Blog | 03.16.2023

Rise of Women in Tech Leadership – Part II

Women are leading the charge in many different roles across technology. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are thrilled to chat with several women leaders from diverse backgrounds and roles at NWN Carousel. These women have broken barriers and shattered stereotypes to become role models for others, inspiring a new generation of female leaders. From Technical Architect to VP of Operations and VP Offerings, they are changing the face of technology and paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse future. Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments and learn about their experiences, challenges, and triumphs!

Missed Part I: Rise of Women in Tech? Read here.

Keisha Powell-Burgess, Technical Architect – UC & C

Keisha Powell-Burgess, Technical Architect – UC & C

What was your dream job as a child? When I was a child, I wanted to be a teacher like my grandmother. She taught Kindergarten for over 25 years. My siblings and I would use some of her books and extra supplies to play “school” whenever we had the chance. This is one of my favorite memories. My family has always valued the importance of having a good education and that starts at home. Just ask my kids about all of the extra workbooks that they have had to complete over the years. Maybe in my next career life I will have a chance to revisit my dreams of becoming a teacher!

Tell us a little about your career in tech leading up to your position at NWN Carousel. Explain what you do now. I started my career in tech as an intern for AT&T/ Lucent Technologies. As a political science major, I was hired to research an education technology bill in Massachusetts to fund school districts. I enjoyed learning about technology and working with the sales teams so much that they offered me a full-time position and I accepted it. Who knew? The rest is history! I have helped to design communications solutions for my customers for over 20 years. Previously I led our presales engineering team as Director of Engineering. Now my current role as Technical Architect gives me the opportunity to work with our Product Offering and Engineering teams to refine and develop innovative solutions to meet our customers’ business needs.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received? The best advice that I have ever received was offered to me when I was thinking about taking on a new role. When discussing this with a mentor they asked what my desired salary range was, and I froze. Their advice to me at that moment was “Always know what you are worth! How else are you going to ask for what you deserve?” I realized that I didn’t understand the value of my work experience and knowledge. If I didn’t understand that for myself, how could anyone else? This advice has taught me that it is important to appreciate your contribution to an organization and to challenge yourself to keep growing and evolving that to your fullest potential. When you continually invest in yourself, your company will too.

What if you don’t have a tech-savvy support system? How do you get the mentors or the help you need? The best way to build your network is to join a professional group within your industry or a group that is related to your interests outside of your current position. This is not only a great way to meet people, but it is so helpful in finding the right resources and support; especially from other women who can help to direct your path and offer exposure to other platforms. There is a wealth of knowledge, training, and assistance within these collectives, and they are vital to our growth.

What should we be telling younger generations of women? We should be telling them exactly what my mentor told me. Know your value. You are talented, you are strong, you are intelligent and you deserve to be here. No matter what you want to do in your life, you can achieve it! I can’t count the number of times that I looked around the room in a meeting and asked myself whether I was qualified enough to be there. Yes, you are! Not only are you qualified, but you are also essential. Every organization, campus, hospital, and industry will benefit from your knowledge and perspective as a woman. That’s worth more than you know.

How does hybrid work enable your work / life balance? For many of us in tech, hybrid work has been the norm for quite some time. We have developed a workstyle that allows us to be adaptable and productive. For me, it has been a vital part of my life because it has enabled me to work within a flexible schedule, engage with more clients and support my family’s dynamic calendars. Hybrid work fosters more engagement and collaboration, and that means that we can be more impactful to our customers and our team members. It has and will continue to be an important part of how we all work.

What motivates you every day? My family motivates me to work hard and do my best daily, but being in the tech industry encourages me to learn, change and grow every day. Just like the technologies that we support, we are always advancing our capabilities, knowledge and skill sets in this industry. The teacher in me absolutely thrives in this dynamic environment. It is rewarding and it helps me to stay sharp, especially when my children try to outpace me with the latest apps!

Jennifer Vahtola, VP, Operations

Jennifer Vahtola, VP, Operations

What was your dream job as a child?  My dream job as a child was to be an Olympic athlete or work at an airline (travel benefits!)

