Recently I was asked by DeVry University, one of our Cisco customers, to participate in a video interview on the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers for women. It gave me a reason to pause and reflect on my own career journey, what prompted my start in business and how that journey has evolved.

Math was always my favorite subject in school – and later as a professional, I was enamored by numbers and how they told a company’s story. I made the leap from finance to information technology after several years at Walt Disney World when an executive, who saw potential in me that I hadn’t myself realized, asked me to take a major CRM role. This change in career course has opened up a new world of possibilities for me professionally – and I believe technology careers for women are limitless with more opportunities than ever before.

Consider that no business function has changed faster than IT – we’ve gone from mainframes to PCs to smartphones and tablets in less than 30 years.  And in the last seven years, IT has advanced rapidly from a PC to post-PC era with every layer of the compute stack shattered with choices. IT is at the center of this dramatic technology transformation and it is a very exciting place to work as more new technologies are introduced.

Beyond the technology advances, here are a few more reasons why choosing a STEM career has so much appeal:

  • Challenge – With the fast pace of change you will be challenged on a daily basis to think critically and be creative to drive business value.
  • Satisfaction – Many professionals in these fields have fun and feel fulfilled because they have the ability to engage in hands-on tasks and work on developing business solutions (which are now apps) that drive their companies to be more efficient and effective.
  • Impact – Creating or improving products, devices and applications can make an enormous difference to not only your business but to your employees, customers and partners.
  • Demand – Because of advancements in technology and how pervasive it is, no longer are there merely “IT projects.” Instead, there are business opportunities spanning HR to Finance to Engineering that all include technology. There is great demand for technologists who can manage these opportunities.

At Cisco and many other companies, I’m happy to report that women in IT are no longer novelties. There are several women in executive IT positions – including CIO and CTO.  At Cisco, women (Rebecca Jacoby and Padmasree Warrior, respectively) hold both of these roles. And, it has been my distinct pleasure to work with and mentor truly outstanding IT women here at Cisco – two in my group were recently honored with Computerworld Laureate awards.

In closing, let me offer my recommendations for career success – be it STEM or other fields:

  • Find your passion. You will be successful in your field as long as you have a real passion for it.
  • Be open – open to new ideas and open to change. 
  • Be planful but be available. You want to have a career plan but sometimes an opportunity will arise that you didn’t expect and hadn’t considered. When that opportunity comes, grab it!

I’m truly excited about STEM career opportunities for women because we haven’t defined the ceiling or impact STEM will have in the future. It’s ours to decide!