Marylhurst alum Cynthia Stoddard ’09 was recently featured on Forum on World Class IT, talking about IT trends including the state of women in technology and Adobe’s involvement in the Girls Who Code program.
The Forum on World Class IT features “people who are shaping the technology landscape,” and they talked with Cynthia Stoddard, Sr. VP and CIO at Adobe Systems.
Stoddard talked about technology trends such as Software as a Service (SaaS), responsive design, data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, bringing cloud-like characteristics to daily operations, moving away from a rigid set of standards and embracing customer-centric, persona-informed design principles, and how Adobe is responding to these trends.
Widening her scope to the technology industry as a whole, Stoddard reflected on the state of women working in technology:
“We’re doing better, but not as well as we should,” Stoddard observed. “It’s going to take time because part of it is generational … you have to get them interested in STEM principles when they’re young.
“Adobe is one of the sponsors of the Girls Who Code program,” she continued. “We actually free up people, engineers, to help these girls learn to code over the summer. I spoke to the girls who are part of this program … their experiences were amazing. One of them said to me, ‘This is a life-changing experience. Now I know coding can be a career for me.’”
Stoddard added that through the Girls Who Code progam, these young students are able to build a network at an early age that has the potential to be a support system, a critical component for women to succeed in the technology field. “If we want to change the landscape within technology, we have to invest in programs like that,” she said.
Stoddard went on to share four pieces of advice she imparts when talking with women working in technology, or considering technology as a career:
“Number one: Move out of your comfort zone and try new things. It’s really important to get out there and try different areas of technology. See what you like and you don’t like. It opens up your mind,” she said.
“I used to be able to say I did every role in IT, but I can’t say that anymore because technology has expanded so much, with cloud technology and microservices and everything, but I tried lots of roles out within IT. And I found out what I liked, and what I really didn’t like. It gave me that background to be broad in the topics, and also deep in the areas that were of interest to me.
“If you’re in college or school, try out different classes and see what you like. If you’re beginning in your career, try out different areas. Volunteer for special projects, just to see what your passion really is. Because unless you try it, you’re not going to have that experience, and know what you like and what you don’t like.”
Number two: People and relationships. “Take the time to get to know your peers. If you’re in school, get to know your teachers. If you’re out of school and working, get to know your managers, because that helps enable trust and credibility. Some people have to get to know you as a person.
“It can become a really powerful asset: communication and relationship building. It’s also a very effective way of minimizing stereotyping. Sometimes people get stereotyped into the particular role that they’re in, and they don’t get known for their broader education or the broader skill set they have from other companies. When people get to know you, that kind of stuff comes up in conversation.”
Number three: Market yourself. “Educate people on your background, areas of expertise, interests, things like that. People can’t read your mind. So if there is something of interest, something that you’re passionate about, speak up! Because people won’t know it unless you tell them about it. Take that initiative to make things known.
“What I told the Girls Who Code last week: Their voice was as equal to any other voice in the room. Never feel that your voice is of lesser quality. You have the best ideas, you have the best voice, so speak up and let people know what you think.”
Number four: Be a champion. “Make the time to be a mentor. I still mentor and talk to women who used to work for me, because they like to keep in touch with things that are going on in their career and bounce ideas off of me. Share your experiences.
“If you’re in school, share your experiences with girls and with boys. If you’re starting your career, build that network, get into different groups, because your experiences really matter. People are going to learn — and they’re going to remember that you actually took the time to share your experiences.”
Summing it up, Stoddard said: “It’s very important to get girls interested early on in their education, and foster that as they go through college. Give them those good experiences. Then get a structure, as they begin their work environment, so they can see that other women have been successful, and have been able to go broad and go deep in those areas that are of interest to them.”
Cynthia Stoddard earned her MBA from Marylhurst University in 2009. She has been at Adobe since 2016 and is currently Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer.