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The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Sara Hurst, Director, Client Development and Success at SAP Concur
Name: Sara Hurst
Job Title: Director, Client Development and Success, SAP Concur
Years in the Industry: 10 years
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The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Dream Hard. Work Harder.”
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
Technology is a fast-paced industry that’s always changing, and that energy inspires me. Ideas and solutions are constantly evolving to be more efficient and push boundaries. I help businesses realize more success every day through technology adoption, so I’ve seen first-hand that technology can have a big impact on the way we work, play, and live. It’s exciting to be part of that change.
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Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
I see that as women, we need to push back on assumptions that are being based on gender, even if it is happening in seemingly harmless ways. In some cases, I think there is an automatic assumption that women want to take on the nurturing, office-culture tasks, like organizing team lunches or decorating the office around holidays. In the past, I noticed these were often asked of me and not of my male colleagues.
From my experience, I was able to overcome this hurdle by pushing back and asserting where I believed I was going to bring value to the team. It helped me get back to the central role for which I was hired.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
Everyone has unique characteristics or perspectives that can bring value to a team, regardless of gender, age, or background. For me personally, I pride myself in being an excellent multi-tasker, and can take on a huge number of responsibilities and execute those at 110 per cent. I’m also a very positive individual and I use this to my advantage. Accepting that not everything is going to go your way, and instead refocusing your energy on the tasks you have control to change is a more efficient use of your time. I won’t waste my time dwelling on things I have no control over. I believe this approach inspires better results than a negative and stress-filled outlook.
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?
We cannot be what we cannot see. It is difficult for women to envision themselves in a role if they don’t see themselves represented in it, or don’t see a viable path to get there.
We need to continue developing female role models for the next generation. And for the ones who are here, we need to shine a spotlight on these women and recognize their success. Other women need to hear their stories and be inspired.
As a mom of a three-year old daughter, I am hyper-aware of the strong female role models in her life. I want to ensure that I raise her to become a confident woman who is equipped to do any job she chooses.
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?
It’s a great challenge and one that means a lot to me. I realize that my success can pave a path for other women, which makes this challenge even more special and worth fighting.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
Absolutely! I’m fortunate to work in a place that champions women and provides an environment for us to thrive. Christal Bemont, who is the Senior Vice President & General Manager of Global Small and Medium Business Sales at SAP Concur, has been hugely inspirational to me personally, and has shown me that there is a path for women in the organization in which we work . She is smart, confident, strong and knows how to build incredible teams – all skills leaders should emulate.
I also love reading books authored by female powerhouse leaders like Meg Whiteman’s The Power of Many, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive, and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
The notion that you can’t progress in your career as a female in tech is absolutely not true. You can—and I can attest to that!
The key is finding the right organization to do so. Before joining an organization, I’d recommend doing some research, like checking out their website and LinkedIn for company leaders who are women, or what roles they typically are in. If the company does have women in high-level roles, consider reaching out for an informational meeting. It goes a long way with your employers to show your networking abilities and to have done your research before getting to the interview.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
The industry needs more leaders who can help advocate for women throughout their careers. I feel very lucky to have a team leader who has supported my growth and development. This isn’t always the case for every company, and with more of this kind of support, we would see greater equality across organizations.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Yes, absolutely! The women who are successfully navigating the tech industry right now are a force to be reckoned with. I know with our help, and with outlets like WiFi HiFi continuing to celebrate the successes of women, we can pave a path for the next generation.