Women Of The C-Suite: “ Provide mentoring and leadership to younger women” With Lisa Matta VP at Wi-Tronix

Be Supportive — Provide mentoring and leadership to younger women and others needing it. In other words, give back to others just as others have provided to you to enable your success. This has been an approach I have followed for a long time. Whether it is mentoring in the office with new employees, inspiring and motivating […]

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Be Supportive — Provide mentoring and leadership to younger women and others needing it. In other words, give back to others just as others have provided to you to enable your success. This has been an approach I have followed for a long time. Whether it is mentoring in the office with new employees, inspiring and motivating potential engineering students on the value and best skills of teamwork and interpersonal skills, or working with young children (especially girls) on STEM related activities, it is important to provide leadership to others. You never know what impact you may have on an individual and ultimately their future impact on the world as a whole. Pay it forward and be the support that others need in their life.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Matta, Vice President of Product Development and co-founder of Wi-Tronix, a leader in rail safety providing Internet of Things (IoT) based intelligent rail solutions that connect rail companies in real time with critical information and insights about their trains, through smart remote monitoring, video intelligence, predictive diagnostics, and automation solutions. As a leader in technology for nearly 20 years, Matta innovates solutions that solve critical issues faced by the rail industry. She combines a talent for invention with a passion for education, providing a pathway for future innovators and leaders in her field. As a co-founder of Wi-Tronix, Lisa is named in five patents and has been instrumental in spearheading the design, development, test, and launch of new software and products since the company’s beginning.

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

My father is an electrical engineer and I believed I would follow him into a technical field with my aptitude for math and science. I also enjoyed challenges and puzzles and at one point explored a pharmaceutical career until I realized it didn’t present the challenges that pushed me.

I changed course and got my bachelor’s in engineering and continued on to hone in on a focus of computer engineering. Ultimately, I entered the rail space to combine that foundation of math, science and computer engineering in order to provide technical innovations to the rail industry.

The rail industry wasn’t my initial choice, but it is where I found a home to apply those skills that I had developed to make a difference, drive change and solve problems.

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

In the early days of Wi-Tronix, we bid on a large project for equipping an entire fleet of locomotives. Part of the bid process was for the customer to come to our facility for a site visit as well as observe our product installed on a locomotive in the field. When the site visit was planned, we realized that the customer was sending more delegates to visit our facility than we had employees in the company!

We brought all hands on deck to provide the best customer experience during their visit. Then, we had to overcome an unexpected hurdle by changing our locomotive field visit to a different customer in the area due to a last minute issue which occurred. Through our relationship with our other customer, we were able to showcase our product and ultimately won the business over some big named competitors. This was an early but important contract which enabled a lot of growth in the company and the product as a whole. I look back to what we accomplished in the few years after this contract was awarded as some very exciting times!

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?

As an early entrepreneur of a small company you have a lot of different roles you play. For example, early on I everything from head of HR to head draftsman to software engineer.

In my capacity as a draftsperson — not having much experience in the area — I created a design for an enclosure. And with this design there were a few key measurements that were critical for everything to line up. When the time came, I discovered that my drawing was off by two millimeters. You might say “oh it is only two millimeters” but that was critical enough that system in place wouldn’t work. I walked away from that realizing that even the smallest mistake can have a significant impact on quality of your work.

When I was developing software, I was using my laptop’s parallel port — which is what you would use to connect to a printer — to control a digital I/O. I wired it up on the conference table which, at the time was a white card table that sat in the basement of our president’s house. I was ready to test my code but apparently I didn’t hire it properly because I started a pretty big fire that started. The rest of the time using that conference table you could see the spot where my wiring caught fire. A permanent reminder of what can happen if you don’t slow down and double check your work.

I think these stories both go to show no matter your role, project of task within a company — especially a young business — even small errors can be costly. As an executive within my company, it my standard to avoid even the seemingly silly or minor mistakes.

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

Wi-Tronix is an interesting company in the rail space because we try and accommodate consumers of all sizes and fleet vehicles. Many companies enter the industry look to serves a specific customer or market segment, only applying their products to certain areas. Wi-Tronix prides itself on working with customers regardless of their size, providing equal treatment while working on their entire fleet of rail vehicles. We will find a solution for a company regardless of their size or market share.

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

Wi-Tronix has recently introduced exciting new technology in the railroad industry. I know railroading doesn’t immediately pop-out as an industry with the latest technology, however, we were compelled to create new products which can actually help an engineer with situational awareness during a 12 hour shift of train operations.

How many of us have driven on the road and had our car provide visual, audible or vibration feedback to us that we were distracted needed to pay attention to something? This may include beeping on fast approach to another car or automatically applying the brakes if you get to close.

Wi-Tronix is now bringing this concept to trains via audible and visual prompts of upcoming things requiring attention, such as a drop in speed limit. So what does that mean to the average person? Providing this situational awareness to the locomotive engineer will ultimately save lives by allowing the engineer to re-focus on the task at hand and correct their actions to prevent an incident. Several recent train derailments were the result of exceeding speed limits. If only the engineer had a short onboard audio prompt to “check speed”, some of these events may have been prevented. We are very enthusiastic to improve the safety around our rail infrastructure and ultimately make the world a safer place.

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

I would say that one the of things that as grown for me is to assess my strengths and use my team to supplement my strengths and really have the confidence to lead and direct them.

