You must be trustworthy, if you are not, people will not follow you. I started my business and without the trust of employees, investors, board members, and clients, we would not be here.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terri Foudray, CEO and founder, RUMBLE.
Having honed her technical expertise over 25 years in the world of business and high tech, from strategy and development to solution consulting, marketing and entrepreneurship, to partner relationships, Terri knows an opportunity when she sees it. She formed RUMBLE because the future is all about real-time data and its power to increase efficiencies and drive revenue. IoT architecture and implementation are complex and require a level of expertise few companies can offer. She and her team of seasoned experts help their clients utilize critical data insights to grow their business and stay ahead of the competition. Terri is a member CompTIA’s IoT Advisory Council, which addresses industry trends and issues affecting the rapidly evolving IoT market
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes, I’m here to let other women know that the infamous “mommy track” does not have to sidetrack your career.
I re-entered the workforce after a ten-year break from raising my family and discovered my marketing skills were no longer current. I thought my prospects for employment were as promising as finding a three-legged unicorn. However, one connection led to another and I landed a marketing role for a small tech company. One of my smartest moves then was to invest in myself through reading and learning, spending the next few years absorbing everything I could about tech.
From that research, I identified the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) as a rapidly developing market with few available experts. Then, I met one of the world’s foremost experts in IoT at a conference and convinced him to start a business with me.
Why do I share this? To inspire anyone who is looking to re-enter the workforce but is afraid they won’t be relevant. With patience, a willingness to redefine yourself, and putting in the effort to identify opportunities the marketplace, you can succeed. That applies to anyone who wants to make a change.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
My partner, being a highly sought-after technology expert, had just left a high-level position at a large company when we started RUMBLE. He and I were working on building RUMBLE when I stopped and said to him, “We’re building a business around you, what happens if someone offers you a fantastic job?” He said, “That won’t happen, I got burned by my last employer and I’m not interested in working for another major company.” About a month later he called me and said, “I wanted you to be the first to know, I have accepted a position as a Principal with Microsoft running the future of Xbox.” You can imagine my shock, disappointment, and horror. Then he said, “However… I negotiated with them to also continue my role at RUMBLE.” He has held up his end of the partnership ever since and it has even enhanced our market presence.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was new to the technology business and we had a major client that my boss thought I could develop into a larger account. The client was the CIO at a national bank. My boss took me to an introductory meeting with the client and I asked him where he had worked previously. He told me he had worked at Juniper. I said, “What’s Juniper?” My boss about fell out of his chair. Juniper is a name that most experienced people in the industry would recognize.
Everybody starts somewhere, and it’s ok to ask questions. I wouldn’t suggest that it is best to pretend you know something when you don’t, but there might be times where it’s best to make a note of something you want to investigate further rather than expose yourself in a meeting.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are in an emerging technology at a time where companies are having a difficult time finding experts who can help them successfully adopt the Industrial Internet of Things. We recently met with the CIO of a major company who said, “I talk to a lot of vendors and I don’t usually move forward with them very quickly, but you are speaking my language and I want to build innovative products with you.” We are in an ongoing partnership with them.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working with a major hospital helping them change the patient experience. It will help the patient better access their health records, find a parking spot, navigate to their appointment, and engage with their doctor more easily. The ultimate result will be better connected healthcare. We also recently delivered a product that enables real-time monitoring of driving behavior of first responders — firemen, police, paramedics, ect. The result is in-cab coaching when driving behaviors exhibit activities that could endanger public safety. There are obvious benefits to both of these use cases and these are just two examples of many projects
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM?
I can’t imagine anyone is satisfied with the current level of representation of women in STEM. We definitely need to see more women leaders of STEM companies and in the general population.
What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Women in STEM need to help other women advance their careers in STEM. We also need to foster interest in STEM for girls at much younger ages and throughout the educational process. At RUMBLE our CEO, CFO, COO, VP of Marketing, and General Counsel are all women. We are a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council certified company and we participate in their national and local events. Through those and other associations we meet other women-led businesses and we work to help each other develop opportunities. My colleagues and I regularly meet with women looking to advance their STEM careers and we do what we can to encourage, introduce, and mentor.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
Women and minorities in STEM have more challenges in getting funding for their businesses. I think it is important to spotlight successes and for women in STEM to share their stories with others. There are opportunities in every community to get involved in organizations that are promoting STEM for women and that’s a good place to start showing your support. It’s an imbalance that will benefit from as many people getting behind the initiative as possible.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
Speaking about Tech specifically, it’s a very exciting place to be. It is such a dynamic marketplace that is constantly changing — change represents opportunity. And, it’s not just happening on the coasts, you don’t have to move to get into tech. It’s never too late to decide you want to get involved in technology. There are many roles to be filled in STEM careers.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I don’t think my leadership lessons are specific to being a woman, just being a leader.
- You must be trustworthy, if you are not, people will not follow you. I started my business and without the trust of employees, investors, board members, and clients, we would not be here.
- You must have a vision, if people can’t see where you are going, they can’t help you get there. Nobody makes the journey alone. Without a vision, it’s just wandering around.
- You aren’t the smartest person in the room, no matter what room you are in. You can always learn something if you just listen.
- You must be cool in the face of fire. Your team needs to see you remain calm and collected even in the worst of times.
- You must be decisive. Collect as much information as is reasonable, then trust your gut and decide. Even if you aren’t sure it is the right decision, decide and keep moving.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Hire the right people, clearly define their accountability, remove barriers, foster teamwork, and celebrate success.
None of us achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people I would credit with helping me get where I am. So many people have served as role models and influencers in my journey to this place. If I had to pick one person, it would be my dad who is an entrepreneur and one of the best leaders I have ever met. His employees were fanatically loyal to him. I still seek his advice today.
How have you used your success to bring social impact/good to the world?
I strive to educate students and recent graduates, whether men or women, to embrace entrepreneurism and the potential of new technologies. I support and regularly present to a number of organizations and educational entities related to entrepreneurism including WBENC, Kansas City Business Leaders, and Rockhurst University.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My passion is using tech for good. I want to see a future where the latest technology innovations bring about a more productive and satisfying work environment for workers in manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation. We are at a point, not where tech will replace workers, but enable them to be more productive and bring more good into the world. Healthcare would be the most important example, where technology can better connect providers and patients, and create a better outcome which results in a better quality of life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My great grandmother used to say, “So be it.” My mom and I say that a lot. I think there is wisdom in that because it says, “accept where you are and move forward from here.” There is a practicality and implied perseverance in it that is so necessary to success.