This month, we’d like to introduce you to Carol Hindsman, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Funded Women in Technology Executive Forum member and IT Director of Information Delivery & Analytics at Ryder System, Inc. Carol shared with us some interesting information about her career path, as well as some advice and insights about how to manage your own work-life balance.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your background?
CH: I would describe my background as a versatile technical professional with business and entrepreneur experience.I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering, a Masters in Computer Engineering and I hold an MBA. I had always pictured my perfect job to be very technical, since I loved R&D while in school. Then I took my first job with General Electric, where I realizedI enjoyed the technical as well as working with people.
I then started working more on the process-side of things—still from the engineering perspective, but with a greater focus on the end-to-end: the customer service, product & services, and how to support and market these successfully. This gave me a lot more to think about than just a particular design. What is the ultimate goal of that design? Who’s going to use it, and how?
I then had another opportunity with the start-up telecom Intermedia Communications, Inc. I joined a strategic group called Special Projects, which was made up of people from a variety of different disciplines, all working towards the goal of expanding the company’s portfolio of services. This gave me very good visibility both downstream and upstream processes and procedures.
After several years, the entrepreneur side emerged and I started MDS Technology Group with my husband. After six years, we sold the business and then came my little girl. I decided to go back to corporate America where I joined Ryder System, Inc.
Q: What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?
CH: I’ve always been intrigued by the way things worked and how they were put together.
In high school, I studied architecture and continued to do so through the beginning of college. As I became aware of requirements for state certification in order to practice, I came to a crossroad since I didn’t know where I was going to live—in the US or Europe. I chose to pursue engineering as this gave me seemingly more opportunities in what I wanted to do and where I could do it.
Q: Who were your role models or mentors?
CH: My grandparents on my mother’s side were always so supportive and always interested in anything I was doing. There was nothing I did, whether it was drawing or coloring, that they didn’t make a big deal out of—in a good way. That really builds a kid’s self-esteem and motivation.
Another person who was very influential for me was my high school marching band teacher, Ms. Martha Starks. When I arrived in the States at age 12, I went straight into 9th grade. I was fascinated with the marching band. Although I’d never played an instrument and never marched, I really wanted to do it. My teacher didn’t speak Spanish, and I didn’t speak English at the time, so she told me I could play the symbols and she’d give me hand signals telling me when to hit them. Unfortunately, she would often have to stop the 200+ member band because I would miss her signal to hit the cymbals on cue. Still, I persisted through high school, and she always told me, “If you’re here on time, serious about practicing, and stay motivated, I will do all I can to keep you here.” She really taught me that if you work hard for something, it will come through. That really helped me become who I am.
I also had a boss who taught me in a very different way—what not to do. He had a very aggressive management style that worked well for him, but he always reminded me that I should not follow suit. His aggressive style was generally not productive nor accepted, especially for women.
Q: What has been one of your biggest challenges as a businesswoman?
CH:There are obviously some significant challenges, and you have to work through it, sometimes just to fit in. Luckily for me, I love sports, so that helped me bridge a gap with the guys. They could talk football and so could I. Want to talk about cars, motorcycles, boats? Let’s talk!
I tried to really convey myself as an engineer and not so much as a woman engineer. I tried to be gender-neutral when we were talking technology and processes. Men deal differently with each other. They can get mad at each other and go out for a beer an hour later. I try to bring the things that I think we women do really well and also try to incorporate the things that guys do well, too.
Q: What’s next for you? What are your goals for the future?
CH:I am preparing for a VP position, as I like to be able to achieve a higher level of influence over technology and culture. Remember, technology is only one aspect of a company. One of the things that I’ve learned through my years is that what makes a group or company successful is culture. When you have a strong tech background, understanding the role that culture plays can really advance the productivity and overall “happiness” of the team. I believe technology and culture are basic ingredients for innovation.
Q: What advice would you give to other women who may not know what direction to take in their career?
CH:From a career perspective, I would say to women who are still in college to be very active in internships. They open a lot of doors, not just to get in with a big company, but also to be able to get a better look at how things work. I would also suggest webinars, TED Talks, local networking groups. You can learn so much.
Also, I cannot stress enough the importance of relationships. You have to harness the people around you that you trust so they’ll tell you what most of us don’t want to hear—what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do to improve. Be humble and be able to acknowledge when you get that type of feedback.
Q: How has being part of the Knight Funded Women in Technology Forum benefited you, and how could an Executive Forum benefit other women?
CH:WIT is a sisterhood of amazing and talented women, and it has been a phenomenal experience for me. I have been able to establish powerful relationships for moral support and accountability. I am able to share experiences, support each other, ask what has worked and what hasn’t—all adding immense value. And, when you see what other women are able to accomplish, it makes you want to reach your goals, too. It’s just amazing what this group has done for our own self-esteem and our own drive.
I also think it’s also an invaluable tool for the community. Anything that you attempt by yourself, you can only accomplish so much. But get together with your neighbor, and you have the power of two. Get together with the whole block, and now you really have some power to make things happen. Imagine what you can accomplish when you have an entire community of like-minded women determined to get things done, put together. It’s exponentially better.
Q: Any closing tips for women struggling to manage their work-life balance?
CH:As a mother and a professional, this has always been a balancing act. I have a 19-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old boy. Between college and football games, I am always trying to maintain that balance. You have to always tweak your own equation to define your balance. I think some of the ingredients are:
1) Figure out the value in everything that you do. In other words, does doing more give you more in return? Sometimes, good enough is good enough.
2) Figure out what it is that you absolutely cannot drop. It is challenging to do it all, so figure out which tasks need perfection and which do not. Get it perfect, or get it done?
3) Don’t try to tackle everything on your own. Delegate. Give everyone a chance to get to the level they need to be in order to take on tasks. Even at home, let everyone help (eventually, they’ll do it as good as you!)