You’d be surprised where technology can take you if you make it your own
22 de septiembre de 2022
Por Beth Finn
A tech leader at Elsevier writes about the possibilities that can arise when you bring your whole self to technology
My first tech memories are from when I was just 5. My dad brought home a Heathkit(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) computer system, and I “helped” him build it. I remember playing Space Invaders(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) on that green and white screen and later learning to program the computer using BASIC(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana). I loved that I could make that machine do brand new things based on the instructions I gave it.
As I grew up, my interests in STEM expanded to include biology, chemistry and more. When I started college, I was majoring in biochemistry with plans to go to medical school. But a freshman biochem seminar introduced me to all the other possibilities in the field, and I became excited about bioinformatics(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) — a new (at the time) field that combined my love of science and technology. Studying both biochemistry and computer and information science meant I didn’t have to choose between the things I was excited about.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was building my future iteratively, like the process that goes into agile software design — and a key component in the development was my personality.
“I like people too much to sit behind a computer all day.”
I started my professional career as a software engineer building desktop software and web-based games for customers in the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries, and later I worked with big data, enterprise software and cloud computing. As time went on, however, I realized that I wanted to do something more strategic and grow my leadership skills. There’s a lot more to being a technologist than writing code, and I like people too much to sit behind a computer all day.
I made the shift into leadership first by becoming a manager of an engineering team and then as part of a project management organization (PMO).
At Elsevier, I’ve had the opportunity to return to my early loves of science and technology. As a Program Manager, I manage a global team of project managers who deliver a variety of software and product development investment projects for the Health Markets division of Elsevier. I’m responsible for the coaching, mentoring and career growth of direct reports.
I also manage the $10 million Advanced Clinical Decision Support (ACDS) global portfolio of investment projects, which includes products to help clinicians make better decisions at the point of care and improve patient outcomes. I coordinate workstreams across technology, product, commercial, compliance, regulatory, safety (including Medical Device Registration), finance, strategy, and customer support.
One of the products I’m most proud of is ClinicalPath Primary Care Pathways, which we recently launched in India. This tool will be used by frontline healthcare workers to identify people in rural communities who have at-risk pregnancies and get them the care they need so they and their babies will be healthy. This product directly contributes to our mission to improve every patient outcome.
Finding my purpose as a leader
As women, we are often expected to handle multiple roles at the same time: as caregivers, as professionals, as household managers and more. This ability to excel at many different types of tasks has served me well in my career and given me the courage to pursue more strategic opportunities. I've also been very fortunate to participate in a number of leadership development programs designed specifically for women, including Elsevier’s Developing Talent for Gender Equity program. Through a combination of group sessions with a cohort, one-on-one coaching, and mentoring, this program has helped me to develop my leadership skills and understand what kind of leader I want to be.
I believe as a leader, it’s important to make a difference in the world, to leave the world a better place than where I found it. I see my role in the organization as making connections between people and ideas. My job as part of the PMO is to look across all the different functional areas and people involved with bringing a new product to life and make sure all the seams are sealed so nothing seeps through.
As a leader, I want to help people develop into the best versions of themselves by giving them the tools and courage they need to take the next steps in their careers. What you can expect from me is my full attention and respect and a creative approach to whatever we are working on together. People often think that technology and creativity are mutually exclusive, but I’d argue the opposite is true. We’re inventing the software of the future, and we’re doing it to solve real-world problems. That requires out-of-the-box thinking from multiple angles. Women bring a different perspective than men do. It’s important to incorporate these unique experiences when we are building software, tools and technology so they work well for everyone.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to be the only woman in the room, especially as I move further up in my career. But it’s important that we keep showing up and that we reach back a hand to help those coming behind us so that continues to change. And I’ve found that at Elsevier, there are more and more women in the room with me.
My best advice for young women in technology
Don’t let others set your path for you.
You can make technology your own. It is a key to opening opportunities both for life-long learning and financial stability. I had no idea when I started my career that I would be here now doing work that impacts people all over the world and makes their lives better.
Technology can take you anywhere.
It’s a foundation for a career in any industry you can think of. Every line of work needs technologists now and into the future. It can also literally take you places; my software career has given me the opportunity to travel and see the world. I’ve been to India, Europe, and all over the United States because of the work I do at Elsevier.
Know your worth and don't let anyone make you feel less than.
There will be a lot of people who question your choices in subtle ways but try to stay focused on what it is you love about technology and why you want to pursue it.
Imposter syndrome is real, but it’s also a liar.
Everyone questions their right to be in the room where it happens, but you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. We all started out at the beginning and got to where we are by putting one foot in front of the other. Gather trusted friends, mentors and advisors around you into your own personal Board of Directors, and let them be louder than that voice in your head that tells you otherwise.
Technology is changing our world at a rapid pace; 20 years ago, we had little notion of the cloud, how powerful cell phones would be, or how connected the world would become. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will bring, and I’m excited to be some small part of shaping it through the life-changing work we do at Elsevier!
Working at Elsevier
Our people are our greatest strength at Elsevier. Through purposeful work, they help researchers, clinicians and engineers tackle humanity's biggest challenges.
By combining content, data and analytics, they help transform information into actionable insights. We have a wide range of opportunities. Our goal is to inspire groundbreaking work by hiring talented people. There are job openings worldwide, and we are always open to new talent.