“Do not compare yourself to others” With Penny Bauder & Melissa Monter

Another lesson is to not compare yourself to others. For women in STEM, this is especially true of trying to compare yourself with a male counterpart. Everyone has their own journey that brings them to where they are, at the right time. As a part of my series about “Lessons from Inspirational Women in STEM […]

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Another lesson is to not compare yourself to others. For women in STEM, this is especially true of trying to compare yourself with a male counterpart. Everyone has their own journey that brings them to where they are, at the right time.

As a part of my series about “Lessons from Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Monter.

Melissa Monter is an associate vice president at Hyland. In her role, she oversees the operational aspects of the Research and Development group. Her teams help support Hyland’s engineers to create a quality product. She started out as a COBOL programmer, then found a passion for software testing. She enjoys finding the right process for the task at hand and ensuring it is documented for others to learn. Melissa grew up in Canton Ohio, and attended The Ohio State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems. In her free time, she enjoys line dancing and watching any of the numerous baking shows, dreaming of creating some of those cakes and pastries!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Iwas pretty confident that I wanted to be a pharmacist while growing up. I had chronic pain issues and wanted to find a cure! When I went to my Ohio State University college orientation, I saw how much chemistry was involved with a career in pharmacy and determined that an “undecided” major suited me better than one that involved all of that chemistry! I just didn’t like chemistry all that much.

Fast forward to college, I took a Pascal class and really enjoyed it and the level of analytical thinking involved. I also enjoyed the business management classes so I moved into the Management Information Systems path, which had a nice mix of technical and business. I even learned COBOL at school, does that show my age?

I was a COBOL programmer after school and enjoyed the business logic and how all of that came together, but I knew I wanted to take a leap into more current technology. I started as a Quality Assurance Representative (software tester) at Hyland Software in 2004. I really enjoyed learning the software and trying to find defects by using the software as a true user would. From there, I identified that my skillsets were better suited for leading and developing employees as well as processes. Since then, I have continued to grow my leadership skills and moved into different leadership roles. I still have a strong passion for ensuring our software has high quality.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

A few years ago, the Vice President of our department moved to another role in the company and I ended up filling in for this role while we restructured. This was the most responsibility I had up to that point in my career. I was responsible for overseeing the department, as well as helping coordinate the Research and Development portion of the largest acquisition our company had made. I really needed to learn a lot of new skills in a short amount of time, but I also had to rely on my team members to be able to execute. It was one of the most stressful times of my career, but also a time where I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of, which is way more than I thought possible!

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 given a software change to test to ensure the fix worked correctly. I was just out of training, so still very new in my role. The instructions said to test in multiple platforms and clients that we supported and one of them was called the Desktop. I did not have experience with our Desktop product (being so new), so I created a shortcut of the Client to execute from the computer desktop and tested that. I was not sure why they wanted that tested, since it would work the same way. My team leader said, “wow, I didn’t know you knew about the Desktop, how did you test it?” I showed him and he corrected me and checked up on a few other areas I tested also!

Moral of the story, always ask if you are not sure, or if someone uses a term and you just want to clarify that you are both talking about the same thing. This happens so often that a term is used and not everyone is clear on what it means. Always ask!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Hyland cares about their employees and their customers/partners — it’s part of the core values that drive the organization. Throughout my entire career at Hyland, my managers have always allowed me to truly work in the best environment for me. Several years ago I had severe back pain and was not able to come in to the office much. My manager told me to contact our HR department to see if I could get on disability while I was healing. He also told me to make sure I stayed home and if I was able to work, I should do it remotely. He cared so much about me not being in pain, more than the work getting done, that it made me want to work that much harder to get work done when I felt better. This sentiment has not changed, even though I have a different manager now, they have all been supportive of the work/life balance we offer.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working on so many exciting updates to our products, to really drive them into modern technology. It is such an exciting time in technology right now, by the time you implement the latest and greatest, the next thing is right there to start consuming.

