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IFW Forum Connects Women and Technology

by Greta Petry

UAlbany Chief Information Officer Christine E. Haile (right) opens the Initiatives for Women Winter Forum in March, While panelist and Alliance of Technology and Women President Bettyjo Howland Bouchey looks on.
UAlbany Chief Information Officer Christine E. Haile (right) opens the Initiatives for Women Winter Forum in March, While panelist and Alliance of Technology and Women President Bettyjo Howland Bouchey looks on.

The Initiatives For Women (IFW) Winter Forum Tech Valley: Not Just Bits and Bytes in March drew more than 100 University and community attendees to the Campus Center. The event was IFW’s 10th annual educational event, the second focusing on women and technology, and was co-sponsored by IFW and the NY Tech Valley Chapter of the Alliance of Technology and Women (ATW).

Eight successful local women with careers in Albany’s burgeoning technology fields made up the evening’s panel discussion, moderated by UAlbany Chief Information Officer (CIO) Christine E. Haile. The panel discussion centered on how technology has changed Albany’s professional landscape, and the panelists discussed technology-related issues that have influenced their lives. The panelists, who work in technology, finance, and other private sector organizations, included: Mary Bayly, vice president, business development, Saratoga Technology Accelerator; Bettyjo Howland Bouchey, Vericast director at VersaTrans Solutions, Inc., and president, NY Tech Valley Chapter of the Alliance of Technology and Women; Michele Desrosiers, vice president, operations, Colwell & Salmon Communications, Inc.; Pat Ludwig, chief operating officer, VALOGIX Inc.; Clare Mertz, chief operating officer, Capital Financial Planning, LLC; Chris Piel, president, Absolute Promotions; Deb Ryan, chief executive officer, IA Systems; and Pamela Smith, president, Computer Visions.

Panelists covered not only their current work, but also how they arrived at their present positions. They came from various non-technical majors, and many had an MBA, illustrating that one can join a technology field from a number of different backgrounds. Panelists had clear messages for those in the audience in the areas of mentoring, communication, and networking. One attending faculty member, School of Business Professor Cecelia Falbe said, “What really struck me (besides their individual accomplishments) were their comments on ethics. They gave specific examples and outcomes.” Falbe continued, “Every student should have been here to get this message. A lack of ethics can result in a student [intern] not getting a permanent position in a firm.”

Students attending from Professor Janet Marler’s business class indicated they had picked up several useful tips. When asked what they had learned, one student said succinctly, “Networking is key. Don’t give up. Failure is how to learn from mistakes.” Another liked hearing about how the panelists began their careers in one place and were able to turn around and switch to a completely different field, one they loved. Another was encouraged to be a “go-getter.” Still others said they learned a lot about “Tech Valley.”

For IFW Chair Kathy Turek, the panelists also sent an important message: “Women belong in technology fields! These women demonstrate how successful they can be. The mentoring and networking skills women bring to the work place make a critical difference for success in these areas.”

The event featured entertainment by Serendipity, UAlbany’s female choral group. The reception was partially funded by a grant from University Auxiliary Services. IFW member Holly Barker-Flynn, from the Office of Residential Life, chaired the event.

For more information about IFW or ATW, contact Turek at 437-3916 or turek@albany.edu.