In our recent WomenInTechQA series, we caught up with Melissa Jurkoic, Chief Customer Experience Officer at addapptation & Co-Founder of Diversify Thinking.
Melissa offered her advice to those looking to take on senior leadership positions in tech, discussed what businesses can do to encourage more women into a career in the industry and mentioned the inspiration behind the initiative Diversify Thinking.
W.I.T. Republic (WR): To kick-off, could you explain a bit about your career journey and how you got into a career in tech?
Melissa Jurkoic (MJ): It’s interesting because growing up, I had limited exposure to technology. Even throughout high school, I had little interest in computers, programming or pursuing higher education in that space. My dream was to be a writer and was planning to major in English/Journalism, potentially teaching if that was the direction my career took after obtaining my degree. It all started honestly when I needed to fill a block as a senior in high school and took a BASIC programming course. I fell in love with the idea of creating through technology.
So I was all in for a future in tech when earning my bachelors degree in Computer Science and began my career not long after graduation as a software engineer. Through evolution of my skills and opportunity, I worked across technical leadership roles, product management and solution architecture. My journey has always had a focus on bridging the gap between business and technology and demystifying technical concepts for people to encourage diversity of thought in innovation.
WR: As Chief Customer Experience Officer at addapptation, how do you think the events of the past year have impacted people’s expectations of technology?
MJ: We are more dependent on technology than ever before. The entire world was forced to change overnight how and where they worked and the solution was technology. As a result, we have much less patience and forgiveness when technology fails us and when things like Slack go down for example, it has a palpable impact on your business.
WR: What advice would you give to other women looking to take their career to the next level and take on those senior leadership positions?
MJ: Find someone who has done it before you and learn from their mistakes. Their mistakes are gold to you. We often ask people “how did you do it all?” or “you’re so successful, what should I do?” when what we should be asking is “what was your biggest failure?”.
WR: You are also the Co-Founder of Diversify Thinking, could you talk a bit about this?
MJ: I could talk about that all day! Our mission with Diversify Thinking is to raise the level of action to meet the level of conversation regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. We have spent YEARS creating communities and safe spaces for those underrepresented and underserved so they would have the support they need.
The problem is nothing is truly changing and unfortunately the pandemic has set us back quite a bit on any progress that was made in equality – specifically with women in the workforce. We need to get those in a position of power who can influence true change at the table and make a decision to take action.
We are currently working on how we do that through several programs to help evangelize and most importantly educate those who want to create a more equitable work environment. We believe that there is enough awareness now but people are still struggling on where/how to get started. We want to change that.
WR: What are your top tips for others looking to create their space in the industry?
MJ: Find the one thing about technology that lights you up – we all have it. It could be a particular language, data analysis, user experience or even how artistic it is using technology to solve problems. Once you find that – surround yourself with a network of people that you can learn from and share with. People that will challenge you to grow.
Share what you learn publicly in any way that is authentic to you – public speaking, blogging, mentoring (I’m a huge fan of mentoring!) or just posting tips on social media. If you put value out in the universe and take the time to do that, you will create your own unique space and grow immensely in the process.
WR: What do you think businesses and the wider community can do to encourage more women into a career in tech?
MJ: Create clear pathways and support to get there. We need more women in leadership roles but until then, men need to sponsor women to help make this systemic change happen. I have grown quite tired of hearing about the alleged pipeline problem. There are plenty of very talented women out there who are more than qualified to lead teams and organizations. We need to create an environment that helps them rise to the top and then support them when they get there so they belong.
WR: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received throughout your career?
MJ: Ask for help. Assume that others want to help you, but don’t assume they know you need help.
If you would like to join Melissa as part of our WomenInTechQA series, get in touch today!