The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Rebecca Leach, Country Manager, Canada, AppDynamics, part of Cisco, an application performance management and IT operations analytics company.
Name: Rebecca Leach
Job Title: Country Manager, Canada, AppDynamics, part of Cisco
Years in the Industry: 20+
The Quote That Most Inspires You: I have two that I reference a lot. I’m a change agent and so I often quote, “Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” – Seth Godin
In my personal and professional life, I truly live by this mantra: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
However, I will admit that during the COVID-19 pandemic and homeschooling my 10-year-old son, this one is also resonating lately: “To raise a child takes a village. To homeschool one takes a vineyard.” – All parents globally
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
I was drawn to the industry because my network was working in the technology industry. I began my technology career in distribution, which gave me an incredible opportunity to learn all aspects of the industry, including vendor management, marketing, supply chain, and business development.
I began my tech career with very little knowledge of the industry but I was able to learn and quickly adapt my skills. This positioned me well a few years later when I joined Cisco’s channel team in 2004.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
Like some of my peers, I’ve experienced comments such as, “You probably got that job because they needed a woman,” or, “You have a better shot than I do because you’re female.” I never let those comments resonate. Instead, I moved forward with the confidence that I was in the role because I was the most skilled or experienced candidate or had the greatest potential for success. It’s important to remember that you are your primary brand ambassador.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
I don’t necessarily believe that I have unique characteristics because I’m a woman as much as I think I bring a unique perspective to my organization due to my experiences and background. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and educators. I was raised with a strong work ethic and an appreciation for the necessity of adapting to change. I believe that as women, it is our responsibility to raise each other up. As women leaders, it is our role to advocate for each other, ensuring we are drawing from diverse talent pools and developing women with high potential.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
Technology has historically been male-dominated and continues to be. However, we are making progress – just not fast enough. I am concerned by the shortage of women in our candidate pools and the lack of interest in the tech industry at all levels of the organization. I think now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we focus on reaching young women in STEM programs to educate them and create more awareness about their opportunities in technology.
This is an incredibly transformative time and we need to do our part as leaders to ensure we are attracting female talent into the business. We need to create an environment that is inclusive to all and focused not only on attracting women but also on their career growth and retention. Employee resource groups such as “Women of Cisco” play a key role in the diversity strategies of tech companies. AppDynamics fosters a culture of inclusion and collaboration with many employee resource organizations (EROs) focused on career development for women and Black professionals, to name a few.
In Canada, I am maniacally focused on diversity. It’s a passion and an imperative for our team. For the first time ever, we have women as 50% of our sales field! Yes, diversity of thought and perspective is key for high-performing teams and even better for productivity, but we first need to recruit and retain this talent to enjoy the benefits.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
I like to flip that notion on its head and think how rare and wonderful it can be to be noticed. To be one of few at the table who is different. I encourage women in technology to embrace the opportunity to have a voice. Share your thoughts and ideas. Educate and influence others. Own your difference.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
I’ve always been more starstruck by powerful businesswomen than I ever have of movie stars! My good friend, Claire Gilles, President of Bell Mobility, inspires me to be great and to always push myself to do more. And my aunt, Bonnie Brooks, who led the iconic department store Hudson’s Bay, has been a wonderful coach to me.
Additionally, I am very fortunate to know and learn from so many incredible women in this industry, many of whom have helped shape my career over the years. I have what I call my “personal board.” It’s a group of women and men, made up of friends, family, and business mentors. These are the people who encourage me, challenge me, and constantly push me out of my comfort zone. As Ginny Rometti used to say, “Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” If you don’t already have one, I recommend you create a personal board. It will be one of the best things you do for your career.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
There are a few, so buckle up! Cisco has a very strong network of women supporting women. However, I would like to suggest that the perception that women are the only people supporting other women is not valid. In fact, at Cisco, we have a culture that engages our men to lean in and sponsor our high-potential women. In my career at Cisco, I’ve personally benefited from having a number of male sponsors and mentors in my journey.
Another misconception is that women can’t work in technology and build a family at the same time. The reality is most technology firms offer plenty of flexibility for women to balance their responsibilities at home and at work. As a single parent, I can attest to the freedom and health benefits this has afforded my entire family.
Finally, I agree with others who have shared that you don’t have to be an engineer to join a tech company. There are many career opportunities available across marketing, sales, finance, technology and HR, to name a few.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
Simplicity! Technology can be daunting. Digital transformation is taking place in every segment across the country. As industry leaders, we need to focus on simplifying this journey to make it more accessible to all.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Absolutely. I have never been more optimistic about the opportunities ahead of us as we continue to digitize communities and businesses across Canada. At AppDynamics, we have a compelling story to share with our customers. We have a unique opportunity to play a strategic role as our customers fully digitize their businesses and seamlessly migrate to the cloud. And as a customer, I’m extraordinarily excited about the future of my digital experience.