In the April 2018 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine, we highlighted excerpts from our interviews with several influential women in the tech industry in Canada. Here, we chat with Victoria DeBoon, Director of Sales, SAP Concur.
Name: Victoria DeBoon
Job Title: Director of Sales, SAP Concur
Years in the Industry: 10+ years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry Adams
What drew you to a career in technology?
I never planned on a career in technology; it's something that I fell into. After graduating from British Columbia's Institute of Technology (BCIT) with a diploma in marketing management, I had no idea what I wanted to do.
I ended up getting connected with a female marketing manager with whom I was close in age. My first impression of her was that she was someone I wanted to learn from. I've followed her career growth over the years, and she continues to be an inspiration to me today. She was also the first person to encourage me to look into a career in technology.
My attraction to the industry grew because of the culture. It was the early 2000s and marketing was fresh, young, and fun. I've felt this feeling to varying degrees as I moved through my career, but was happy to find this same energy when I started at SAP Concur seven years ago. I love being part of an organization that can positively impact other companies, their development, their growth, and their revenue. I'm also attracted to the dynamic nature of technology and strategic thinking that goes behind finding better ways of doing things. It drives me, our business, and the industry forward.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
Throughout my career, there were several roadblocks I encountered, but one in particular that stands out. While I was working in marketing for a small start up, a female colleague and I were ready to present our H2 plan. We were prepared, and I was excited because this was our chance to speak to all the executives and board members and showcase all the hard work we had done. At the last minute, a male vice president came in and told us that he would be presenting instead. I knew it was not about our presentation style - we had a very solid and well-conceptualized plan. It came down to issues of age and gender. This was an extremely hard and discouraging situation to deal with.
Over years of presenting to a predominantly male audience, I have been asked to serve coffee and perform other tasks that are ‘expected' of a woman. I have been patted on the head and told not to worry my "little head." Although degrading, I force myself to handle these situations with grace and professionalism.
Thankfully, over the past five-to-seven years, these comments and attitudes have shifted considerably. I'm proud to now work for an organization that champions strong female leadership at every level.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
Authenticity, resilience, persistence, and confidence are key to my approach in the workplace. Having the confidence to showcase who you are, and your strengths, is a valuable trait in this industry. If you are not authentic, then you will be dismissed. The persistence and resilience will come when facing roadblocks. Knowing the passion and purpose that drives you will help fuel you past barriers.
As a woman, I feel we can take on a lot at work and at home, so having a good team professionally and personally is vital. No one can take on the world alone, and having this support network in and out of work helps everyone be successful. There's pride in teamwork.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
I was just reading an article the other day that discussed ways to attract young talent in technology fields. The article mentioned that we're seeing more women in tech marketing and sales, but not in the actual development aspect of technology.
We need to break down more of these barriers for our youth today to find a way to make coding and developing products more attractive to females. I think this starts at the ground level at a young age. If girls aren't growing up interested and knowing there's room for participation, regardless of gender, it's not a career they will lean towards. We must ask ourselves - how are we framing the industry to young people today? What is driving the marketplaces and how are we integrating this into their learning and development?
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
It's been a wild, fun ride. My experience has given me a unique perspective on how to break through barriers - whether they are real or perceived.
Are there women in the tech industry who inspire you?
One of my inspirations in this industry is a woman I worked with years ago, who, at the time, was the vice president of client services at the company where I was working. Throughout our experience working together, she provided amazing coaching and life lessons, which I continue to turn back to. I truly feel like her guidance helped me develop my skill set in this industry. I have the utmost respect for this intelligent, hardworking person who was both a role model and mentor.
I used to struggle with change that wasn't self-imposed, but she helped guide me through this. Even after we stopped working together, I've still reached out over the years to ask for advice. Her coaching has allowed me to become more knowledgeable and build my own set of tools, which I now pass along to others.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you'd like to dispel?
I don't want to support misconceptions or myths. When we acknowledge them, they start to dominate the discussion and dialogue.
I feel strongly that we should instead focus on the fact that women can achieve success in a technical field. Women have strong voices and a lot to offer in this industry.
What's one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
I'd like to flip this and share what I personally wish I had done differently. Inspired by a quote by Richie Ashburn; "I wish I'd know earlier what I had to learn late." I'm sure it's a common feeling but I wish I had the knowledge earlier on that I now have. I wish I knew that what makes you successful is just honest, hard work and developing sound skills.
I would also want to say to women entering the industry that they shouldn't be afraid to take advantage of the fact that there are a lot of really smart people who work in this industry, and who have a wealth of lessons and insights to learn from. I also believe that women should feel empowered to choose a workplace with a culture that will allow them to flourish. I think that if, throughout the industry, women felt more comfortable to try new things and to bring their whole selves to the table, without worry about how men might do it differently, success will come naturally.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
YES! For women, the conversation and community are changing and it's an exciting time to be a part of it. For the industry more generally, there are amazing innovations coming to market that will change the way we live and work. Women have an amazing opportunity to drive this change for the better.
As women, I think it's important to keep pushing ourselves and the dialogue forward to ensure that the change that happens is the change we want to see in the world. We can be the biggest champions of diversity, inclusivity, and strength.