Early on in my career, I had a perception that other people had all the answers and I was behind in my skills and knowledge. As I grew and learned in my industry and as an executive, I realized that leaders don’t have to have all the answers. But they are the ones that go out in front to help provide direction for the team. They are the ones that choose the path and inspire the team to move forward together.

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

Hire great people, provide strategic vision/guidance and then get out of their way. Don’t forget to check in occasionally to see how they are doing and offer your assistance to enable them to succeed. Learning who they are as a person is key contributor toward their active teamwork. You never want to lose that personal touch no matter how large the team gets.

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 several people who have helped me along my journey, but I will focus on one person that immediately come to mind, my first real boss.

Your first job after college can be very intimidating or exciting. You have your first real projects and ability to demonstrate your skills. One of my first assignments involved collaboration with many suppliers to enable the onboard “digital dashboard” of the locomotive to change from English to Spanish with a press of a button. Sounds simple enough, right?

But I didn’t think that way at first. While my boss didn’t tell me exactly how to accomplish this assignment, he gave me the initial first steps and empowerment I needed to plan and complete the project successfully. The projects got continuously more difficult and ultimately he invited me to have the opportunity of a lifetime in joining him in as a founder of Wi-Tronix. He has continued to be very supportive of me over the years as well as continued to challenge me and enabled my personal and professional growth. While we definitely have our moments of disagreement and frustration, I respect his leadership and aspire to become better every day as a result. I am grateful for his confidence in me which got me to where I am today.

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

From the perspective of Wi-Tronix, we has the privilege of providing different types of products that help the transportation industry move goods, products and people throughout the world more efficiently and safely.

We have taken on projects and created products that also help the environment by ensuring systems run at their most efficient and not waste fuel while also partnering that with advancements in safety. So while we aren’t doctors and cannot point to the specific numbers of lives we have saved, I know that systems and products we have installed have provided more safety to the rail operations industry.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Be Your Best Self — Find your passion and continuously strive to be the best in the world at it. Everything I have accomplished was due to setting my mind on a goal, extremely focused work effort and a relentless pursuit to be the absolute best at it. This has held true for me since I was a child playing softball and continues today in my role in Product Management. I utilize social media to get connected to the best consultants and mentors to enable me to be successful by always evaluating ways for continuous improvement. I surround myself with the best people in order to elevate my level of performance.

Be Assertive and Confident — For a long time, I was always under the impression that others know more than me based on their vast experience and knowledge. That was until another leader once shared a secret with me when I was a graduate student instructor in college: the only difference between a teacher and a student is sometimes 1 or 2 lessons. In other words you only need to know the next lesson before the students do and be able to assert confidence when you teach it. This also holds true in business. You may not know all the steps needed to bring the organization from where they are to where you want them to be. However, if you provide guidance on the first few steps, things will take off from there. In summary, you probably know more than you give yourself credit for. You don’t need to know all the answers. Just the next few steps communicated with confidence to gain respect from others.

Be Prepared Through Proper Planning– Anticipate what might come next and pre-plan your strategy or response. I found another shortcoming for me to be when I was caught off-guard on a specific topic. I always felt like I was falling short if someone asked me about an item in my responsibility/expertise and I didn’t know the answer the moment they asked the question. I now try to stay on top of things by anticipating what might be needed through some detailed forward looking planning and then defining the answers/path to the questions not yet answered.

Be Willing to Ask Questions — I was often hesitant to ask questions thinking that this was a way to show to others that I didn’t know everything or cause me to stand out. I later determined that if one person has a question, likely others in the group do as well and may be experiencing the same fear to be the one to ask it. I started asked questions from a curious mindset and found that others were very receptive to answering questions and enabling a path of learning. Being inquisitive is one way to show you take initiative to learn when you need to. It also shows that leaders can also be vulnerable to not knowing everything and needing support from their team. This promotes a collaborative atmosphere for all to feel comfortable.

Be Supportive — Provide mentoring and leadership to younger women and others needing it. In other words, give back to others just as others have provided to you to enable your success. This has been an approach I have followed for a long time. Whether it is mentoring in the office with new employees, inspiring and motivating potential engineering students on the value and best skills of teamwork and interpersonal skills, or working with young children (especially girls) on STEM related activities, it is important to provide leadership to others. You never know what impact you may have on an individual and ultimately their future impact on the world as a whole. Pay it forward and be the support that others need in their life.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

We only have a short time to leave our mark on the world. Use your talents to make an impact. No action you take toward a better tomorrow is too small. Take your rock and throw it into the big lake. The waves you create will carry beyond that which you can see.

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

There are 4 kids of people:
 Those who make things happen
 Those to whom things happen
 Those who watch things happen
 Those who don’t know that anything happened

This was one of the early quotes of Wi-Tronix when we were just starting the company. We wanted to be the ones to accomplish the unimaginable task rather than watch others or be unaware of things happening. I decided I wanted to be part of a team to drive change in the industry and world which is one of my reasons for joining Wi-Tronix. “Make things happen” is still a of the core value of Wi-Tronix and it rings true to this day 15 years later. I challenge others to let your legacy be known as the one who “makes things happen.” Do the thing that no one asks you to do because you know it can make a difference and is needed. Those aretypically where true innovation happens and that also results in the biggest overall impact.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with myself and Wi-Tronix at the following:


Company Facebook:

Company Twitter:

Personal Twitter:

Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!

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