Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Talk Nerdy to Me

Lesia Greene, John Chambers- CEO of Cisco, Me, and Michele Ricketts
I still remember it , clear as crystal.  My very first Global Sales Seminar with Cisco Systems (at the time).  LIVE from San Francisco...  Jam packed with brilliant speakers, motivational and educational seminars.  That night we had our first party (Little did I know in all my doe eyed-ness that there would be little to no sleep that entire week...up at the crack of dawn for seminars, and up for pretty much the rest of the night Celebrating our victories, and networking!).  

Walking around and getting to speak with John Chambers, and Rick Justice was like something out of a dream for those of us tech nerds who close to worshiped the esteemed C-Execs. I decided in that moment to meander myself across the room in search of the ladies room.  With close to 10,000 people- I figured there would absolutely be a line wrapped around the corner.  As I walked on, I saw a never ending line of men- for what I assumed was the bar.  It was in that moment, a miracle occurred!  For the FIRST TIME in the HISTORY of my LIFE, I walked into the ladies room, without a line! Not a single person in front of me.  Women- we know this is a Miracle.  Men forced to hold the ladies purse in line and wait an unconventional period of time, both parties pondering life's greatest mystery (or one of at least)- "why do women take so much longer?".  

It was in that second, I realized that long and winding line of men was not for the bar after all, is was for the Male Restroom. My first thought: " MUAH HA HA HA PAY BACK!!!"  Second thought:  Has hell frozen over, and are pigs flying somewhere?  Third thought- Women in Technology, we are way outnumbered! 

I like to consider myself a "Closet Nerd".  My first years in school growing up, I always won the technology award for "Computers".  After all it was during my prime time that they became so pivotal in education.  As an innovation, school use of computers has spread swiftly, widely, and, on occasion, deeply. A few statistics on computer use suggest the broad outlines of the picture:

  • In 1981, 18 percent of schools had computers; in 1991, 98 percent had them.
  • In 1981, 16 percent of schools used computers for instructional purposes; by 1991, 98 percent did so.
  • In 1981, there were, on average, 125 students per computer; in 1991, there were 18.
  • In 1985, students used computers in school labs just over 3 hours a day; in 1989, that figure had risen to 4hours a day.

These few numbers give a sense of an expanding technological base in schools.  I was enamored by the computer.  I would stay late while my mom was working and go straight to the computer labs and mess around on a broad range of activities from binary codes to the revolutionary (at the time) games "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" and "The Oregan Trail"  Although it wasn't until I was in High School that we were able to purchase our first family computer for the home. 

In College, early on declared my major doubling in Global Business and Marketing because of my love of travel and creativity, but  I excelled in Management Information Systems (MIS), and Computer Information Systems (CIS) courses, and would often take them as my electives.  As I graduated cum laude and with the highest honor of Presidential Scholarship and initiation into the Pen and Sword Society.   Subsequent to graduation,  I was invited to an Alumni Event at the World Famous Waldorf Astoria in NYC to be an ambassador or our College.  It was there where I met several amazing people who worked at Cisco and were alumni of my alma mater.  At the time, Jerry McAvey, was the Cisco Operations Director, and Lou McElwain Area VP for Cisco Commercial East, all around great people personally and professionally, and Jaspers to boot! :) 

We had a delightful conversation, and I suppose they liked me and believed in me, and Thank God they did, because that conversation changed my life.  At the time, I was studying to be a stock broker on Wall Street, and they asked me if I would ever consider leaving NY or applying for the Cisco ASR/ASE (Associate Sales Rep/Associate System Engineer) program in RTP NC because they thought I would be a good candidate.  

I applied, had three phone interviews, and was flown to RTP.  In the elegant, and modern Cisco building I sat down pensively, not knowing the next few minutes would change my life.  As we were herding ourselves into a giant room, filled with tables and bells we began the interview process.  I knew there was far too much competition to mess up, for every ONE seat 800 people were interviewing from around the word- no pressure! The first interview went splendid, the second as well.  The third however looked at my resume, scoffed, and said I don't think you are a good candidate (before I even had a chance to open my mouth).  Without missing a beat, I said "I think you're wrong".  A bit shocked, he smiled, and continued the interview process.  It was at the end I circled back and said, "Do you think I am a good candidate now?", to which he retorted "you were when you told me I was wrong" =) 

My Cisco Awards through the years
It turns out, someone had mixed up my interview days and I was there on the Engineering Day.  I did so well selling myself as an Engineer, I was offered both positions :).  One year later of extensive Sales and Technology Training, I became CCSE, and CCDA certified and graduated. I went on to Commercial and SMB Sales where I twice was awarded the esteemed "Cisco Commitment to Excellence Award", given to only one candidate a year.  Fast forward almost a decade later,  and I currently serves as Cisco Relationship Manager for Century Link, Embarq, and Qwest three of our larger SMB Resale partners. This year I was honored to be recognized as the annual winner of the prestigious "Cisco World Wide Channel Organization Award for Innovation and Growth". 

