IT Innovation

Running the Show

When Sarah Zumbrum goes to a conference, she doesn’t sit still, and she doesn’t stop learning.

By Curran Mahowald

November/December 2014

For Sarah Zumbrum, attending a conference is anything but a passive experience. At Kscope14 in June 2014 in Seattle, Washington, the Oracle ACE Associate and Oracle Essbase 11 Certified Implementation Specialist with interRel Consulting worked on the Hyperion SIG board, gave presentations, participated in onsite video interviews, and helped the ODTUG leadership candidates. Oh, and she ran a half marathon.

Zumbrum got her start in ODTUG about four years earlier when one of her company’s vice presidents encouraged her to submit a conference paper. In 2011 she was selected to speak at Kscope11 (in Long Beach, California), which was her first user group conference and her first time presenting a paper. “I learned a lot that I was able to immediately take back,” says Zumbrum. “But also I realized how much I didn’t know and how much I still had to learn.”

Her involvement continued in 2013 when she was accepted in the first class of the ODTUG leadership program, through which she codeveloped a mentoring facilitation program, hosted a meetup, and volunteered at the Kscope13 conference. “I just got hooked,” explains Zumbrum. “ODTUG leaders care about the people they serve; they care about the people that they serve with.”

One year later, Zumbrum had another important role at the Kscope14 conference: speaking on the Women in Technology panel. The goal of the panel session, Zumbrum says, was not necessarily to propose solutions to the gender discrepancies in technology, but to elicit communication. “You don’t have to have all the answers; you just have to have an opinion,” says Zumbrum.

What prevents women from participating as much in networking opportunities as men in the same field? Zumbrum posits that it’s a lack of confidence, citing the fact that she had a blog site six months before she finally worked up the courage to publish her first blog post. “I was really scared about people coming back and critiquing what I had found that was new and exciting to me,” admits Zumbrum. “But what I eventually realized is if they come back and say, ‘Why didn’t you try this?’ it may be something I’ve never seen before, and that’s something that could help me. And it’s OK to put yourself out there.”

As someone who always had the support of her parents to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, she believes that encouraging young girls to pursue their passion for those subjects is paramount to creating gender equality in the high technology industry. “At the home level, the school level, and even at a mentoring level, women can go into schools as successful businesspeople and say, ‘You love math? Guess what: I love math too!’”

Zumbrum’s own love of math is evidenced by her focus on business intelligence (BI) and enterprise performance management (EPM) technologies. Different business users drive BI and EPM projects, and as a result, Zumbrum sees BI and EPM separating in the future, with EPM becoming easier for users to manage. “With EPM applications moving to the cloud, some of the technical resources that you needed on the back end are starting to go away,” says Zumbrum. On the other hand, Zumbrum believes that BI will become more technical, moving toward bigger data and bigger systems.

Speaking of bigger data, Zumbrum is excited about the potential benefits of big data but also cautious about where it’s going. “It’s exciting how much you’ll be able to glean from big data. Our phones, for example, are walking data-gathering points and can provide insights into what people do with their time, with their money, and so on. With that information, you can better serve your customers,” says Zumbrum. “I’m also cautious; I hope there’s going to be some kind of governing body—but not necessarily a government body—that creates rules for gathering and using personal information.”

Next Steps

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Photography by Jussara Romao, Unsplash