Katty Coulson, VP of Information Technology for Oracle NetSuite, recently shared her reflections in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Read on for her experience as a Latina in technology.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog, but I found myself inspired by the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month which kicked off on September 15. While I often think about my journey, this month in particular always makes me take a step back. And suffice to say, 2020 has been a year for even further reflection.
I’ve recently found myself thinking about a day in September 2006. I parked my car, walked into the office building, and was escorted to get my picture taken for my new job, nervous and excited for my first day at a Fortune 500 company here in Silicon Valley. It was only three years earlier that I arrived in California from Mexico as a newlywed, and after a couple of jobs I obtained a three month contract to start a program in the Advanced Services Organization at Cisco Systems.
You might be wondering why this day and why this event. It’s because it was the first day of a ritual that would define much of my career.
Three months at Cisco became six, then nine, and then 12. Six weeks after welcoming my second son, I returned and made that same trek from the parking lot to the office building and started the process to become a regular employee. It was that night that my husband Allan urged me to realize that I had a decision to make: I could accept and take a job, or I could accept and start a career. This philosophy has shaped my mindset and approach to owning my career from that moment forward.
Flash forward to October 2019 when I, again, parked my car, walked into the office building, and was escorted to get my picture taken. This was my first day as Vice President of IT for Oracle NetSuite. It is humbling as years pass, skills develop, yet those same nervous and excited feelings can consume you.
This ritual has become a symbol in my career. A reminder to me, that no matter the company, the role, or the year; there are similarities and lessons to take with you from job to job.
Consequently, this felt like a perfect time to share what I’ve learned, especially as a Latina in tech:
1) Family support is immeasurable: Allan has been my number one supporter. Our culture can lean heavily on very defined expectations and roles that males and females should play, at least in my personal experience. While not everyone in the family was on board with me working after I had my children, my husband never questioned my decision! He continues to encourage me to keep going, whether to take on more opportunities or to get over my mother’s guilt.
2) Two words to live by—Confidence and Courage: I remember receiving feedback during one review about my lack of confidence and presence during meetings. Luckily, this leader paired this feedback with registering me for executive communications training. Skills can be learned, and with enough hard work and confidence, we can achieve higher levels of proficiency. In time, I was able to improve and now I host, present, and lead at meetings, keynotes, and conferences with audiences that range from just a couple of people to thousands of attendees.
3) Always be a student and dedicate time to your own learning: Continuous education is critical and I make it a priority; from pursuing my post-graduate degree at Harvard Business School to earning other certifications—I try to soak up as much knowledge as possible. I know I will never know everything, and getting continuous education as a working parent is not easy, but it is worth it.
4) Align with leaders who understand diversity and promote inclusion: This has been especially important to me being a female in a male-dominated industry. Everyone knows leadership starts at the top so it was imperative for me to have a leader who understood who I am versus what I did. There have been times where my peers have lacked empathy, but knowing that my manager understood me as a person and not just as an employee was priceless. I’m brought back to a moment when I was heavily pregnant with my third child and stressing out about leaving for maternity leave. Sensing my nervousness my VP asked me: Do you know why you are here? My reply was: I am here to work. He said: No, you are here, because you have talent: Go and have your baby, we will be here waiting for you when you are ready. When you have leaders who recognize life circumstances, welcome diversity, and make a strategic effort to equalize the playing field, you AND your team members will be successful.
5) Create and foster a network of like-minded friends and role models: Employee resource groups, Hispanic organizations, and Women in leadership associations have provided a tremendous amount of support, connections, role models, and a sense of community. In many cases, those friends are family. Seeing people who look like me, who talk like me, and have similar experiences offers me inspiration and strength. At Cisco I had the opportunity to lead Conexion globally for a few years, volunteered with Women Leaders in IT, and here at Oracle I am proud to co-lead the Oracle Latinos Alliance chapter headquarters and volunteer to help in various programs.
So, what’s next? As I continue working hard on my career, it’s clear to me that giving back and paying it forward are responsibilities of each individual in the workforce. I would not be here if it wasn’t for people who believe, support, and invest in me. As a Latina in tech I see how few of us are in our field, whether women or LatinX, and even more so in strategic leadership positions. It matters when leaders recognize our talent, offer support, and take the time to listen and actively remove roadblocks so others can progress.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I invite you to give back and pay it forward! Donate one hour of your time and help a Latino group, mentor or coach a LatinX employee, or look for ways to increase inclusion and opportunities in our workplace and communities.
Do you want to join a company that elevates LatinX leaders and supports women in tech? Explore our range of career opportunities and create the future with us.