The power of community is in its conversation, and this week, the women are speaking.
At C2C, we believe sharing journeys can provide the motivation, inspiration, or belief others need to either take their first steps or keep going.
In that spirit, we’re honoring Women’s History Month by having career conversations with the women from our global community, culminating today on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021.
Today we’re featuring Kelly Wright, Head of Google Workspace Engineering at SADA.
C2C: You’re in a video call with people you haven’t yet met. How would you introduce yourself?
Kelly Wright (KW): My name is Kelly Wright. I currently lead a team of engineers focused on the implementation of Google Workspace and complementary tools. I have been at SADA for just shy of eight years and have worked as a support engineer, deployment engineer, and sales engineer for Workspace, which allows me to act as an escalation point in our engagements.
C2C: Talk to me about your experience and education. What certifications did you get, what did you feel like you needed?
KW: I actually have a bachelors’ in mathematics. I took a few CS courses to fulfill the requirements and really fell in love with the puzzles that technology gave me to solve. My first steps into the technology industry were actually in the networking space at a company called Bedroc. During my time there, I worked on networking and telephony projects and some help desk staff augmentation.
In terms of certifications, the needs melded over time. For my first job, I earned my CCNA. As I moved into working with Google Workspace, certifications I’ve found useful include the original G Suite Deployment Certificate, the recently added Professional Collaboration Engineer certification.
C2C: How did you get started with Google Cloud?
KW: I made a move to SADA and took on the, at the time called, Google Apps for Work support, and ever since, my focus has solely been on Google Apps/G Suite/Workspace as it grew and evolved over the last eight years.
C2C: When you think back on your career, what stories can you share to demonstrate what it means to be a woman in tech?
KW: There are so many stories. I’m sure we have all experienced something negative, whether from coworkers or externally.
One story that ultimately jolted me into the reality I was trying to walk into casually was at a networking event straight out of college. A professor of mine was able to get me discounted tickets and helped me navigate the waters. I remember one man who looked at my resume and said something to the extent of the following:
“People are going to entertain you at these events because you are a minority here—because you are a woman in a room full of men—but you need to show them what you are capable of; a one-page resume won’t do that. So make sure they remember you for more than just being the only woman at a networking event.”
I remember thinking about how curt the feedback was, but I ultimately believe it helped with my assertiveness, whether I realized it then or not. Especially because that would not be the last time I was the only woman in a room or one of few.
A couple of weeks later, I ran into one of those conference acquaintances at a bookstore, and I picked up the nerve to reintroduce myself. That reintroduction got my resume passed along a couple of hops to the CEO of my first job. However angry I was after that first event, I think it knocked me out of the quiet woman I thought I was supposed to be.
C2C: Have you felt the “imposter syndrome” creep up on you? How do you deal with it?
KW: All the time. A colleague of mine once also pointed out that my perfection syndrome feeds into imposter syndrome. I don’t think it will ever go away and evolves, but with a lot of coaching, self-reflection, and self-affirmation, you can keep it at bay.
At my first job, I was the only woman engineer, and there were definitely moments where I would joke that I was picked as the travel partner on trips because that meant the other engineer didn’t have to share a room. But with a lot of self-reflection, I realized quickly that those guys would not have tolerated someone who couldn’t hold their own.
Moving into a leadership role had a big part to play, even though it did take me a bit to get used to it. While I am now in a position to be the escalation point, it was no longer my job to be the absolute expert on every minute detail of a deployment.
Now, though, my imposter syndrome sends me into a sort of hyper attention to the amount of backlog I have, whether in tasks or responding to emails in a timely manner. Especially with the last year of remote working, it has taken a considerable effort not to feel utterly under water, since there have been many times an entire week was filled with meetings with no time to work. I am learning with a lot of coaching to unabashedly set realistic expectations about when I can complete something.
C2C: How do you want to change the world?
KW: My very wise leadership coach asked me one day to think about what the cause of my snarkiness was when I was stressed. Was it because I had too many things on my plate and therefore couldn’t get to them all, or was it because I needed more life—a bike ride, a book, a nap? I should think about what it is that was making me stressed and then plan around it.
If it was a book I needed, being OK to shut down at the end of the day without feeling guilty. If it simply needed to get through some of my backlogs, I had the strength to set expectations when a new task would be prioritized.
If changing the world meant even just normalizing not feeling guilty about saying no to things, that is a small change I would like to make.
C2C: Inspire Me! What advice would you give someone interested in a career like yours?
KW: Find a place where you are given opportunities to thrive and learn and take those opportunities given. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are struggling with something.
As a former journalist, I am already ready for a good story. So, tell me a story! Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.