Advice To My Younger Self

    In this insightful article, accomplished women in the tech industry share advice they would give to their younger selves, reflecting on their remarkable journeys of breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated world. Gain valuable insights from these trailblazers as they offer wisdom and inspiration to aspiring women in tech, showcasing the strength, resilience, and determination required to overcome barriers and succeed in a traditionally male-centric field.

    Jennifer Brandl, Innovation Strategist at Celonis

    As the Innovation Strategist at Celonis, Jennifer is a passionate advocate for future-ready innovations and digitalization. Her mission is to always ensure customer centricity at every juncture while drawing on her experience as Data Science & Management Consultant. She holds an M.Sc. in Strategy and Management and has 8+ years of experience in process mining, process optimization, and analytics. Prior to joining Celonis, she held various positions at Allianz where she was driving digital transformation through the creation of modern HCM applications and digitizing HR processes.

    My advice for my younger self would be just to be very open about any type of opportunities that are out there. Regardless of whether you think you can already live up to that possibility yet or not. For instance, if you have bad math grades, this will not determine whether you’re going to work in a tech company one day or not or will be able to work with data or not. Actually, if you’re trying to work outside of your comfort zone and be open to possibilities, you are setting yourself up for so much more progress and it’s so much more exciting and fun to just stick to what you know already and be comfortable with already.

    Be open, and proactive, I think that’s a very good start to a successful journey. And, make sure, that you start before you’re 100% ready to do so.

    Hana Ngo, Founder at Grow Future Leader

    Hana is a Founding member of WomenTech Network, Founder of Grow Future Leader. She is an Executive & Team Coach, Agile Coach with +7years of experience in Leadership & Team Coaching, High-performance Team & Agile Coaching. Her passion is helping others become the best version of themselves, and in her free time she is a gardener, hobby chef, traveler, and a Life-long Learner. She is ICF Professional Certified Coach PCC, Trainer SLII® Blanchard company, Trainer of Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Leadership SCL, Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Leadership Coach MGSCC, John Mattone's Initial Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach, Organisation Behavior and Organisational Design Professional. 

    Make peace with the situation, embrace & renew yourself and do your best, things will fall into place whenever you are ready to see it.

    When I was young, my life motto for almost everything was ‘Where there's a will, there's a way’. This Life motto very much helped me in getting projects done and achieving the next big milestones. It helped also to build my knowledge - as well as help me get over a few big challenges & changes in my life.

    A persistent and strong will is a great tool in building up a can-do mentality and getting things done, a great energy source for continuous improvement, and an important attitude & character of a High-achiever. There is, however, a flip side of using it too often though. For myself, it narrowed my vision of self and future, caused continuous dissatisfaction, and reduced my agility in a changing world. It can lead one to make the same mistake over and over again – without even noticing it.

    When the years passed, I learned to embrace the situation – to zoom out and find new meaning/perspectives for the life events, asking myself ‘If Life would teach me a lesson through the event, what could I learn from it?

    The moment I ask this question, it gives me space and time to make peace with how things are going, embrace the possible positive turn of events, revise myself, and try my best in the new direction. It takes effort, rehearsal, reflection, and energy to practice. And as I can open my mind and get ready for whatever sound-like surprise. Suddenly everything makes sense and things start falling into place….

    Jamie Morningstar, Director of Engineering, XM Data Network

    Jamie Morningstar is Director of Engineering, XM Data Network at Qualtrics. She has invested a ton of work and heart in the Qualtrics products and engineering teams including reports, data visualization, text analysis (Text iQ), datasets, and data processing. She is very passionate about getting more women in technology. Jamie holds a Bachelors of Arts in Computer Science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and a Masters in Business Administration from Brigham Young University.

    Know your strengths. Invest in your strengths. Mitigate your weaknesses.

    The crazy thing is, your strengths aren’t what you think they are. Your strengths aren’t necessarily what you’re good at. They’re not what people say you’re good at. They’re not what gets praised or rewarded.

    Your strengths are the things that make you feel strong. The things that make you feel challenged and capable. The things you love to go deeper into and learn more about. Those are the things that are uniquely you and the way you add the most goodness and light and value to this world and to your own life.

    Your weaknesses are the things that make you feel weak. The things that sap your strength. The things you dread. Maybe you’re even good at them - but if you could never do them again, it would be too soon.

    Don’t put your best energy and effort into improving your weaknesses. Just develop your weaknesses to the point where they’re no longer holding you back from success and then go no further.
    Instead, put your best energy into your strengths. Develop your strengths. Invest in your strengths. Tailor your work so you can spend as much time as possible in your areas of strength. That’s what will set you apart, how you will do truly great work and feel strong doing it.
    You don’t need to be well-rounded. Grab the chance to be exceptional.

    Rutendo Zvirawa, Information Security Officer at International Atomic Energy Agency

    Rutendo Zvirawa is an accomplished Information Security Officer at the United Nations with a remarkable 10-year journey in the field of cybersecurity. Her expertise spans across network security, security engineering, incident response, and cloud security. With a Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance and a Bachelor's in Information Technology, Rutendo is on a mission to empower women to thrive in technology careers, especially in the dynamic realm of cybersecurity.

    Don't ever give up

    There'll be moments when you'll feel like you have no business being there. There'll be moments when you'll be the only woman in the room. There'll be moments where you'll be the only person of color

    ​​​​​​​There'll be moments when you'll be questioning and experiencing self-doubt. There'll be moments when you'll feel isolated. There'll be moments when you'll feel like motherhood and work are competing leading to crippling mom guilt.

    I’m here to tell you that you belong in those rooms. 

    You are meant to be there, in that seat, at that moment, at that time. Those challenges you are facing, they are making you resilient.

