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“One of the biggest ‘myths’ I’ve heard over the years is women aren’t interested in tech; I totally disagree” with Penny Bauder & Sharon Watkins

I believe one of the biggest “myths” I’ve heard over the years is Women aren’t interested in tech and I totally disagree. Yes, many women are underrepresented in the technology industry. But it’s an opportunity like what I have interviewed with you that sheds light on women and young girls around the world that it […]

I believe one of the biggest “myths” I’ve heard over the years is Women aren’t interested in tech and I totally disagree. Yes, many women are underrepresented in the technology industry. But it’s an opportunity like what I have interviewed with you that sheds light on women and young girls around the world that it is perfectly ok to pursue careers tech industry. Technology has transformed everything in our lives and the more women we have to add balance to our evolution the better.


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

Sharon is the CEO of RadiusPoint a twenty-eight-year-old telecom and utility expense management firm. Sharon Watkins founded the company in January 1992 and is the key driver in the software technology, ExpenseLogic. Sharon Watkins has earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Kennedy Western University and has achieved many other certifications in the field of telecommunications audit and project management. Sharon has been instrumental in working with the software development team to create ExpenseLogic, the telecom and utility expense management software that has less than ten competitors worldwide. Most recently Sharon was awarded the 2019 CEOs of the Year by the Orlando Business Journal.


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

Ibegan researching businesses that I could start after I had my second child. I knew that I wanted to start a business of my own because of the treatment that I received while working at a bank which was one of my first jobs. This bank did not allow time to be taken for my sick child and the one time I called out was when my three-year-old daughter was running a fever. I was told the following day that I needed to have a back up a sitter so that I didn’t have to miss work when my child is ill. I knew that I would have to start my own business so that I would have the freedom to raise my daughters without the constraints of businesses that were restrictive in time off. While researching, I found the auditing of telecom and utility bills to be complementary with the internal audit work that I was allowed to do while providing assistance to the internal auditors at the bank where I was employed.

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

There have been many interesting factors that have happened to me over the years. But I believe the most prevalent story how many of us women are still fighting for our voice and place within this tech-world. As a women-owned business, I believe in constantly promoting an environment for diverse businesses to thrive is vital. I consistently take bold steps to accomplish this by fostering RadiusPoint’s own inclusive procurement process that provides the maximum opportunity for small and diverse businesses to participate as partners and suppliers of goods and services. An additional benefit of ensuring that these suppliers are included in the procurement process is increased competition, which leads to lower costs and increased levels of innovation, service and product quality. By utilizing and partnering with small and diverse companies, we here at RaidusPoint will continue to build a supplier base that contributes to competitive advantage.

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 honestly cannot think of any funny mistakes at the moment but we are human so I know I have had somewhere along the way.

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

RadiusPoint does our best to connect with our team members and clients on a personal level, I am a firm believer in putting family first and supports team member’s family if an employee needs to take off work or even bring their child to the office from time to time. Frequent team member outings and special events to include family members also play a large role in our vision.

I am fortunate to be able to visit with our clients each year which allows me to get to know them on a personal level. Being able to understand their needs allows me to add capabilities in our software and services to meet those needs. This sensitivity allows RadiusPoint to grow with their company and meet needs as they arise. Without such dedicated leaders here, RadiusPoint would not be as successful as it is today.

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

We have a very exciting year planned with new service offerings that will be available in 2020. We have been fortunate enough to begin working with another Woman-Owned Business located in the United Kingdom to develop a service that expands our current service offering for acquisitions. Our clients consistently acquire locations and most often this creates hardship on our clients’ accounts payable staff. RadiusPoint assists after the purchase take place however with this new partnership, we will be able to assist before and during the acquisition. This work will help our clients staff make the transition much smoother and work will be completed in a timely manner.

We are also in the process of adding services and products to our procurement portal that will allow our clients to order more of the products and services that they use in the course of normal business. We had several clients ask for help with procurement of services that RadiusPoint doesn’t typically manage however it made sense to add those services and products to our web ordering portal.

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?

