March is Women’s History Month and ITS is celebrating by highlighting women and nonbinary Tar Heels in technology. All month long, ITS News will share profiles and Q&As to share the breadth and diversity of the Carolina women-in-tech experience. For the full list of profiles and to read some historical perspective, visit Celebrating Women’s History Month: Carolina women in IT.
What does your role as a leader mean to you?
Leaders set a vision and inspire teams to work together with mutual support to accomplish a larger goal. My role as a leader is to bring the voice of the team to the discussion and be influential in setting a vision that aligns with the greater mission. I bring together team members leveraging complementary skills and traits to build a high-performing team and roadmap to accomplish goals. Making sure the team has the right knowledge and tools at the right time to accomplish what is best for the greater institution. I’m here to remove the blockers hindering accomplishing goals and if something goes wrong, I’m here to take the blame.
As a woman in IT leadership, I know the importance of having a diverse representation when making decisions that will impact our diverse community we service. The roadmap may have bumps — like overcoming challenges, having to pivot or adjust — but [we’re] able to pick back up and learn.
What excites you about the future of your field?
In my field of IT within the School of Medicine, I get excited about being able to indirectly give back to my community through technology that is woven into our daily lives. Knowing I work at the SOM where we provide the technology to help our next generation medical students, researchers and clinical [staff] that accomplish extraordinary work and impact medicine, education, patient care and lives at large. From the laptops used to accessing critical data, the storage saving it, to the networking that delivers the bit and bytes, we as IT professionals will play a part, though a minuscule part, of treating Parkinson’s, teaching clinical skills and saving a patient’s life.
About Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown is the Deputy Chief Information Officer for UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine IT. She has more than 15 years of leadership experience in IT, making her a role model to all around her.
Brown earned her Master of Business Administration degree in IT management from Western Governor’s University.
Has your gender been a factor in your career trajectory, path or choices? How so?
I did not plan my career trajectory, and my professional journey was not one that was A to Z. I saw the technology field as a growing opportunity and discovered quickly that I was the minority gender in the classroom. Being a woman in IT has not always been easy and made me second guess if I was in the right place making the right decisions. As a result, I took my career slowly and went back to school several times in preparation for my next career advancement.
Through hard work, learning and taking on new challenges, I have gained the skills and experience that have advanced my career from IT intern to deputy CIO. I’ve received empowerment and support throughout the years from colleagues and mentors. This has energized me to continue to take on challenges and pursue leadership and be a different viewpoint at the discussion table.
Have you had a mentor in your career or someone else who made a difference for you? Have you mentored others?
I’ve had several mentors throughout my career, and each has brought a new view or pathway through challenging times and decisions. In some ways, everyone I encounter has been a mentor to me — teaching me something new, bringing a new view to a subject or idea to the table. My mentors have been alongside me to build my confidence to overcome imposter syndrome. I hear my mentors in my head telling me to ‘take a chance and go for it,’ ‘don’t hesitate to ask,’ ‘take the lead’ and to speak up. This has been empowering for me and has helped me keep going.
Mentoring has been a passion of mine — to be able to share my knowledge and experience with others so we can have more diversity around the idea and decision table. It makes me smile to be able to help provide opportunities for others as my mentors have done for me.
I will have the pleasure of sharing my career journey along with three of my respected women colleagues with our Durham Tech and local high school community this month. It’s an honor to be able to share our experience of being women in IT with our next generation of IT professions.
What would make it possible for more women to work and succeed in IT?
More outreach to women’s groups and high schools to gain interest and bring light to the variety of career path opportunities within IT.
Become a mentor or speaker to promote women in technology and counteract the stereotype.
Help build a workplace culture of diversity and inclusion to provide a work environment that is inviting and provides career growth.
What career advice do you have for other women in IT?
Go for it, seize an opportunity but stay strong to your core values.
Determine a professional goal to set and develop a plan to accomplish. If you don’t know what skills, experience or education are required, don’t hesitate to ask around, your colleagues are a wealth of knowledge.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to participate in a project, find a mentor, take on new responsibilities, but know your professional value and fight for it.
What resources do you recommend for women who are looking to start or advance their IT careers?
- “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. This helped me take opportunities even if I don’t feel I was qualified. It helped me realize I was not alone in the myth of doing it all.
- Local groups like the UNC CAUSE special interest group (SIG) for Women in IT
- NC Tech Association for upcoming events and help with finding relatable mentors and coaches in your field of interest.
- Women in Technology network for conferences and local summits.
Do you want to share anything else?
Be your authentic self and tell your story. A lot of positive progress over the past several years has occurred, but we can and will do even better. There’s no quick way to improving inclusion, diversity, equity and allyship, but it starts with investing in others, regardless of gender, and helping them become the best version of themselves.