“Not all women are the same; We are very diverse” with Penny Bauder & Elizabeth Dodson

Not all women are the same. We are very diverse. Not all women think the same and not all women like the same things. Many people both men and women assume that women in a role or company act and think a particular way. That could not be farther from the truth. We all have […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Not all women are the same. We are very diverse. Not all women think the same and not all women like the same things. Many people both men and women assume that women in a role or company act and think a particular way. That could not be farther from the truth. We all have different experiences, raised by different people, have different views on the world and it is important to accept and respect these differences.

As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Dodson.

Elizabeth Dodson is Co-Founder of HomeZada, an online and mobile home management portal that helps homeowners manage their largest asset to save time and money and reduce stress while also enabling HomeZada partners to differentiate their business and build long term client loyalty in today’s competitive market. Elizabeth has over 20 years of technology experience focusing on B2B and B2C platforms. Prior to HomeZada, she joined Meridian Systems and assisted in the growth of this young startup. As the Director of Business Development for Meridian Systems, she oversaw partner relationships, programs and sales. Today, Elizabeth uses the skills she gained in her career to lead the growth of HomeZada as a top homeownership and customer engagement platform. She holds a BS in Business from Stevenson University and her MBA from Loyola University of Maryland. Beth also offers her experience as an active mentor in programs offered by Stevenson, Loyola and American Corporate Partners. Beth also holds an advisory board seat with College Track Sacramento to provide college education opportunities to an underserved market. You can reach Elizabeth at https://www.linkedin.com/in/edodson/ or https://twitter.com/frankiezada

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

After getting my MBA, I entered the technology industry by working for a construction hardware and software company that provided estimating solutions for commercial construction projects. I then advanced my career in the technology industry by joining an early stage start-up in the B2B construction project management software space. The company provided software solutions to manage large scale commercial construction projects for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and large engineering and construction companies.

I participated with a great team to help an innovative software start-up scale to become the global market leader. The company developed multiple channels to market through direct and indirect sales, and partner models. The company also diversified its business model to include both a traditional packaged software solution, as well as, introducing a software as a service subscription model. I also assisted in growing the business from a US market serving one vertical, to a global business that operated in Europe and Asia servicing multiple verticals markets involved in large scale construction projects.

My experience in this company exposed me to how innovative new software technologies and business models get developed and how to scale those solutions with multiple channels to markets in a global marketplace. I also developed a passion for project management disciplines and how those get applied to complex construction process.

As an example, one of my partners sold our software to the construction company that was building the new Dallas Cowboys stadium project. I had an opportunity to visit that project while it was being constructed and was amazed of the vast amount of details required to manage a project over one billion dollars.

At the same time in my personal life, I had just finished designing and building my own home. It was a year after the home was finished when I continued to be frustrated with the lack of technology to manage all the details of my new home. I was still managing various landscaping and interior design projects with paper and spreadsheets, I had major equipment breaking in my new house because I didn’t do preventative maintenance tasks. I found out I was under-insured. And I lost track of what my true annual cost of owning this home was and the impact it had on my personal finances.

This is when I had my true “a-ha moment of inspiration.” My thought about how my company’s software can manage every single detail about a billion-dollar stadium project, but I am completely unorganized when managing my personal largest financial asset and biggest ongoing expense. Why isn’t there a simple consumer SaaS app that helped me manage, maintain, protect and improve my house?

This moment was the inspiration for an innovative new consumer software platform. But it wasn’t until several years later when I realized that many other homeowners experienced the same levels of pain and frustration when managing their home. Along with my two other co-founders, these facts inspired me to become a technology entrepreneur and leverage all my experiences to start HomeZada, a software business that empowers homeowners all around the world to better manage their home.

With HomeZada we make home management easier. Our goal is to help homeowners stay on top of all the tasks that need to be completed. To save time and money. To reduce stress. To know everything that you own in times of tragedy like fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes of recent years. And to manage projects on time and in budget.

HomeZada brings value to my customers across the nation. It also supports our partners in insurance, mortgage, real estate and homebuilding by staying connected with their customers to provide solutions that create easy home management.

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

Iwas told that I was “smarter than a police dog” for creating HomeZada. This is completely flattering because I think police dogs are smart. But seriously, my most interesting stories come from my customers. They tell he what happens to them and how they solve their problems using HomeZada. Then they want to help others by introducing them to HomeZada or starting HomeZada based businesses.

Many of our HomeZada customers provide peace of mind to multiple family members. They review their home inventory that was documented prior to a hurricane. They assist their clients in caring for their home with concierge maintenance services and making life easy. These are absolutely the best stories. Knowing how our users find ways to manage their life with HomeZada that saves them money, time and reduces stress are the most interesting stories.