Working in the technology field for the past 27 years, I have witnessed a lot of changes. I have worked with a majority of men on the client-side however I have been able to find women on the IT and technical software arena’s that I have hired to work within my company. We recently hired an Account Executive in the IT field that had been in her position for over 15 years, being passed up time and time again for a management position. The male counterparts in her company were being put in the management position while telling her that she was too valuable in her role to move to any other position. Just this past year there were two women working in the telecom and IT department at two different companies that were laid off/terminated after being in the same position with the same company for over 20 years. Their replacements were their male counterparts. Both of these ladies were friends of mine and their companies were clients. I want to say that things are changing, but women that are already in these roles, long term, I don’t think there are a lot of changes happening for them.

In the past, I think the encouragement of our daughters to learn a specific role or being told that they would work in a specific field was prevalent but something has to be changing because I am getting to work with more women on the client-side, than ever before. As my daughters were growing up, they are 33 and 30 now, I constantly told them that they could do anything that they wanted to do and to set their own goals for what THEY wanted to achieve.

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?

A couple of things stand out dramatically, 1.) the women do not request training or they are not sent for training as often as their male counterparts, 2.) the women do not specifically state their career advancement goals.

Men are more often sent out for training or conferences that women are not even considered to attend. Just take a look at a Gartner IT conference, the majority of the attendees are men. I attended one in September and I couldn’t believe that there were so few women in attendance. I believe it has to do with the majority of people in the IT field are men but I do believe it could also stem from women not asking to attend the training that will advance their career.

Women have to be more vocal with management and state how and when they would like their career to advance. Many women are not as aggressive as men, so they will hope that someone takes notice of their achievements while men are making sure that management recognizes their achievements.

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 believe one of the biggest “myths” I’ve heard over the years is Women aren’t interested in tech and I totally disagree. Yes, many women are underrepresented in the technology industry. But it’s an opportunity like what I have interviewed with you that sheds light on women and young girls around the world that it is perfectly ok to pursue careers tech industry. Technology has transformed everything in our lives and the more women we have to add balance to our evolution the better.

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.)

Do not assume that the people that you are working with have your best interest in mind.

If you are thinking about starting your Woman Business Enterprise, just know that there are those that genuinely want to help, they want you to succeed. There are also those people that don’t want you to succeed and it is up to you to determine what type of person you hire as an employee, associate with as a partner or work with as a Client. Over the years, there have been many people that have mentored and helped me along the way and there have been those people that have left me speechless from their actions and comments.

Being able to learn a lesson from the negative experiences has allowed me to grow and be ready for the next experience that comes my way. Sharing these experiences may help other Women Business Owners realize that you are not alone and that you must identify those people that want to see you fail, and remove them from your life and your business. During the early years of the business that I started, I signed a nationwide manufacturer. It was a prestigious client name to have and I felt really fortunate when I landed the deal. Those feelings quickly changed though when I had to deal with the company’s Point of Contact. His idea of a partnership was to harass me and a couple of women at my company that worked on his account which then leads to outright sexual harassment. His voice mails were offensive and I couldn’t believe that someone would act like this. I put up with a lot to try to keep the client however the last straw was when he refused payment unless I met him at a bar. He left voice mail messages stating that he had the check that he picked up from their Accounts Payable department and if I wanted to get paid, I would have to meet him at the bar. I learned quickly that to do business with this company, this was part of their culture, so I had to move on. This cost our company money but we left with our integrity.

Keep emotions out of the conversation and avoid conflict, when you can.

My company was hired to work on a project for a nationwide manufacturer and retailer with offices nationwide. We were able to complete the project with a very positive outcome for our client. When I went by to finalize the findings he stated to me, “What are you going to do with that big check? I bet you are going to run right out to go shopping.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Did a man think that all a woman could do with money is to go shopping? At this point, I had a few years under my belt and a bit more attitude so I told him, “well, the electric bill is due this week and my employees will need to get paid this week so that check will go for all of those expenses.” I learned that when something is said that you don’t agree with, go ahead and speak up but don’t let your emotions take over.

Protect your employees at all costs.

