Women in Technology is a Washington, DC-based organization that seeks to empower women to be architects of change in the technology industry. With programming for technical professionals, executive management, business owners, and students, WIT provides the opportunity for all women to learn and connect to move their careers forward.
Leaders of the organization explain that the core of WIT’s mission is advancing women in technology, from the classroom to the boardroom. Their programming and networking opportunities give members the opportunity to expand their professional skills and knowledge and meet the people who can help them take their career to the next level.
“WIT programs offer an amazing opportunity to expand your professional knowledge and networks,” says Sue Butler, chair of WIT’s Executive Women Special Interest Group. “Whether it’s at a small, focused SIG [special interest group] event or a monthly WIT, you’ll discover new insights and end up with dozens of business cards from new colleagues.”
Scroll down for our Q&A.
Be Inkandescent: Tell us about Women in Technology and how it has grown in the last few years.
Sue Butler: WIT recently celebrated our 20th year! Women in Technology was started to help women in high-tech roles and women who work with and for tech-related organizations “from the classroom to the boardroom” progress in their careers. Several years ago we evolved our mission “to help women become architects of change” in their own companies and organizations. Today we are almost 1,000 members strong and our goal is to grow to 2,000 members.
Be Inkandescent: How has your mission changed to keep up with the times?
Sue Butler: Today, we are helping young women in middle school and high school through GIT, Girls in Technology. We also formed WITEF, Women in Technology Educational Foundation, which has a separate board and budget. It serves as a philanthropic organization that WIT directly supports. Several years ago we also formed The Leadership Foundry, with the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) to help prepare women to get on corporate boards.
Be Inkandescent: What was the major crossroads in building this organization? And how did the leadership handle it?
Sue Butler: The popping of the high-tech/dot-com bubble, as well as 9/11 certainly affected WIT’s growth. The economy—especially the 2008 crash—have also affected our growth. WIT is a professional membership organization, and women (and men—5 percent of our members are men) join as individuals. This has helped to make individual memberships portable. We have kept our dues very affordable ($155 a year or $200 for a two-year membership), and yearly we have sent out a membership survey to assess what our members like and don’t like about WIT, programs they would like to see within WIT, suggestions to better our organization, etc.
Be Inkandescent: WIT hosts regular networking events, which are really fabulous. What makes them work? And what do you think is the secret to networking success?
Sue Butler: We have over 13 committees and special interest groups, representing a real diversity of interests within WIT, but also reflecting the different roles our members play within their own companies and organizations. These special interest groups also address the various needs women professionals have throughout their careers—including professional development, networking, programs that teach and inform our members on trends in technology, job searches, and interviewing. You can see we strive to help our members develop all of the skills, both hard and soft, that they will need as they progress through their career.
We also publish a biweekly, digital newsletter that goes out to all of our members about WIT events, programs, new members, committees, etc.
I think our programs work because of the really hard work and commitment of our members. We are a 100 percent volunteer organization.
I think the secret to networking success is, first of all, the right attitude. Networking is something you do all of the time—everywhere. It is a way of life and something you do throughout your career, not a transactional activity to get a job or make key connections with people who might benefit one’s career at the time. Networking is a selfless attitude of building long-term relationships and giving to others, without the expectation of immediate return.
But you never know if the next person you meet might change your life or play a defining role in your career. People do not, however, throw themselves on the hood of your car. You have to be out there, meeting people and giving to others. Networking cannot be just one-sided. People see that a mile away. I also think that listening to the needs of others and having a generous desire to help others is absolutely key. What goes around truly comes around.
Be Inkandescent: What is so important about networking?
Sue Butler: Life coach and self-help author Tony Robbins says that “one referral is equal to 15 cold calls.” Networking is an effective and viable way to get ahead in one’s career, connect with key stakeholders, search for a job, develop your career, obtain business, and connect opportunities to people. As a woman, I think it is also a great way to build wonderful relationships with other professional women.
Be Inkandescent: What are your top three secrets to networking well?
- View networking as a way of life and an attitude.
- Understand that “no ones care what you do until they know you care” —about them. You cannot network with the expectation of immediate return.
- No one gets to where they want to go by themselves. Networking is critical for everyone.
Be Inkandescent: What advice do you have for the women in your network about being successful in business?
Sue Butler: Be open to new opportunities, and get out there and network. Business, like life, changes every day. We all must be able to change and adapt, and we must be willing to reinvent ourselves professionally.
Be Inkandescent: Tell us a little more about your business, and your top leadership lesson for other women. Do you live by that lesson?
Sue Butler: I started my own boutique executive search practice, CXO Resources, Inc., to be a resource to CEOs and other “C-level” executives who need key executives who will manage their sales teams, position their organizations for growth, and obtain critical exposure in front of their target audiences. We place director level and higher leaders in sales, marketing, and public relations, and we work with growing organizations to identify, qualify, and “bring to the table” the leaders who will build their client bases, generate substantial revenue, and substantially move their business plans forward.
Having spent more than 25 years building relationships with senior executives, I have a long history of working with senior management at the C level as a consultant. I have owned my own business, served as director of business development in several start-ups, worked in executive search at the senior executive level for over 12 years, and have partnered with organizations in a variety of fields to assess their needs and consult with them to find appropriate solutions.
The mantra of CXO Resources, Inc. is “Consult, Search, Contribute.” I consult with all of my clients up-front, to make sure I have a crystal clear picture of the hiring need and situation, corporate and management culture, expectations for success, and the organization that the hired candidate will join. I search and provide fully qualified and motivated candidates in a timely manner. My clients get a very experienced, senior-level executive recruiter who partners and works directly with them to complete a critical search, and I work tirelessly to contribute to moving my client’s business plan forward.
My top leadership lesson for other women: Be fearless and passionate about the value you bring to the marketplace and your unique “value proposition.” I have had to learn this lesson myself along the way.
Be Inkandescent: Looking back, what advice would you have for the founders of Women in Technology?
Sue Butler: Continue to ask what our members want and need, and then work tirelessly to give it to them. Build bridges and strategic alliances with other organizations.
For more information about Women in Technology, visit its website, www.womenintechnology.org.