In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to spotlight some of the exceptional and inspirational female employees here at Inductive Automation. Our software, Ignition, is a disruptor in industrial automation, and in a similar fashion, we’re helping disrupt the traditionally male-dominated nature of our industry. By celebrating women, learning from their stories, and sharing the reality of their experiences, we’ll be better equipped to break down the barriers that impede progress.
Read on to discover some of the highlights of these women's careers, the advice they have for women who are just starting out in their field, and how they’d describe our company culture. They’ll also share who their mentors are, how they support other women, and the adventurous things on their bucket lists!
Even with tremendous personal success, COO Kat Jeschke found that one of her greatest accomplishments came from a shared sense of purpose and comradery. “One of my proudest moments was the day we finished the remodel of 90 Blue Ravine. It was so rewarding to see everyone walk in on the first day and to just see the look of awe on their faces,” she said.
For Joanna Cortez, Multimedia Manager, the biggest moments came complete with an audience. “I got to work with [CTO] Carl Gould who recorded a voice-over for the first animated video I ever did for IA, which was then played at the Harris Center in front of the entire company. I was so nervous I thought I’d pass out. But when it was done playing, [Executive Chairwoman of the Board of Directors] Wendi-Lynn Hechtman yelled, ‘Was that Carl’s voice?’ When I yelled back, ‘Yes,’ everyone cheered,” Joanna said. “That moment pretty much solidified my love for Inductive.”
The shift in our industry toward greater inclusion of women is a big cause for celebration, especially for Mara Pillott, Application Engineering Manager. “I’m excited that I am seeing more women in automation,” Mara said. “Once I started working in automation I was almost always the lone female on technical teams. Now I am seeing more women in technical positions not only at IA but at ICC and all over LinkedIn.”
For others, like IT Operations Manager Annie Reimers, the ability to make her unique presence felt was particularly memorable. “As IT’s first non-technical hire, I was provided the space and opportunity to showcase a different skill set and provide value in new ways. I supported the division by creating processes, improving collaboration and communication, all while advancing my technical knowledge,” Annie said.
The Magic of Mentorship
No one is an island. Finding mentorship, especially in times of doubt or uncertainty, can be profoundly life-changing. “When I first went back to school to pursue technical writing, there was a part of me that felt like I was lagging behind some of my younger classmates. My professor in the program at SJSU really helped boost my confidence, gave me great feedback on my resume and general interview prep, and connected me with lots of people already in the industry. Since then, I've been lucky to work with managers (both at IA and previously) who have been genuinely interested in helping me try new things and grow in my career,” said Susan Shamgar, Technical Writer.
“My manager, Annie Wise, is a wonderful mentor and friend. I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned since joining her team. Her leadership skills are admirable and I feel empowered by the trust she has in me,” said Carolina Hylton, Solution Partner Program Manager.
One-on-one mentoring, however, is not the only form mentorship can take. “I joined IA after graduating from college and SCADA was a whole new world for me, so there were just so many things to learn at the beginning. Our management team and trainers are always encouraging and understanding. They provided constructive feedback that helped me to develop new skills, grow professionally, and advance my career,” said Lucille Cao, Software Support Engineer.
Dovetailing with that, Joanna said, “The company at large has, from day one, provided me the time, tools, training, and trust to learn and grow in this role.”
“I have learned that every single person I look up to and every person that has accomplished something amazing has had fears and obstacles, they just learned to push through them,” Kat said, although there is one person who stands above the rest. “I say that Oprah is my mentor. She has inspired me so much.”
On the other end of the spectrum, being a mentor can be just as empowering. “It's been really meaningful to me to reach a point in my career where I can provide newer tech writers some of the training and mentorship that I benefited from when I was starting out,” Susan said.
For Mara, as someone in a managerial role, it’s important to publicly celebrate fantastic work, and this encouraging mindset extends beyond office walls. “Outside of IA, I participate in local bike racing. New women often question that they belong on the race course and fear they may be in the way. I’m vocal in encouraging them to get out there and compete.”
Woman to Woman: Some Words of Advice
While there has been an overall shift in the automation industry, it can still be a formidable feat for individuals to break into it or even feel comfortable in such a niche and highly technical field.
Just like with any new job, there is a learning curve with industrial automation, but conviction and a willingness to learn can lay a foundation for an exceptional career. “Voice your input and do it with confidence. You have a place in this industry, and your voice matters. Also, be willing to learn even when it’s a little uncomfortable. The more knowledge you gain, the more confidence you will have,” Annie said.
Susan offered advice for those looking into technical writing, but you can easily apply it to a variety of other disciplines as well. “Don't be intimidated if you don't have much experience with software or a specific coding language yet. The most valuable traits of a good technical writer are the abilities to ask questions and to learn about new topics quickly, so stay curious and seek out opportunities to learn. I'd also really emphasize the importance of meeting other tech writers through conferences like Write the Docs, meetups, and other networking events. Tech writers in general are a diverse, friendly bunch working in a wide variety of industries, and most of them will be happy to offer feedback, advice, and other support.”
While it can be difficult, you often learn the most important lessons by challenging yourself. “Just know your worth, and don’t hesitate to ask for new challenges and what you need to be successful,” Joanna said.
“Be your confident self, no matter who is in the room. Your character and strength will take you where you want to go in your career,” Carolina said.
A Collaborative Culture That Fosters Self-Improvement
Success does not occur in a vacuum. It requires an environment that allows people to thrive and continually better themselves. “Everyone at IA is always eager to learn something new and create something innovative, just as our motto states: 'Dream It, Do It!' Within the Support Division, we regularly share our learning experiences and help each other,” Lucille said.
“Everyone at Inductive strikes me as the kind of person who, as a kid, when assigned a group project in school, would be the one to take on all of the jobs that everyone else was too lazy to do,” Joanna said. “When everyone around you is constantly raising that bar higher and higher, it makes you want to do the same.”
That attitude is infectious and spills out into the entire Ignition community. “We have some of the smartest people in the industry, we foster collaboration not only in our own company but among our user community, and we have more fun than any other software company,” Mara said. “Who else has a Department of Funk?!?!”
“Every day with this team is fun! There is never a dull moment, and they always have me laughing,” Annie said.
Sometimes we even capture evidence of this fun-loving culture on video. According to Joanna, “I could easily make an hour-long blooper reel compiled of people from Inductive and our community flubbing a line, bursting into laughter, spontaneously dancing to shake off the nerves, running out of frame, telling jokes for mic tests, or have a bug fly directly into their eye while recording, which has definitely happened.”
A Few Fun Facts
From unique interests to the adventurous items on their bucket lists, the women of Inductive Automation prove they’re anything but ordinary.
“I love history,” Carolina said. “I remember being so riveted to learn about the Industrial Revolution while the rest of the class was falling asleep. I’m just really fascinated by the chain reaction of how each event in the past has led to where we are today.”
History has played a vital role in Susan’s life as well. “My grandparents met in Spain during the Spanish Civil War; she was a volunteer nurse, and he drove an ambulance. A lot of what I know about standing up for my convictions I owe to them,” she said.
Like Kat and Mara, who want to volunteer in Africa and trek in the Himalayas, respectively, Lucille is looking towards the future. On her bucket list is “A trip to Japan in the summer to join in the celebration of a hydrangeas festival and a firework festival.”
Your Time to Shine
The women of Inductive Automation are true powerhouses, and the uplifting way they support others is downright inspiring. We’re actively seeking more amazing women to join our team and help us change the world of automation. If you’re looking for a position at a rapidly growing company that will value your ideas and where your talents will shine, check out our Careers page.