I am very excited to now sit on two CompTIA committees: IT Service and Support as well as Advancing Women in IT. I am a long standing member of the National Women in Technology Group, where I have given speeches for young women in technology. Moreover, I actively gives back to the community and am an advocate for U Touch - an organization focused on transforming lives in disadvantaged regions by providing Technology, Training and eMentoring.

So obviously Technology has been long ingrained in my veins, and now in my relationship as I date one of the techiest guys I know, Jay McBain (also a closet nerd).  I am honored to be included with him, as a nominee in this year's SMB150 amongst such other incredible IT Icons such as Arlin Sorensen, Todd Thibodeaux, Harry Brelsford, Jerry Koustavas, Karl Palachuk, Bob Godgart, and Jay McBain amongst many others whom I admire and respect in our industry.  

I was going to the list of amazing candidates when something else struck me.  Cue my bathroom lightbulb moment, but ladies in technology we are out numbered once again!  Outnumbered in every category to be exact.  I did some research, and here are the stats:

I found that so interesting it inspired me to do more research on how men and women compare in the world of technology.  The issue of women in tech is a hot topic — whether the conversation is about female board members and entrepreneurs in a male-dominated industry, or about opportunities for women to get education in tech earlier in life;  this is one of my main focuses in Women in Technology Groups, and goals of getting  powerful women in IT to become E-Mentors to speak to young women in various parts of the world for U-Touch.  According to this NY Times infograph, I found these startling statistics about the lack of female representation, and decline of Women in High Tech fields:

Does the IT industry discriminate against women? It depends on who you're asking. According to the exclusive 2008 Skills Survey, male and female tech workers have very different views on the topic.  

While the majority (44 per cent) of respondents to the survey disagree or strongly disagree with the statement 'the IT industry discriminates against women', a tale of two sexes emerges when the results are broken down by gender.

According to Silicon.Com the majority (51 per cent) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed the lack of women in IT is bad for the industry, slightly down on 2008 when 54 per cent held that view. The same proportion (51 per cent) believes the image of IT is off-putting to women, down one percentage point on last year.

That women are underrepresented in the IT industry is well documented: male IT workers greatly outnumber females in the UK workforce.  Ironically the two genders agreed that the image of IT is off-putting to women, with 57.5 per cent of women agreeing or strongly agreeing with this view, along with 51 per cent of men.

Whether women buy more tech products than men seems to be another facet of the subject emerging right now. According to a new report from Parks Associates, more women than men are downloading movies and music, women do the majority of game-playing across some platforms, and women have higher “purchase intentions” than men do when it comes to some electronics.

Women are 40 percent more likely than men to play games on Facebook, represent the majority of Nintendo Wii players, and match men in terms of owning and playing Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PS3, says the report. And women are 73 percent more likely than men to have watched a full-length TV show online in the past 30 days.

Parks Associates also says that women have higher purchase intentions than men do when it comes to buying popular devices like tablets, laptops and smartphones, though men’s interest surpassed women’s when it came to purchasing flat-screen LCD TVs.  According to a Harvard Business Review report from last year, U.S. women continue to say they control more than 70 percent of total consumer spending. In 2008, men were estimated to spend $902 annually on consumer electronics, compared with the $558 women spent on tech each year.  By 2009, women were spending more on consumer electronics than men, according to the CEA. It says women accounted for $55 billion of the $96 billion spent on electronics gear that year.

I hope that this surge of women's interest in purchasing and participating in technology will inspire more of us to join the technology world in education and career.  I feel blessed to be a women in technology, not because I am a women, but in-spite of it.  Cisco is a company I am proud to say is often celebrated with Awards for Women in Technology.  I hope my story inspires you to vote for me in the SMB150, as a representative of Cisco, the Vendor/Parner Community, Social Media and Technology activists, and a proud Woman in IT.   

MY SMB 150 Nomination

How do you vote? Here are 7 simple "How To Steps": 
1. Click on the site link:  Vote for Michelle Ragusa Here
2. Click Register in the top right 
3. Enter User Name, E-mail, Pass Word, Code Verification 4. Check your email inbox (if not there, check spam folder) 
5. You will get an e-mail from-"administrator" Subject- "Thanks for joining, please activate your account" 
6. Click on the link to activate your account. 
7. Log back in to vote with the user-name and password you created, and vote by clicking the small blue arrow to the left of my name! :)

Please note you can vote multiple times- one vote per nominee- once a day-  for the entire month of March!  Thank you for your help, and supporting one of the few, proud, and the brave- a techie girl.  

Thanks to all your votes I won~ :)

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