In our Women Who Inspire series, we’ll be talking to influential women who are making a difference in their communities and the world at large. Through their leadership, we are inspired to do better, work smarter, and continue to create opportunities for women in STEM.
Linda Rogers, VP of AT&T Global Business's West Manufacturing Solutions, is passionate about helping women succeed in STEM. She began her career as a systems programmer with AT&T Long Lines in 1980 and has held a variety of roles since then, including a position with AT&T Bell Labs on the Development of Artificial Intelligence Applications team for AT&T’s Network Planning Systems.
Linda has also received numerous AT&T awards for leadership, and is a four-time Leaders Council winner (recognizing the top 2% of sales force globally) and six-time Gold Club winner for outstanding sales and financial results performance.
See what she has to say about women in STEM!
What advice do you have for women technologists that are struggling on all-male teams?
Be confident, be prepared and know your stuff. Knowledge truly is power! Don't be afraid to contribute – speak up and voice your opinions. In difficult situations, strive to find a common ground with your male counterparts and make a meaningful business connection on a professional or personal level. Never undermine or compromise what you stand for and who you are!
Who are some of the women who are game-changers in the Technology industry right now?
I recently met one of the most captivating, inspiring and truly amazing Women in Technology. Tan Le is the 38-year-old entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Emotiv, a leading bioinformatics firm in San Francisco. Her incredible story started as a four-year-old refugee fleeing Vietnam with her mother and grandmother carrying nothing but a vial of poison in case they encountered pirates. She attributes her passion for technology and success to her grandmother and the amazing bond of three generations of women.
After entering college at the age of 16, she went on to win numerous awards, including the 1998 Young Australian of the Year, and was voted one of Australia's 30 Most Successful Women Under 30. In 2003, she co-founded Emotiv Systems, a neuroengineering company that developed a breakthrough technology for digital media, taking inputs directly from the brain to track mental performance, monitor emotions, and control virtual and physical objects with thoughts.
What advice can you give women who are seeking a career in a STEM-related field?
Don't be afraid to challenge the stereotype that men are better at Science, Technology Engineering and Math. With the widespread awareness and focus on increasing the number of women in STEM, there are incredible opportunities to advance to leadership positions for highly qualified women. Be the best you can be – every day in everything you do – and continuously invest in yourself to expand and enhance your technical knowledge.
What do you think will have the strongest impact on closing the gender gap in STEM-related careers?
Women and men working together to inspire young women to develop an interest and passion for STEM careers.
What can employers do to retain more women in STEM?
Promote and target women for STEM positions and highlight the journeys, obstacles overcome and successes of women in STEM careers.
Were there any mentors who have made an impact on your life? If so, who were they and how did you connect?
I’ve been fortunate to have had several outstanding mentors throughout my career. The most impactful was Jim Pagos, AT&T VP of International, who convinced me early on in my career to augment my technical IT experience with real live customer-facing sales experience. I was absolutely convinced sales was not for me – I was passionate about technology and loved interfacing with my computer more than people. I was shy and introverted and uncomfortable with small talk. Jim persuaded me to give it a try for just 18 months to get the customer experience and then come back to IT. After just 6 months, I knew I'd found my passion – AT&T Enterprise Sales was consultative, extremely technical and fascinating. I thank Jim for pushing me outside my comfort zone and having the insight to know I would find my passion in technology sales.
Which female leaders do you admire and why?
Sarah Blakely (founder of SPANX), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO), and Becky Blalock (former Southern Company CIO and author of DARE). I admire their passion for inspiring women in business and leadership and their absolute dedication to giving back by mentoring and sharing their experiences and lessons learned in succeeding in a culturally male-dominated business world.
What are your goals for this coming year?
To make a difference to the business and my team by being the best I can be every day and to give back by inspiring and mentoring young women to advance their careers.
What inspired you to pursue a STEM-related career?
My dad was a mechanical engineer who went to school at night to get his college degree while working a full-time job and helping my mom raise 3 children. He started a career as a draftsman, and the tools he used to do his job fascinated me. There were mechanical pencils, compasses, French curves, T-squares, drafting tables – to name a few. He had the most amazing handwriting and precise printing. I remember struggling in grammar school with math word problems, and some of my fondest memories of my dad are the tireless hours he would spend with me doing my math homework. I loved his logical and precise mind, and he influenced and inspired my love for math. Computer Science was the rage when I entered college in 1976, and I followed my growing passion for math and majored in Mathematics with a minor in Economics.
What’s the most fascinating aspect of your field to you?
The pace of change – there are new technology developments and new services and solutions to sell every day. While I have spent over 3 decades at AT&T, I feel like I have been at 3 different companies and 5 different industries as technology has continuously evolved and changed our company – from my early days using punch cards and mainframe computers, to the rise of the Internet, to the smartphone and Internet of Things era – and we at AT&T have been involved in all these technology advances that are truly changing the way people live, work and play around the world.
There is no other industry that matches this invigorating pace of change!
Connect with Linda on LinkedIn.