As we near the 2016 Colorado Women in Leadership (WIL) event on September 15th, we wanted you all to have a chance to get to know our panelists! We will kick off our WIL panelist blog series with Brenda Horn, VP of IT & CIO for Enterprise Computing Solutions at Arrow Electronics, Inc. Get to know Brenda by reading her answers to the following questions!
What was your dream job as a child and why?
I didn’t think about having a ‘job’, but as a child I thought it would be really cool to fly jets. I had gone on a couple of commercial flights when I was quite young, and the concept of looking down to see the clouds just seemed like the coolest thing in the world.
What has been your biggest professional challenge as a female leader?
I worked on the North Slope of Alaska in an oil field for the most of my early career. It was almost all men, and mostly ‘blue collared’ jobs. The assumption was, that since I was a woman, that I must be someone’s secretary (even though I wasn’t). It took a lot of courage and persistence to earn the respect of the people around me, and for them to start seeing me as a professional. It was a difficult setting for a young woman, but it made me tough, and helped me develop a lot of self-confidence quickly.
Where did you go to college and what was your first job out of school?
I went to Western Washington University and got an BS degree in environmental engineering. My very first job was working for the city of Anchorage, doing Carbon Monoxide monitoring and air dispersion research.
Tell me about your professional career track?
I started out doing complex air dispersion modeling on computers for the city of Anchorage, then moved on to building and installing networks and computers on the North Slope of Alaska for an oil company, then went on to manage network engineers, IT security, and developers for Cisco, and then finally got into the application development arena. With each role I took on more and more responsibly, had larger teams, and a broader scope.
What advice do you have for young female professionals?
A couple of things – chart out your career path over the next 5 years. Where are you today, where would you like to be in 5 years, and what are the gaps or missing elements in your current professional profile that you need to develop to get to where you want to be. Then, seek out someone in the organization that has more experience than you, that you respect/admire and share this info with them and ask for feedback. Don’t ever be afraid to ask your manager about your performance, and how you can do better. Spend your time with those around you who are well respected, and have influence. Don’t dwell on all the problems at work and things that are messed up about the company, but rather what can you do every day to make it better. If you see a problem that needs fixing, and you think you have a fix, even if it is outside of your responsibility, never hesitate to bring up your bright ideas with the appropriate stakeholder.
Any advice on how to achieve a happy work-life balance?
It is a struggle. Sometimes I even struggle just to achieve a life-life balance. There are so many things I enjoy doing, and I seem to always want to try and fit everything in. My family, my hobbies, my job, staying in shape, travel… all of these things take time and energy. Regarding Work-Life balance, I believe there are two critical elements from a work perspective. 1st, identify the things that you shouldn’t be working on (those things that at the end of the day really do not add significant value to the organization), and stop working on them. Over time, we sometimes get in the habit of doing things just because we always have, or just because someone happened to ask for it. Don’t spend time on anything that is not truly valuable to the organization. The 2nd, delegate when/where you can, and ask for help if you need it. As a manager, it is important to delegate tasks not only to free up your workload, but to allow others to develop new skills and have a chance to be in the limelight.