Don’t be afraid to learn from others and constantly learn from every experience, even the difficult ones. I’ve always encouraged mentorship, whether it is me as a mentor or as a mentee. When I started as a Junior Technical Manager, I learned early on from the VP that I worked for, that managing a highly technical team requires different communication tactics. I was taught to always listen first to their design and solution recommendations before providing my own opinions and suggestions. The majority of engineers are very passionate about their ideas, so it is important to give them the support to promote their thoughts. It will carry you a long way with your team.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marivi Stuchinsky.
Marivi Stuchinsky is a successful IT professional with 30+ years of experience developing effective IT solutions, managing large IT organizations, and leading teams in providing comprehensive technology platforms for global organizations. In her current role, Marivi is Technologent’s Global CTO leading the Engineering and Professional Services Delivery Team, internal IT and the Service Operations organization, which includes Core Technologies and Managed Services that provides best in class “as-a-service” programs to Technologent’s Fortune 1000 clients. Her team supports the Global Sales organization across all our verticals — Financial, Health Care, Utility, Entertainment Gaming & Hospitality, Media & Entertainment, etc.
Prior to joining Technologent, Marivi was the CTO for Farmers Insurance, leading Enterprise Architecture, Design & Engineering, Infrastructure Operations and Production Support, Enterprise Platform Services (including Digital Platform COE’s), Client Services, and Technology Business Management teams. She led large global organizations throughout her career at Viacom/Paramount Pictures, Sony, and Molina Healthcare, and had the opportunity to service major clients when she was with Deloitte Consulting.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I decided to start my career in IT due to a life changing event. Almost 35 years ago, I unfortunately was going through a separation/divorce, and about to become a single mother. My younger brother had started his career in IT and was making a good salary, so that convinced me to go back to school for computer science & programming. I figure that during my mid 20’s, technology was an industry where I would be able to achieve a career with a good income so I could support my kids. And since it is a male dominated industry, a big plus was that I could possibly meet a new husband! I met hubby #2 at Paramount Pictures in our IT department. We have been married for 25 years and he has always treated my 3 sons from my first marriage as his own, plus we were lucky have added a wonderful daughter to our family. All our boys are now married, and we have 3 wonderful (about to be 4) grandchildren. Ironically, all of our kids ended up in technology. One is Technical Project Manager, another is in technical sales, the third is a Network Engineer, and our daughter is a Senior Data Management Analyst.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I’ve been at Technologent for 2 ½ years now, although I’ve been working with the Technologent family for the last 10 years as a customer. That is what I find most interesting…that the roles have reversed. Instead of being sold to by Technologent and other solution providers, I am now helping Technologent sell. It is a great position to be in as I know what keeps the CxOs up at night.
Prior to Technologent, I’ve always worked for large global enterprises, and while I thought that joining a mid-size organization could be a little boring and chaotic because of lack of structure, I was pleasantly surprised that structure does exist and amazed at how fast we can get things done.
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?
When I started my IT career at a large bank in Downtown LA, our office was located 2 levels underground. I was already at work when the Whittier Narrows earthquake happened. I was drinking my coffee and remained calm, but I decided to put my coffee on my desk, and little did I know, when you are at an underground location of a high-rise building, the lower level floors shake up & down, not sideways. I think my coffee spilling all over my desk made me panic more than the earthquake itself and I didn’t think to follow our emergency response floor warden out of the office. I was one of the last employees that vacated our floor. From that experience, I learned to use a sealed coffee cup and also volunteer to be the floor warden, so I make sure that no man/woman gets left behind over something as silly as spilled coffee!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Technologent stands out because we are not just focused on selling products; instead, we approach every customer’s situation to help them solve business problems and achieve business outcomes.
We have an abundance of customer success stories. One that stands out is helping a customer achieve operational efficiencies while undergoing an IT transformation initiative. We started with a current state IT assessment, then worked with their business stakeholders on business and IT capability mapping, resulting in a recommendation for their IT strategy and roadmap which correlates with their business needs.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My team and I are working on a lot of managed services initiatives. We have seen an uptick in the desire to enhance and automate day-to-day IT Operations. By providing these services, it allows our customers, and more importantly, their people to focus on what really matters to their business.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I think the ratio is getting better, but we are not there yet. As an active member of a STEM organization, I think we need to continue encouraging young women to get a STEM education. I did it with my daughter and when she was in her high school senior year, I got her an internship with my employer at that time. She learned a lot from the internship and decided to get a degree in economics. As I mentioned earlier, she is a Senior Data Management Analyst and has set her sights on becoming a Data Scientist.
I believe we need to continue to support and expand women’s networks, inspire our youth early on in education around all the areas of STEM, and advise those that may want to seek a career in STEM, that it is never too late to start!
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?
Due to what I’ve experienced throughout my career in technology, the challenge to prove ourselves and to get to the next level, especially in a management role, is substantially harder and can take longer to be recognized. I’ve had male counterparts that got promoted faster, although our areas of responsibilities were similar or in some cases I was even given a much larger team, budget and technology stack to manage.