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?

The funniest mistake I can think of is that I thought someone was someone else during a phone call. Because I thought this person was someone else, I started having a conversation about a previous conversation with another person. The person was confused and then I became confused. As you can imagine, this particular day was filled with back to back meetings and I did not prepare as best I could prior to each meeting. Now, the person I was speaking to started laughing and empathized with my situation and shared a story of how they also did something similar recently. In the end, we realigned and had a productive meeting.

However, my lesson learned from this mistaken identity situation was to slow down and get prepared for my meetings the night before for the next day. This enables me to have the best and most productive meetings moving forward.

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

HomeZada stands out because it involves complete digital home management capabilities that brings together all the financial and physical data about your home in one single application. We offer customers the ability to manage the entire homeowner journey with ease. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, our customers needed to access their accounts in order to access their home inventory for insurance purposes. We instructed them to head to a computer with an internet connection and sign in with their login and password. They were elated by the opportunity to get their details together quickly.

We have many other consumer stories about how HomeZada helps them remember what maintenance tasks need to get done and when in addition to helping them save money managing all their home remodel projects. I am excited about how HomeZada is standing out with consumers in giving them better financial visibility on their home and the total cost of ownership to empower them to make smarter decisions.

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

HomeZada has a long road map that will continue to enhance its platform to support its end users. Some of the exciting things we are working on is connecting with real estate, mortgage, insurance and home building companies to stay connected to their customers throughout the entire homeowner journey. This is exciting and important because many of these industries are primarily a transaction-based activity. With HomeZada, these industries can support homeowners throughout their journey. This is exciting and important because homeowners want support when managing their homes.

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?

Iam not satisfied with the status quo. I believe there are a lot of women who are either unaware or are intimidated by STEM programs. In fact, I have just had a discussion with another young lady, and she hates math. So, she avoids it. We are at a time in history when we can change the way we teach math to encourage others to embrace it. Math is important because it is the basis of life. From understanding statistics to balancing a check book.

Awareness is important and our first step. Explaining what STEM is and how everyone can play a role in STEM is critical to encouraging women in STEM. Having discussions around the dinner table about education and career options for young people that include STEM is a step in the awareness journey. Sharing stories of successful women in STEM and explaining how they changed the world adds to awareness. These discussions need to take place in families, in school and in the workforce.

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?

Ibelieve that women are judged based on what they look like, their gender and how they present themselves. I believe that men are also judged on the same issues, but there is more flexibility or acceptance in variance with men.

We as women do not look the same or act the same. We are very diverse. Just because you are a woman in STEM or tech doesn’t mean that all women in these markets will work or think the same. Our diversity in thought as women helps improve our teams and businesses by bringing different points of view to the table. As women, we also believe in what we are doing and want to provide value to our customers while also growing our companies.

Iwould encourage organizations to have open discussions about what issues are necessary to solve within the organization. I would leave as many biases out of the discussions. This is difficult but by clearing the air and bringing biases front and center will start the process of bringing awareness within an organization that biases exists. Everyone benefits from a company that leverages our differences to solve problems and grow a company rather than holding those differences against each other.

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

Myth #1: Women are all the same.

Not all women are the same. We are very diverse. Not all women think the same and not all women like the same things. Many people both men and women assume that women in a role or company act and think a particular way. That could not be farther from the truth. We all have different experiences, raised by different people, have different views on the world and it is important to accept and respect these differences.

Myth #2: Women are caregivers and not focused on goals.

Many women I know do care for family and want to provide value to their customers. But women know how to focus on goals and meet them. They know that caring is important but to grow companies, we need to hit milestones. Women also evaluate the short and long-term goals.

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.)

Speak up for yourself and others.

When it comes to managing our careers and our businesses, we need to speak up for what we understand, what we need and how to support others. If you feel someone is misrepresented or misunderstood in your company, share some thoughts on how others may look at the same situation with different views. One of my own personal stories happened when I was asked for feedback about of two male candidates who would make a great leader in a specific position. I took the opportunity to explain that two female candidates were not being considered, and it was in the best interest of the organization to consider both the two male and two female candidates.

Beconfident in your skills and keep learning if you are in doubt.

Being perfect is not necessary. But being confident in your ability to learn is critical to your success. Know that you may not know a particular skillset and determine how you can learn the skills or surround yourself with people who have those skills. I remember a time when I felt that I did not have the skills to take on a role within one of my organizations, so I turned down an opportunity. After hiring several other people to perform the role, I realized that I did have the experience and I could figure out the rest. I have not turned down a role of advancement since.

