunity to connect with other like-minded leaders who feel the same sense of urgency to identify solutions to one of the most pressing issues facing the tech industry: the lack of female representation. I enjoyed sharing my perspective on how we can reframe the turmoil of the last couple of years as what I like to call a “Great Redesign.” Shifts in the workforce are an opportunity to step back, identify how we can do better, be more inclusive and redesign how we approach hiring and supporting our employees. 

This is a very personal topic for me. One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started my career in technology was the lack of representation of female peers and much fewer tech leaders. That’s why I was so struck by McKinsey's research showing the pandemic’s impact on pushing women’s participation in the workforce to lows not seen in decades, particularly in the tech sector. This event was a productive forum for exchanging ideas, some of which we may even be able to apply to our respective organizations.

 

What is your favorite thing about working in tech?

As the CIO of a technology company, I am “customer zero.” I get to provide feedback on how we develop and deploy our products. I also have a front-row seat to the entire customer and employee journeys through the technologies my teams provide, supporting those journeys through the data we aggregate and analyze along the way. 

I’ve also enjoyed being able to bridge my background in arts with technology. I started my career as a dancer, in the apprentice program at Pennsylvania Ballet. I had enrolled at Temple University, where a physics professor recommended that I try out a computer science class. I was deeply skeptical, but I took his advice and ended up discovering my passion for technology! 

Staying connected to the arts throughout my career in technology has made me more creative, innovative, and empathetic. While technology competency is important for any CIO, equally important are empathy and communication. My team and I truly listen for and understand stakeholder needs. We want to help them understand how to engage with our technology as they use and deploy it themselves.


What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want to start a tech career?

Stay open-minded and go where the world is going, not necessarily where it is today. 

If I had not kept an open mind when a physics professor recommended taking a computer science class, I might not be where I am today. Trying new things and exploring your own strengths and interests introduces you to far more people and opportunities than you can imagine! And even if you don’t recognize that spark, chances are others around you will – they can help you find opportunities to grow. 

The second piece of advice is to pay it forward. Chances are there are others who will face challenges similar to the ones you may have faced. As I mentioned before, the pandemic and the Great Resignation present an opportunity for companies to re-level the playing field for women in tech — especially women of color, who often face bias in the workplace. I am advocating for a new movement: the Great Redesign, which means exposing girls and women to the idea of what it means to be a woman in STEAM – through mentorship, internships and speaking engagements. It’s crucial for those women who have experience working in tech to open the doors for others.

Lastly, stay curious, be willing to do the work, and be visible. It’s a cliché, but the saying that 80% of the job is just showing up is somewhat true. If you’re there and people know you’re a hard worker, you’re just statistically more likely to get that tap on the shoulder when an interesting opportunity opens up.


Who would you recommend to join the WomenTech Network?

Anyone who has an interest in the tech industry can learn something from the WomenTech Network. The Network provides an opportunity to better understand different professionals in the industry while creating meaningful connections.


To recognise the achievements of our community and beyond we are hosting the annual Women in Tech Global Awards 2022. Nominate yourself or someone else:

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022 By WomenTech Editor