Tell us a little about your career in tech leading up to your position at NWN Carousel. Explain what you do now. I was a manager at KPMG and then had a couple of controllership positions, last one at a pharmaceutical retailer, before I came to work in this industry. Since joining the original tech company, I have been through 2 acquisitions. My current role is responsible for administering the commission and bonus plans for the Sales Organization.

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?  When looking for a company, look to see how the employees engage with each other as you walk through the buildings – check if employees smile and address each other, no matter what position. Teamwork is key and it starts with respect for everyone you work or engage with.  

What if you don’t have a tech-savvy support system? How do you get the mentors or the help you need?  Keep asking questions, be intuitive, brainstorm with your team or other departments, never believe what you are dealing with is the only way, improvement should be an ongoing endeavor.

What should we be telling younger generations of women? Find a female mentor to talk openly about challenges in the workplace and help provide guidance on how to achieve your goals in the workplace while keeping a work / life balance. 

How has a hybrid work style changed your life?  It has enabled a more effortless work/life balance. Now task-travel time is converted to work time which then provides more time for after work activities for both myself and my team.  Engagement with my team and other departments is still enhanced with video Team meetings.

What motivates you every day?    The different challenges that appear every day, finding the resolution and working with others to fill the gaps and make improvements.   

Krystina Silva, VP, EMP

Krystina Silva, VP, EMP

What was your dream job as a child? My dream job was to be a nurse. My Mom is a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit and I grew up knowing that she was helping the critically ill. I remember being stopped often around our town by former patients and family members of patients to thank her for her skill and her kindness. I was always so proud of her and still am. 

Tell us a little about your career in tech leading up to your position at NWN Carousel. Explain what you do now. I have been in tech for 20+ years. From my early roles in Customer Support and Technical Project Management to leading Customer Success Teams and Strategic Programs, my career in Tech has revolved around enabling customers to solve their business problems through technology. Today, as the VP of Offering Management, responsible for the NWN Carousel Experience Management Platform, my entire focus is on creating platform experiences that solve our customer’s business problems and enable them to achieve transformational outcomes. 

What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received? I have received so much great advice over the years. Two standouts are 1)”Get in the arena” – You will learn more and find your way faster by diving in and taking action than by staying on the sidelines and 2) “Be your own advocate” – You are very rarely considered for opportunities that no one knows you want. 

What if you don’t have a tech-savvy support system? How do you get the mentors or the help you need? Most people think that mentorship must be a formal process. Consider reframing your perspective on mentorship, for example:

  • With the growth of social platforms and communication mediums like podcasts, blogs, etc. mentorship can come from whoever’s content you are consuming. This means that you can curate a team of mentors from the top thought leaders in the industry.
  • If you have a need and there is someone whose opinion you respect, just ask for their input. Most people are happy to share their experiences and opinions.
  • Remember that there is an incredible amount of information available at your fingertips, so always use what is available to you to self-educate.

What should we be telling younger generations of women? This is an area that I am really passionate about. We should be telling ALL generations of women that their voices are valuable and important, so speak up unapologetically by asking questions and sharing your ideas and opinions. Further, as you rise, remember to bring others with you. 

How do you balance work/life? How has hybrid work styles changed your life? Work/life balance is such a challenging and misunderstood topic. In my experience, work-life balance does not mean an equal balance at all times. There are some periods when work requires more attention and others when personal needs take centerstage. I rely on a number of tools to navigate this ebb and flow such as fierce prioritization, staying focused instead of splitting attention, and finding time to unplug so that I can show up as the best version of myself in all facets of work and life. NWN Carousel was a very early adopter of the hybrid work culture, which was a true game changer for me when I joined the company. It has enabled me to continue to grow in my career while also truly being present for my family and myself. 

What motivates you every day? I thrive on variety and love learning new things, which my current role offers in spades. No day is ever the same and I am always learning new things from our incredibly talented team.

NWN Carousel is a proud participant of The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel, a networking group to advance organizational diversity, make unparalleled connections, and empower women.