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. We've published our full Q&As with each of these women, as well as additional women in Canadian tech. Here, we chat with Tara Fine, Channel Chief, VMWare Canada
Name: Tara Fine
Job Title: Channel Chief, VMware Canada
Years in the Industry: 20+
The Quote That Most Inspires You: "Everything you want is on the other side of fear."
What drew you to a career in technology?
My first job in technology was as an inside sales representative for Dell. After graduating from University in Sociology, I needed to start working before heading to do my Masters degree. When I heard about the job, it sounded like the perfect interim position. I had never intended to work in technology, but I fell in love with Dell - as a company and a place where I believed I could add value and grow, resulting in an incredibly fulfilling career in IT sales. I've now been part of the Dell Technologies family, with Dell and now with VMware, for over 20 years.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
I've been fortunate to work for organizations where value is placed on accomplishments as a result of strong work ethic and reaching that point with integrity without compromising my values. That type of environment was made possible from the top down, with supportive and dedicated leaders who focused on bringing together the best team based on ability to deliver results, regardless of gender. That said, I believe it is important to be able to advocate for yourself in any position, whether it be feeling confident enough to voice your opinion, negotiate, or even with regards to discussing salary. In my experience, negotiating and recognizing your value is an important part of navigating and owning your career in order to make the impact we are all capable of making.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
To me, a good leader inspires, empowers, and advocates on behalf of others, valuing people for their differences and what they bring to the table to make the team as strong as possible. Diversity and inclusion are important to me and based on my own experiences, I make sure that's a shared value on my team. I also actively encourage everyone to advocate for themselves and others because together, the sum of our collective success is bigger than what any one person can accomplish on his or her own.
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?
It's no secret that female executive leaders in the technology industry are the minority. While changes need to be made in how the industry recruits talent to STEM jobs, how we retain talent is equally a concern. Everyone working in technology has a responsibility to help attract the next generation of talent to STEM careers and to help foster that talent when they join. For me, that means sponsorship of women in tech. We need more leaders who will actively champion the talented women working in this field.
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?
Exciting. There is so much opportunity in technology, and I think we're on the cusp of big change when it comes to how we attract and recruit talent. As I thrive on organizations founded on meritocracy, I'm inspired to be in an industry that is turning more attention to how we encourage female talent in order to support greater diversity and inclusion, and looking forward to helping to shape that future.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
Absolutely! The person who gave me my first opportunity to join Dell was a woman. I had no prior experience in the technology industry, but she recognized an ability in me and continued to support and encourage me to pursue a career in tech. Throughout the years, I've had several female mentors and role models who have had a significant impact on my career. From each, I've learned through observation and working alongside these women who have helped me shape my path, and equally taught me the importance of having that same impact on others.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you'd like to dispel?
You don't have to be technical to have a successful career in the technology industry! Technology companies need every type of role, whether it be technical superstars, sales leaders, HR staff, marketing leaders, or CFOs. While technology is the business that I've thrived in, I also got to this point with hands on experience, passion, and a growth mindset.
What's one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
Overall, I think how we talk about our industry needs to change. Technology is an industry enabling remarkable advancements, from business processes to consumer experiences, to helping save the planet. With more promotion of what our industry makes happen, not just how, and a renewed focus on all of the diverse job functions required to do that, I think we'll attract a more diverse pool of candidates to the table. As well, as an industry, we need to not be afraid to train people. If you have a good employee in-house with an aptitude to learn, invest in them by helping them bring on a new skill (technical or not!) That said, I also believe that we should be open minded to seeing opportunity in other prospects who have skills in unrelated careers that can be transferable.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Definitely. We're at a crucial time when many aspects of technology have the opportunity to continue to improve the way we live and work. While in the past Canada has sometimes been considered a laggard when it comes to adoption of new technologies, Canada has in fact become a country with exceptional talent and a hub for successful start-ups. I believe we have an opportunity to jump ahead and continue to be a force in the technology landscape. By investing in the next generation of talent, we will further our ability to make a positive impact with innovations for the future. I'm genuinely excited about where our industry is heading.