Listen, Listen, Listen.

This may seem simple, but this is a lot harder than you think. It takes effort to listen consciously to people around you. Listening can make the difference between whether you close a deal or not. Listening can determine if you hire the best people for your organization. It can determine what is a real issue and what is noise. Listening has been critical to understanding my partners and my customers and their needs which directly impacted revenues and product development.

Understand the details of your company, product or organization. All of them.

As a founder in a company, it is important to know every detail about my company. I will meet someone in a networking event, and they could be an investor or a potential partner. Being able to answer any questions thrown at me, I will build the best and confident relationships. With my knowledge ready, I closed investment from angels and secured partners.

Ask for help and leverage your network.

Build a network. Find people with different skills than you have. With this network, learn to leverage the people to ask for help when you need it. Listening and staying connected to my network has led to outsourcing skills for my company. It has led to mutual opportunities for my business and the businesses of my network. People know people who know people who may be valuable to your business, role or organization.

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

Prioritize your time and listen to others, but remember you run your business. For women that are in tech and either in start-ups or running businesses, always remember to create tests with your products and markets to not only test your assumptions, but to get actionable feedback on what is truly the best approach. Everyone will have opinions on what the best strategy is but measuring real data from the market will provide a more accurate picture. Don’t try to scale a business until your tests really show you what the pros and cons are of all the different possibilities.

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

Listen and build cross collaborative environments. Develop individual leaders in their functional area of expertise but then expose them to each other on a regular basis so they learn from each other in a cross functional way. Encourage your team leaders to think about what are the best decision for the business and not just for each department or their specific functional area of strength. The death of most organizations is through siloed thinking.

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?

There are so many people to thank because they have been a contributor to how I succeed. My mother has always been a person I saw work hard and supported me by letting me know that “anything is possible”. I did not realize how important this phrase was until I recently read that others are not often provided this statement and may not understand that their capabilities and mindset can change the world. That simple statement has empowered me to tackle everything and anything in my life. So let me pass the statement forward, anything is possible for you.

I also have a huge appreciation for those folks who said I could not run a company, your product is not important, or why would you do this? These naysayers show support in an unconventional way. They drive me to prove them that I can do it. These people could keep me down or they can inspire me. I choose the later. I hope others will do the same with their naysayers.

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

With my own experiences, I support my fellow female entrepreneurs. And I am given the great opportunity to mentor other young adults to encourage their own career and life choices. By mentoring others, I have been given a responsibility to offer support and guidance that moves these individuals to a place of career or company growth. I want to see everyone succeed in whatever they define as success. I want to support others in their learning journey. And if my experiences or my connections to others’ experiences can benefit the next group of leaders, then I want to transfer that knowledge for good use.

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. 🙂

Iwould do two things. First, I would find a way to help everyone understand how to properly manage their overall finances. They do not need to be intimidated by finances but gain knowledge through the correct resources. Financial awareness can ease away stress, give us more information to make hard decisions and gives us the ability to save for a rainy day or retirement. Secondly, I would also give everyone my mirror of them. Through my mirror, I see people differently. I see them tackling anything they put their mind to, I see them having so much confidence that these challenges become walks in the park, and I see them growing successfully whatever their success looks like.

Each of these areas gives people more confidence in living their lives with knowledge. So ultimately, I have a desire that all people have the opportunity to do what they want to do with knowledge and awareness.

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

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch

I absolutely live by this quote and push and push and do things I never thought I would do. By the way, it is not without a little resistance and frustration. But I ultimately push my way through and embrace the uncomfortable zone. When I ultimately embrace this zone, I find that it was not so bad and that I gain new experiences and understandings. I become more open to the ideas, people and locations. This is important for me to grow and embrace the needs of my team and customers.

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 🙂

Where do you start? I would love to speak to so many people. But for now, let’s look at Sara Blakley. Sara appears to be an enthusiastic leader and learner. Two areas of life that I find extremely valuable. It appears that Sara has tips for managing ideas and time. She does not profess to be perfect and embraces all areas of life … the imperfections, the joy, the challenges, the simplicity, the complications and successes. I get inspired by Sara because she embraces life with humor. And laughter and joy can make the impossible, possible.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Big Ideas: “A finance platform to help you improve the value of your home” with John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada

by Christina D. Warner, MBA

John Bodrozic of HomeZada: “Tracking all your costs and keeping all the documentation is extremely important”

by Jason Hartman

Why It Matters to Have Diversity in Positions of Influence

by Kate Eberle Walker
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.