    You'll come across those that will lift you up, mentor you, raise you up. You are not alone. You are doing a good job, and you are on the right path. Your daughter, she loves you. You are her world. Your family treasures you, more than words can describe. 

    Hold onto what you know is true. Have that persistent faith. Keep on marching forward because baby girl, you've got this. 

    Just remember, don't ever give up.

    Graciela Perez, VP, Chief Digital Program Officer at GE HealthCare

    Graciela Perez (Grace) has held digitally focused roles at Chevron, Microsoft, and GE. She brings over 30 years of experience across industries, including Federal Compliance, Nuclear, Pharma, Biotech, Energy, Tech (Cloud), and Healthcare. Grace earned a Doctor of Science in Engineering with additional certifications in Data Science, Lean, and Human Operational Performance. Augmented reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have enabled her to drive digital transformation across industries and teams beyond basic IoT (connected devices) and she is dedicated to sharing her expertise to bring out the best in people globally. At GE HealthCare, Grace serves as VP, Chief Digital Program Officer, and Executive Lean Leader where she leads a global team to execute a portfolio of MedTech-related products.

    Find your purpose in life as soon as you can - in terms of “purpose” it’s better if free from money, location, status, rank, and broad enough to enable all the possibilities (and choices) that will come your way. Purpose can change but the sooner you figure it out, the better. For me, early on my purpose has always been: "bring out the best in people”.

    I fail sometimes, but purpose enables me to always get back on track when I stumble. This has taken me along the path from fitness instructor helping people improve their health to active sponsor for DEI and Chief in Tech, managing diverse colleagues with inclusion to support their career and personal growth - enabling the development of amazing products that ultimately improve the future of healthcare to benefit everyone all over the world. Even on my most challenging days (ok, sometimes weeks or months) - my deep sense of purpose keeps me resilient.

    Along the same lines, I’d say “Set goals you think are beyond possible”…as I look back. I’ve achieved many of my goals in life and wonder if I had set higher goals where I might be.  That said… I am immensely grateful for what I have achieved and for all the trials and tribulations that have helped me, along with friends and family, to grow along the way… babies cannot learn to walk without falling, and a butterfly's wings cannot develop until they first spend time in their cocoon.

    Embrace the moment - EVERY moment - as each and every one of them shapes who you are and who you choose to become - and sometimes life takes you in a different direction and then you can aim higher in a new direction.  

    Think big and before you know it all those rocks that seem to block you from achieving your dreams become stepping stones to take you where you need to be.

    Once you are set on your purpose, there is nothing wrong with setting tangible goals related to money, status, location, etc.… however, setting goals that are aligned with your purpose ensures you can always find your way back “home” and choices become easier when your purpose helps to guide your decisions.

    Eliska Reznicek Dockalova, Senior Director of Customer Experience at

    Eliska's entire career has revolved around Customer Experience and Customer Service, mainly in aviation and hospitality businesses. She has dealt with the most discerning customers during her time in the private aviation industry, which greatly contributed to what she believes in: every detail counts, and Customer Experience and customers themselves need to be at the heart of every service-driven business. She loves challenges, and her main mission within is to continuously help focus the organization on putting the customer first, enhancing the experience, and meeting expectations at every touchpoint of the customer journey. On a personal level, she dedicates the majority of her time to her family and to her personal well-being through yoga and meditation.

    If I could advise my younger myself now, I would highlight the following:

    1. Pleasing everyone is impossible, focus on what truly matters and prioritize. ("focus on what matters")

    2. Surround yourself with supportive people. Avoid those that drain the energy from you and drag you down - there are too many of these! 

    3. Reserve time for meditation and yoga, your future self will thank you. 

    4. Don't always try to fix the unfixable, sometimes, it is simply best to let go for everyone involved.

    5. Don't walk into a negotiation unprepared. The result can only upset you.

    6. Always trust your gut feeling!

    7. Don't give up on your beliefs (family, career and more), it will all come together...

    Penny Izlakar, Director, TIS (infrastructure) Strategy & Modernization Program at Enbridge

    Penny is deeply passionate about people, their growth, and driving positive change. With an MBA in International Business from Royal Roads University and 24 years of experience across eight industries, including nuclear, telecom, aviation, legal, pharmaceutical, finance, and oil and gas, she excels in records management, IT governance, cybersecurity, audit, and risk management. Penny's enthusiasm extends to mentoring and discovering hidden talents. She shares her insights through blogs on Career Development, Diversity and Inclusion, Leadership, and Mentoring, both on the WIL Alberta Chapter platform and her personal website, "The Izzy Way."

    If I could share some valuable lessons with my younger self, it would be to drop the need for a specific job title, embrace the fantastic challenges that will come your way and seek the opportunities to grow your competencies along the way. Having focused my competency gaps exploration in a specific field of technology and information, I needed to explore the missing leadership, strategy, and lifelong learning across many disciplines to find my long-term career path. Once I began exploring those gaps outside my area of expertise, my career trajectory went into high gear, and I found my stride and passion.

    Having mentors and coaches from different industries and areas of the business is vital to exploring your leadership blind spots. Challenge yourself to seek out those with opposing views and different backgrounds professionally and learn about their career path, growth areas, and experiences to find those amazing opportunities you would not have thought possible. Add a little squiggle in your career path, and amazing things will come your way if you are purposeful on the what and why’s of your career journey.

    In conclusion, to all women aspiring to be leaders, remember this: Embrace challenges, stay true to your passions, and empower one another. Dare to dream big and redefine norms fearlessly. Let your light shine and shape a world that celebrates women in leadership. Together, we can create a future where women's voices are heard and respected. Step into your greatness and lead with purpose. The world needs you. Empower yourself and others, and let's build a more inclusive tomorrow, hand in hand.