During Women’s History Month, the EDGE360 editors have profiled and shared advice from women in technology at every level of their careers. From just starting out a career to hitting major milestones at the peak of their career to retirement, each of these women has shared the importance of having a seat at the table and making sure their voices are valued.
Debbie Kocher-Haynes, Program Manager Secret Sauce and FAE Events at SYNNEX Corporation, has been working in the technology field since the ‘70s and is set to retire soon. It was a perfect time to ask her about her career experiences and advice she’d like to share with other women in technology that are looking to launch their careers. Kocher-Haynes didn’t set out to be an engineer or work in a technical field. She had dreams of being a professional tennis player when she was 12. As she entered high school, she decided on being a teacher, but that was before she was introduced to engineering.
“I started working at an engineering company as an engineering assistant. There, I decided I was going to be an engineer and studied mechanical engineering with a minor in data processing,” she commented about her path after high school. This led to becoming a product manager for a company, where she managed the distribution of engineering software templates for distributors and then product marketing and technical support for IBM Software at a reseller. Eventually, Kocher-Haynes landed at SYNNEX as a product manager for IBM Storage. “Ultimately, my role moved to marketing and I was presenting our reseller marketing services to vendors and resellers at Secret Sauces. Eventually, I took over the entire responsibility for Secret Sauce.”
We asked Kocher-Haynes to reflect on her career that crosses over four decades and how the culture evolved for women in technology-related careers. Here is what she had to say:
EDGE360 Editors: What were some of the obstacles in the way, and how did you overcome them?
Kocher-Haynes: Working in an all-male environment in the 70s, before my time at SYNNEX, was like being in an episode of Mad Men. It was extremely male-dominated and sexist. My motto was “always tell the truth and never compromise your ethics.” Doing the right thing lets you sleep at night and I made many male friends that I am still friends with today who respected me for my work and standards.
EDGE360 Editors: When you look back to where you started to the present day, what shifts have you’ve seen to encourage more representation?
Kocher-Haynes: So many! Today, I don’t think that a female attending a drafting class in college would be laughed at and asked if she were in the correct room. Yes, that happened to me. STEM programs are the best thing I have seen in many decades to enlighten and encourage young women to work in a technology or science career.
EDGE360 Editors: What are you most proud of today when looking at your career accomplishments to date?
Kocher-Haynes: I never compromised myself or my values for my career. I worked hard all my career for my satisfaction and hope I have been a role model to some.
EDGE360 Editors: What advice do you have for the next generation that may be seeking a tech-related career?
Kocher-Haynes: Look for what you love to do and go for it. It can be challenging, exciting, and so rewarding, but you have to love it. And, remember, family comes first. Do not sacrifice relationships for your career. You CAN do both.