Our product and process updates will help our customers to be able to drive their business processes even faster and allow them to be more efficient in everyday tasks. By utilizing technology they may already be using in their personal day-to-day activities, it is even easier for them to catch on and use our software in the same way. For example, by enhancing our mobile capabilities, users can use our apps just as easily as they use apps on their phone for personal use, like Facebook or Candy Crush!

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 we still have a long way to go with women in tech. I think that the long-held stereotype of a developer is a guy who sits in his dark basement drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos. Women like Mountain Dew too! And they can be just as successful in technology careers as their male counterparts.

What I would like to see is the continuation of promoting women in tech, but not just at Women in Tech conferences or blogs. Promote them in all aspects of technology. Some of the brightest techies I know are the women.

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?

We need to arm women with the proper soft skills to ensure their voice is heard among their peers. While we don’t need to be aggressive, being more assertive would definitely help in order to ensure their voices are heard. I sit in meetings with mostly men, and I think differently from them, so I know how key my voice is to ensure we look at problems from different angles. Getting my male counterparts to see this, has taken some time.

I was at a conference recently and one of the speakers received a question along the lines of “How do you deal with men speaking over you in meetings?” and the speaker said, let’s not continue to feed into this as a challenge. As a woman, ask “How do you deal with your peers speaking over you in meetings?” She wanted all of us to recognize that if we don’t hold ourselves back, maybe others won’t either. I thought that was fantastic. It starts with us!

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?

A myth I have heard is that STEM concepts/topics are not as easily understood by women. I do not believe this at all. From seeing this in my own family, to some of the amazing women I work with, women understand the problem, and determine logical solutions more quickly than their male counterparts. They also have more refined skills to communicate this effectively and succinctly.

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.)

The first lesson would be to ask questions. With technology changing so frequently and new terminology being created, often times people start using those terms without a full understanding, or even a consistent understanding amongst their team members. I have sat in numerous meetings where someone would throw out a term, and others would start talking about the term, however, after a few minutes, it was evident that they were speaking apples and oranges, rather than just apples or oranges.

Another lesson is to not compare yourself to others. For women in STEM, this is especially true of trying to compare yourself with a male counterpart. Everyone has their own journey that brings them to where they are, at the right time.

Along with the previous lesson, do not sell yourself short. Be confident, and know that you have the ability to learn anything you set your mind to, and that you can make an impact, if you believe in yourself!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I would suggest learning something new every day, and asking questions. Seriously, ask them all the time. Not only to learn more about the topic, but also asking the hard questions, such as “Is this the right approach?” This question can stop a meeting dead, in t’s tracks, and sometimes that is the best thing that could happen.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Speak confidently and clearly to your team. As women, we are sometimes labeled as soft-spoken. If you speak from a confident place, you will be able to earn their trust and enable you and them to work through issues more quickly.

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?

Not to be too cliché, but I would say my mom. She has always been a strong and confident woman. When I doubt myself, she is there to pick me up, dust me off, and tell me I was capable. She has a steel trap memory, so she is able to pull from her memory bank times where I was successful and was able to accomplish some amazing things.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I don’t believe I have…yet. I have just recently become more involved in Women in Tech conferences and would like to get on a board to continue to promote the great things we are doing.

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. 🙂

This is an interesting question. I think everything boils down to love, is that cheesy? In order to be successful in any endeavor in life, you have to love yourself first, before you can love others, or even love your career. You have to love the product or service you offer in order to really put your true passion into it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love this quote “To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world.” To me in a professional sense, it really shows that everyone we interact with can teach us something, if we look for that opportunity. If we open ourselves up and believe in ourselves, we can truly make a difference, it starts with one person.

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 🙂

Mel Robbins. I love her 5 Second Rule concept. It has been inspirational to me to just get up and do something. I typically like to have all of my facts and risks laid out before a decision, and she has motivated me to just start, it always comes together in the end!

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