Lynda Partner on Diversity and her Career Journey
When did you start your career in tech and why did you choose it?
I actually started my career in the food services industry – selling ketchup and other food stuff to restaurants and hospitals. I hated competing on price alone, and realized that I wanted to solve problems for people - the more complicated the better. Technology was very immature when I started out, and I loved that it was new and exciting, with people willing to work hard to get ahead. I never regretted the move and am still in tech 30 years later.
What helped you get to where you are today?
I never had a formal mentor or champion, but I had a few people who inspired, encouraged and promoted me. My strongest memory is lying in the hospital after giving birth to my second son when the phone rang. Bob Ferchat, then CEO of Telesat Mobile, was the first to congratulate me. The most impressive part is that he was in the middle of an incredibly important transaction that would affect the company’s future, yet he still took time to reach out on a personal level. Leaders like Bob gave me opportunities within the company that no 20 something would have gotten on their own, eventually pushing me up the ladder. Similarly, Des Cunningham, founder of an early Ottawa tech firm, inspired all employees and his influence and legacy live on today.
Did you encounter barriers or issues in your career path because you are a women?
I often think I was successful because I didn’t notice any gender issues and didn’t let them affect me. Also, I started my own company and ran my own show, so gender issues never stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. I did miss having women peers though. I would have loved to have a network of other women CEOs for support.
When you look around the room at meetings do you see enough diversity?
I am lucky enough to work for Paul Vallée, CEO of Pythian, who openly describes himself as a feminist. Pythian has a higher percentage of female leaders than any of the major Silicon Valley tech companies─ it’s like a breath of fresh air! Paul’s attitude towards women is a huge part of why I joined Pythian, and our only regret is the lack of pipeline for women in technical roles.
As a leader in a tech company, how important is diversity and inclusion to the success of your company?
I remember being in university and seeking out mature students to team up with, feeling that a diverse team would lead to better marks. I still believe that today, and I actively recruit to get mixed teams─ gender, age, ethnicity and more. I like that I work for a company that is consciously doing the same.
“We call ourselves blendmasters - mixing different ingredients together to get the best result.”
What strategies or programs do you think can address the imbalance of women in leadership, and particularly tech companies?
Awareness is the most important step towards positive change. I’m a big proponent of training to reduce the impact of subconscious or unconscious bias, which I am convinced exists in all of us. I am a believer in setting targets for diversity and being conscious of those targets when we recruit and promote. On the other hand, no woman I know would want to be promoted just because she is a woman.
On a personal level what advice would you give a young women considering or just entering a career in the tech sector?
This is the best time to be in tech; tech is changing everything in our world and through tech you can be a part of that change! I am still thrilled every time I think back and realize that I pretty much invented the idea of email marketing, and started the company that made it real. The internet is making it easier and easier to work from anywhere and anytime – giving women the flexibility so many of them want.
“No Woman I Know Would Want To Be Promoted Just Because She Was A Woman."
What gadget or app can you not live without?
My phones (yes, plural) are always attached to me and I love that I know I can pretty much run my work and personal life on them if I had to. I love that I can FaceTime my son while he travels to South America, get updates from my other son through Instagram and Snapchat, keep all my upcoming trip details in one spot on Tripit, track my runs on MapMyRun, access ALL my files on Dropbox, and pay for parking too!
What are the first two sites you visit in the morning?
I am kind of addicted to scrabble, so I always play a turn over my morning coffee, then Facebook to see what my friends are up to, then CBC news app, and lastly Quartz (QZ.com), my newest favourite.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave for future women in communications, media and technology careers?
I like to think that someday some women will tell people that I was part of the encouragement in their life, a voice that whispered to them that they can do it – take that risk, that next step, go for that promotion, and start that business. I also want to help companies attract and retain more women employees. I was approached by two CEO’S looking for female employees and couldn’t find them. Companies are looking for help and I think WCT can play a big role in connecting women with the companies who really want them, and helping companies understand what it takes to retain these women as well.
Before joining Pythian, Lynda was Vice President, Marketing and Chief Communications Officer at Redline Communications where she and her team returned the company to profitability after 15 straight years of losses. As an entrepreneur, Lynda has led and founded several successful start ups, including In-Touch Survey Systems, Caravelle, and GotMarketing. In 2014,Lynda was recently named WXN 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.
Learn more about Lynda on her Linkedin page