We were fortunate enough to land a meeting with one of the top three airlines and I and two other women attended the meeting in their office. Once we were shown to the conference room, I was busy setting up the laptop for the presentation when the two men came in for our meeting. Introductions were made and with them knowing that we were from the South, one of the men asked if we were going to show them some “Southern hospitality”. I said, of course, and the guy proceeded to shut the door and turned off the light to the room. I probably had the most surprised look on my face, as did the other two women in the room. He then turned the light back on and they both laughed. I don’t understand to this day what they thought was funny about making all three of us feel completely uncomfortable. I learned that if a comment is made that makes me feel uncomfortable, to address it immediately to clear the air because this is would be a bad start to the relationship.

Promote others with words that confirm their excellence.

Giving credit is one of the easiest things that a manager can do but one of the things that is often not given. This is so apparently not being done in many companies and I saw this first hand with one of the women that were terminated by her company after giving over 20 years of service. We had worked on a project together and she had set a project goal with her management of saving her company more than 3% in the IT and Telecom budget. We worked together with her on the project and the savings exceeded the 3% goal. The outcome would have been a raise for the next year but not only did she not get the raise, but she also didn’t get the recognition for the hard work. This taught me a very strong lesson in attributing praise for each person’s part in a project.

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

Set goals and expectations and put this in writing and attach rewards for achieving certain milestones. Several years ago we were working on a very large inventory project and I set a goal for a certain portion of the work to be completed. The reward was a field trip. It just happened that we completed the goal in December and the movie Elf was in theatres. I took the team to see Elf and bought popcorn, candy, and drinks. We laughed and had a couple of hours away from work, during work hours, to enjoy ourselves. Everyone came back energized.

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

Set goals and expectations and put this in writing and attach rewards for achieving certain milestones. Several years ago we were working on a very large inventory project and I set a goal for a certain portion of the work to be completed. The reward was a field trip. It just happened that we completed the goal in December and the movie Elf was in theatres. I took the team to see Elf and bought popcorn, candy, and drinks. We laughed and had a couple of hours away from work, during work hours, to enjoy ourselves. Everyone came back energized.

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

Confusion of duties is often the first issue that causes a project to derail and a team to fall apart. I am probably not as good at this as I should be so I would be learning from others in this area.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Millie Wilhite helped me as my company was just getting off the ground. She knew everyone in the tech fields and ran a company that installed IT/telecom equipment. She introduced me to people and gave me advice as she had already been in business for several years.

My husband is also on this list because had he not given up his job to join my company, I most likely would not be in business today. At the five (5) year mark, he was in college for Biomedical Engineering and had his own tech focus but as my company grew, I needed his help with the day to day management of the company. At this point I was working with software developers to create the company’s software, ExpenseLogic, and had so many daily duties, I was overwhelmed. He agreed to come help and twenty-seven (27) years later, we are still working together.

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

I would like to think of myself as a firm believer in putting family first and we here at RadiusPoints support team member’s families if an employee needs to take off work or even bring their child to the office from time to time. Frequent team member outings and special events to include family members also play a large role in Sharon’s vision and occur throughout the year. With that said it allows for a wonderful diverse workforce in which people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and levels of experience can come together to create an enjoyable place to work.

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. 🙂

I would love to give as much back as we can to our veterans. RadiusPoint is a Veteran-friendly company and Sharon is committed to recruiting military talent to join the team. Veterans choose to grow their careers here due in part of the similarities shared between Sharon’s leadership principles and those found in today’s armed forces. Recently, we have rolled out a corporate gift matching programs that allow all of our team members the chance to donate to their designated charity. RadiusPoint is proud to have Folds of Honor as one of our matching donation organization. Folds of Honor recently provided scholarships to those children or spouses of the military and first responders who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. This fall, Folds of Honor sent over 5,000 people to college however there were thousands of requests that they couldn’t provide, so there is still a need. We just want to do our part to all of those that have sacrificed so that we have our freedom.

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

If you are not enjoying what you are doing in life, you shouldn’t be doing it. I know that every day is not going to be a life-altering experience however if you are going to be happy and others around you are going to enjoy working with you, you must enjoy what you are doing.

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 🙂

Nikki Haley served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. She is the epitome of a strong woman in a male-dominated role.

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