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Ep 66: Chris Rydzewski: Believe In Yourself
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Diva Tech Talk interviewed Chris Rydzewski, tech veteran, serving as Executive Director for the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (www.mcwt.org). Chris did not originally plan a path in technology: “Ironically, I stumbled into it,” she said. Matriculating at the University of Michigan (http://umich.edu/ ), “I loved math and stats,” she said, “but I wound up with a degree in marketing.” Having lived in Texas for a while, Chris returned to Michigan and joined IT powerhouse Compuware (www.compuware.com) in the early 1990’s . “They had 5 lines of business, and were really big, at that time.” For eight years, Chris sold Compuware solutions, supporting the Rocky Mountain states and then the entire Midwest. Then she became an international product line sales director responsible for coaching direct and channel sales teams in South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Chris then moved to BMC (www.bmc.com) focusing, for 5 years, on sales to large Michigan-based corporations. She subsequently moved back to Compuware as a strategic sales manager for key “named accounts” regionally. The move allowed her to explore other products including product portfolio management and change management offerings. In 2013, Chris moved over to Compuware’s application performance management division, a growth segment for the company. Within a year, private equity investment firm, Thoma Bravo LLC purchased Compuware for $2.4 billion. Under the agreement, Thoma Bravo split Compuware into two separate companies: the mainframe software business (under the Compuware name) and Dynatrace (www.dynatrace.com), real-time software management and maintenance. Chris stayed with Dynatrace, selling for them for the next four years. “It was always about solving problems. And that’s what I love about technology.” In the summer of 2017, changes at Dynatrace spurred Chris to leave the company. She asked herself questions like “what is my gift?” and “what is it that I should be doing, moving forward?” She was “tapped on the shoulder” to consider the opportunity with the Michigan Council of Women in Technology. “For the previous 12 years, I had always been a volunteer,” Chris said, but now assumed the role of Executive Director. In her new role, Chris is responsible for full MCWT P&L management with oversight over the organization’s fiscal health, budget, fundraising, staff, and more. She is laser-focused on “operational improvements and efficiency.” With a mission to “grow and inspire girls and women in the field of technology in Michigan,” MCWT consumes most of Chris’s energies. “This is the ‘give-back’ time for me.” MCWT runs 35+ large and small events each year; has given over $1 million in scholarships to college-bound and post-college women pursuing technology careers; will run 10 summer tech camps for 5 th through 8 th graders this year; has 13 after-school girls’ middle school and high school tech programs; hosts an annual Website design contest for middle school and high school girls; a mentorship program for mid-career women, and more. While still small, compared to other nonprofits, MCWT “has a lot of programs and stakeholders,” Chris said. And she is now responsible to work closely with the Mission Officers, Infrastructure Leads, Staff, Volunteers, and the Boards to help drive success for all the programs and events! Chris has been grateful to observe “many great leaders over the last 12 years” of her volunteerism at MCWT, teaching her key leadership lessons: ● “Be passionate” about whatever you choose to do. ● “Be open to new opportunities.” ● “Believe in yourself. “ ● “Be relevant.” Chris commented: “You are not really going to know what you are good at, until you try different things, and see what bubbles up to the top.” “I think women have different characteristics” than men, Chris said. “ I think we listen better and communicate better.” Some of her former colleagues “would be amazed at how I could pull out information” when she was making joint sales calls with them. She emphasized that “you have to make yourself heard” particularly when you are in the minority in the workplace. A self-admitted “workaholic,” Chris admits to occasionally have a problem balancing family, and work. She has deployed a few practical tactics to address this. “My husband and I have ‘date nights,’” she said and the time between dinner and when her teenage daughter goes to sleep is the time when everyone focuses on family. Driving her daughter anywhere, she turns herphone off. As a family, they also plan big trips that all of them can take, together. “You should not always have your work drive you. Your family is super-important; there is so much more,” said Chris. “Technology makes everything relevant” according to Chris. She can be reached through the new and improved MCWT website (www.mcwt.org). For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.