Growing up, JJ DiGeronimo never dreamed she'd serve in the field of technology. She wasn't sure what career path she wanted to pursue.
"When asked what I wanted to do," DiGeronimo says, "I quickly responded with my desire to land a good paying job after graduation."
She certainly didn't know then that she'd become an influential advocate and strong voice for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.
DiGeronimo shared with us the origin of her success and her advice for working women today.
1. What first interested you in a career in tech, and why is it important to support women in STEM?
A guiding professor saw that I had decent math scores and suggested I study computers. I did not love to code (C++ and Cobalt), but I saw these classes as stepping stones. At various points, I was encouraged to pursue more common degrees studied by women, but I had my sights set on landing a corporate job.
Four years later, I happily joined an Infrastructure Consulting Practice. I traveled from coast-to-coast updating IT networks to support new applications that needed more bandwidth. I had no idea what a career in tech would offer. But what I encountered did not disappoint: great projects, awesome people, excellent wages, and marvelous cities and organizations.
It is important to support women in STEM because their input, innovations, and solutions will aid all of us. We need women at the table to provide perspective, insight, and ideas to create thought-diverse products and services that impact us individually and globally.
However, I find many young women are intimidated by tech and STEM-based careers. Many seem to fear that they will not be able to do the work, or that the people already employed there will be smarter than them. However, there is a place for all of us. There is a range of talent, opportunities, and roles in technology careers — the possibilities are unlimited.
2. What inspired you to found your organization, Tech Savvy Women?
After seven years in Atlanta, where there seemed to be a wealth of diverse professionals in tech, I moved to Ohio for love. There, I struggled to find my tribe of women in tech. After years of thinking about starting a group, I took the initiative. In Aug. 2008, I gathered a few local women for the first Tech Savvy Women (TSW) event.
Ten years later, TSW has thousands of experienced women in tech participate from all over the world.
This network of fabulous women has exceeded expectations. They make connections, foster meaningful conversations, and identify new business opportunities — all while sharing information and bettering each other.
Overall, TSW has opened new doors and presented new opportunities for everyone involved. It's given me strength, encouraged me to explore new paths, and is likely the catalyst for my first book, The Working Woman’s GPS: When the Plan to Have It All Leads You Astray.
3. What's your best advice for young women looking to excel in their careers or move into a leadership position?
I have written articles, posts, and books covering all types of professional advice like How to find mentors and sponsors, How to increase diversity and Inclusion, How to enhance your brand, and How to advance your career.
Some specific things to keep in mind, though, are:
Don’t wait to be 100 percent ready. Women often wait to be 100 percent prepared before applying, raising their hand, or stretching in a new direction to ensure they can meet the expectations. Men feel comfortable being around 60 to 70 percent ready. Don’t wait too long — if you are 60 percent comfortable, go for it. Stretching before you're fully ready can increase your confidence and self-efficacy.
Use metrics. Be sure to include any measurable details when describing your work in person, in a document, or online. Women often use more words but less specific detail when defining their work, which can hinder their speed of impact.
Some of my recent life lessons are powerful, too:
Be present in the moment you are in now. No need to reflect on the past or worry about the future. The present is where you need to focus. Life will guide you where you need to go with lessons, nudges, and miracles — if you are paying attention.
Be mindful of the stories you tell yourself. Especially the internal stories where you catch yourself saying things like, “I am not ready,” or “I am not enough,” or “I am not smart.” This is the ego that will often work to minimize your potential and scare you out of accelerating your impact.
Be kind to yourself, your family, your co-workers, your friends, and strangers — as people will often remember how you made them feel. My daily mantra: I measure my riches on the positive energy I share and create.
Bring tech-savvy expertise to your next event. Connect directly with JJ DiGeronimo to start a conversation.
Megan Boley was a content marketing writer at WSB. When she’s not wordsmithing, she can be found with her nose in a book or planning her next adventure.