Celebrating women in tech: Nicole Fagen
To mark Women’s History Month and the International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re celebrating accomplished women who work at CA.
The first person in our profile series is Nicole Fagen, who is VP of Product Management at CA. We asked Nicole a few questions about her background, career and thoughts on the current challenges of women in tech.
My father helped build the buildings for IBM in Burlington Vermont. He always came home with the best stories about “thinkers” and “daydreamers” and people making new chips so computers would be faster. In university I focused on math, physics and sociology. In graduate school, I studied applied mathematics. My honors thesis leveraged finite element theory to predict the path of a hurricane. One day, IBM was on campus recruiting and they asked me to interview. I wrote a resume overnight and started with IBM as Y2K approached. I loved every minute of working there. It was so exciting!
The deep understanding of the product lifecycle I gained at IBM enabled me to connect with cross functional leaders and customers in an empowering way as I was able to see problems and solutions from multiple vantage points. I was fortunate as I had excellent mentors at IBM. They were each industry leaders. I also had a sponsor who was a direct report to Sam Palmisano. Having a support system helped me navigate inside a very large company and each person also helped create opportunities for me. In 13 years, I had more experiences than most people have in their entire career and I attribute a lot to my mentors and my sponsors.
When I interviewed at CA, the team interviewed me as a professional and then created a role for me. My first task at CA was to help turn the workload automation business around. I remain grateful to CA’s management for this opportunity. The role and the challenge was a perfect fit for me. Once the workload business was going in a great direction, I transitioned to a role in product management seeking to leverage the experiences I had gained in customer success. I helped develop the role of product owners at CA. We focused heavily on building high quality solutions with novel value while being agile at all levels.
While at CA, I am most proud of leading the creation of our customer engagement model. Every team member is enabled to connect with customers and empowered to solve customer challenges. In connecting with customers and intimately understanding their biggest business challenges, we find our next best opportunity!
Our focus on GSPs is super exciting. The teams are making it easier to manage large mainframe environments from a single point, rapid deployment, consistently and easily deploy best practices, alerting on issues, automating the solution to problems and leveraging machine learning in the process. The most rewarding thing about working in tech for me is solving problems and seeing the positive results of our efforts, which range from resiliency, stability, and performance to a game changing innovations!
At CA World, we had a team dinner one night, as we were sitting there looking around the table, we noticed our team had equal number of females and males, 3 and 3. This was the very first time in my career where this has ever been the case. Together, we acknowledge the equality and took a moment of reflection as I think it was a first for all of us. Females have risen to some of the top technical seats in the world: Sharfa Catz at Oracle, Meg Whitman at eBay and then HP and Ginni Rommity at IBM to name a few. These strong figures allow us to see what is possible. They’ve helped crack the ceiling. We have so much more to achieve!
Women are less likely to enter and more likely than men to leave a career in a STEM field. Around the 10-year career anniversary, the leave rates for women in technology peak. To continue to have breakthroughs, encouraging girls in elementary school and in junior high is key.
Inclusion is not only for women, it’s an overall need and creates a business advantage. In September 2017, Forbes magazine said, inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. To put it simply, when I hire or when I build teams, I don’t seek people like me. I seek people who think differently than me and bring unique qualities to the table. To keep your best team members engaged and thriving, ensuring they have healthy role models, supportive mentors and dedicated sponsors will encourage career longevity by enabling navigation and securing future opportunities.
To continue to have breakthroughs for women in technology, encouraging girls in elementary school and in junior high is key. As a parent, talking openly with children about their potential is mission critical. Enabling young girls to see possibilities and opportunities in the technology field with “take your children to work days” is both fun and rewarding. Engaging the STEM moving, mentoring and coaching activities are also rewarding.
Follow your passion, build an extraordinary foundation, always be learning and play full out. Seek out mentors, solicit a sponsor and build your network. Lastly, think different, be different and enjoy the journey!