My suggestions are; don’t be afraid to voice your opinions, be assertive, showcase your strengths and skillsets. It is also very important to stay current, continue to learn and don’t be afraid to take risks.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
I think there are several “myths,” but the first that comes to mind is the myth that women in tech get their positions in these fields due to luck. I also feel that although we have shown results and proven success, there is a prominent “imposter syndrome,” with doubts of whether we truly should have a seat at the table.
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.)
- Have confidence. One of my early mentors and my boss, when I started my career in IT always reminded me, “You need to show up to work every day with confidence, or don’t show up at all.”
- Authenticity. Be authentic, so that your colleagues will know what they are going to get and always treat people the way that you want to be treated. When I worked for one of the Big 4 consulting firms, I was given several major accounts to manage. Each account was from a different industry and had different cultural organizations which made it challenging to shift from one client environment to another. Being myself and keeping an open mind that I am there for my clients to always help them with their business pain points, regardless of their culture and industry practice, has always helped with my success.
- Don’t be afraid to learn from others and constantly learn from every experience, even the difficult ones. I’ve always encouraged mentorship, whether it is me as a mentor or as a mentee. When I started as a Junior Technical Manager, I learned early on from the VP that I worked for, that managing a highly technical team requires different communication tactics. I was taught to always listen first to their design and solution recommendations before providing my own opinions and suggestions. The majority of engineers are very passionate about their ideas, so it is important to give them the support to promote their thoughts. It will carry you a long way with your team.
- Say “yes” to opportunities! Don’t be afraid to take risks and learn from failing fast. I’ve had major initiatives that were assigned to me, including being assigned additional teams and systems to manage throughout my career. While I started as a Network Engineer, one of my past mentors told me that with my personality, I should get out from always being in the data center or the “IT dungeon.” He believed that I will be better on technical management because of the way I communicate and utilize what he called my “natural charm.” He assigned me to manage a small team of Network Engineers, then a year later, added a Global Infrastructure team. This went on-and-on throughout my career where I was managing large IT departments with almost 1500 resources and being responsible for $300M — $500M operating and capital budget annually.
- Embrace change with a balancing act. The rapid changes in technology enable business strategy directions and outcomes. I’ve always been a change agent, although I’ve learned to be careful when encouraging an organization to change. I am not an OCM (Organizational Change Management) expert, and I’ve always relied on my human capital team for support, because the most challenging aspect is getting people to change.
There was a situation that I thought my team was all onboard with the changes I was proposing — an emerging technology change that required people, process and tools. Towards the middle of the initiative, I found out that several members of my team started complaining to HR about my assertiveness about the changes, resulting in a stressful environment. I had to embrace the feedback and work more closely with the team to ensure they embraced the changes.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Our teams want to know what we are thinking as leaders, and assurancethat they can count on us. I’ve always reminded my team that someone’s success is the success of team, and I’m only as good as the teams that works for me.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I’ve managed large global teams, and what I found very useful are skip level one-on-ones (in person or remotely via video conference). While it is hard to get to know everybody, making an effort to reach out and letting them know that you care about their tasks, challenges, and career objectives is key to supporting a large high-performing team.
None of us are able to 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?
My father, who started as a Staff Accountant during WWII for the US Navy, suffered through the “Bataan Death March.” He was always so proud to tell the story about his escape through the Philippine jungle. After the war, my father took a great risk by establishing a packaging business with his former WWII colleague, and eventually grew the business to be the sole packaging company for Mars Chocolate Corporation in Asia. He invested all his life earnings and time, and by the time he married my mother, he had a house, nice cars and a stable business. My father was the humblest person I’ve known, and his success was how he treated his employees. One example is while he provided company cars to his field sales and management team, he will assign a more luxurious cars to them, than his own.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yes, I participate on several charities and foundation such as Make Believe Foundation, CHOC Children’s Foundation, STEM for HER, etc. I also continue to mentor women in different organizations and guide them towards executive leadership in IT. I recently participated on a CIO Certification for Women program as a speaker and will always be an active member.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Free higher education for all people plus career alignment.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If someone throws a rock at you, throw a bread back”. My father instilled this in us, and I used to wonder as a kid, what did it mean?
There was a point in my career, that I worked for someone who did not “treat” me with the respect that I deserved for the position that I was in. Instead of throwing in the towel, I decided to be a professional and prove to that person that I can do the job and at the same time make them look good. It took me 2 years, but eventually I was able to win them over and show others that “throwing the bread back” will always pay off in the end.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Michelle Obama! I have always been a big fan and after watching her documentary “Becoming,” I am even more so. I’ve been around her during a large meet and greet event during one of the Dreamforce conferences. I adore her perseverance, from being a mother, to achieving her own career, supporting a leader of the 1st world, as well as leading our country with President Obama and all the different movement and foundation that she led on her own.