—By Lindsey Cusson, Director of Professional Services.
Immediately after reading John Greathouse’s recent Wall Street Journal article on women in tech, I knew it didn’t resonate with me. I couldn’t comprehend what would even provoke someone to write a blog like this, recommending that women working in the tech sphere obscure their gender? Had something happened recently? Had the use of a woman’s name led to a valid point being ignored?
Throughout the last two decades I’ve spent in IT consulting and software development, I have always been aware that women were outnumbered, often segregated into certain disciplines like Business Analysis or Quality Assurance. However, I rarely experienced this as a hindrance. I have always known that I bring great things, foster great things—and my gender has nothing to do with it.
Or perhaps I have my background to thank. As a product of single-sex education, I was always encouraged to voice my opinions throughout my high school years, encouraged to ask poignant questions and be proud of my intelligence, not hide it. This was again fostered through a liberal arts education, where I explored new subjects in small classroom settings and routinely engaged in class discussions, encouraged to bring my opinions to the table. Perhaps these experiences lent me a sense of confidence—even ignorance—or perhaps I don’t give enough credit to my male colleagues, who over the years, have listened to me and respected my opinion, and as a result encouraged me. Male counterparts who ultimately not only relied on my decision-making abilities, but often sought it—and continue to seek it.
Every time I approach a new client or project, I am always concerned that maybe I won’t appreciate or understand the intricacies of a particular business as well as I need to, or I worry that because I haven’t personally been a developer, I won’t grasp a new technology fast enough. However, I have never once tied this insecurity to my gender. It’s just a normal human reaction to being a part of something new. It may also help that software is already filled with vast stereotypes of the nerdy Office Space-like developer, the hip new millennial using funky apps I don’t even know how to download or the Dilbert-style tyrannical manager who enforces unrealistic scope and dates.
Me being a woman is just one more factor added to the mish-mash of colleagues with different cultural backgrounds, ages, dress preference and technical preference that come together as Osprey Software. I’m often more concerned about telling someone I was an American Studies major—I know, a Liberal Arts degree working in the tech field—who could barely use her Mac in the nineties, and that “no,” it had never occurred to me at the age of 18 to major in IT.
Even that last insecurity boils down to the same reason I could never understand someone suggesting that women in tech should reduce themselves to their initials, before broadcasting a new idea or important message. I have worked diligently for 20 years to understand my clients’ challenges, and how technology can, and should, be used to improve business and user experiences. I am never shy with a client, and will routinely ask questions about which others seem to hesitate. I always prioritize building a relationship with my colleagues and clients to understand why they do the things they do, and how things can be improved.
Like lots of other men and women, I come to work every day wanting to solve problems—these problems just happen to be technical in nature. Even better? I’m surrounded by a great group of people at Osprey Software wanting to do the same thing. And when we solve problems together, and see satisfied clients, I want to send them my first, middle, maiden and last name to highlight that our team were the ones with the brains and tech savvy to make the changes they needed for their business. I want them to personalize me as Lindsey, not L.C. or Cusson! I want us to get the recognition—myself included—for all the great things our team has accomplished, so that they can ask for us by name when faced with another technical problem down the road. If they happen to think it’s more impressive because I am a woman, that’s fine by me. Just know that I want my work to be judged on its own caliber, and I know any one of my colleagues would say the very same—male and female.