We all are aware of the women contributors of Marie Curie to Lady Ada Lovelace in STEM. Yet, there are fewer women in STEM fields, and the most significant reason has been gender bias. How does the road ahead look like for women in STEM? The overall statistics may be mediocre but women coming forward and earning laurels in the STEM field is also significant.
Selena Proctor, a Marketing graduate from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, began her journey hitting the phones in Inside Sales and worked her way into marketing leadership roles with a focus on the cybersecurity industry. In early 2013, she started working for Onapsis, as one of the first few female hires. This role was very transformative for Selena as she got the opportunity to build the marketing function from the ground up before transitioning into roles focused on strategic initiatives. Due to her persistence and hard work, she soon earned the role in the C-suite as the Chief Customer Officer at Onapsis.
Onapsis protects the mission-critical applications that run the global economy, from the core to the cloud. It uniquely delivers actionable insight, secure change, automated governance, and continuous monitoring for critical systems—ERP, CRM, PLM, HCM, SCM, and BI applications—from leading vendors such as SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, and others. The key differentiator for the company has been Onapsis Research Labs, where the team is responsible for the discovery and mitigation of more than 800-zero day vulnerabilities in mission-critical applications. This has made Onapsis solutions the standard in helping organizations protect their cloud, hybrid, and on-premises mission-critical information and processes.
In our candid tête-à-tête with Selena Proctor, the CCO of Onapsis, she enclosed some valuable insights about the industry and women roles in it, while also entailing how the team of Onapsis tackled the challenges of COVID.
Over the years, have you observed any positive changes in the industry regarding women’s leadership?
Being in a high-tech industry, one of the most positive changes is that women leaders are more common than when I began my career. While we certainly still make up a small portion of executives, it is no longer an anomaly to see a female executive leader in a technical industry. With added support, training, and empowerment, women are not only more common as executives but are also taking over more technical roles within organizations which will only help increase the number of future female leaders.
What is your favorite thing about being a women leader?
Not associating with gender, I’d like to focus on what my favorite thing about being a leader is in general, and that is the ability to mold the future success of a company as well as help support individual’s growth and careers. Being in a position to support success is not something to be taken for granted.
Are you facing any challenges considering the current crisis, and have they affected your company operations?
Of course all company operations had to make a major switch in early 2020 from an in office to fully remote work strategy. Additionally, so many customer and partner relationships are built at tradeshows, onsite visits and meetings and we could no longer rely on that as a way to further relationships and implement products. Trying to maintain a work culture that we had while being in person was not an easy challenge to overcome. The team spent a lot of time understanding not only how to empower our Onas but also how to further our external relationships that are critically important to us.
How did you and your team manage the unprecedented challenges of 2020?
We all felt the pressure in 2020 with economic uncertainty, budget cuts, downsizing, and general fear in the market. This forced us as an organization to look inward and support our teams as co-workers with business needs, but more importantly, individuals who fear for their own health and their families. We all had to step in and support each other through wins as well as challenges and emotional difficulties. This alignment helped us not only perform but accelerate in the new virtual world of 2020
How different do you think will 2021 be from 2020?
We all had to immediately adapt to working from home, serving customers from home, and continuing to grow the company. Using the nimble and quick process improvements that we did in 2020, we will move forward with a more hybrid approach that I believe will truly help us be more successful in our roles. In 2021, I know that our team and organization will be stronger, more aligned, and even though we couldn’t have face-to-face meetings, I believe we strengthened relationships and have built a more solid foundation.
How did you inspire the team through the crisis?
One of the best ways that I can try to inspire my team is by trusting them. I’m lucky to have amazing leaders and contributors in my organization. By trusting them to use their skills and experiences we can scale quicker and more efficiently.
So as a leader, have you inculcated any measure to bring out women empowerment in your organization?
I think the most important thing for an organization is to understand that this is an important initiative that should be focused on and to support the differences facing women each day. So, I intend on supporting by continuing to keep this at the forefront of discussions and organizational planning.
Lastly, what does feminism mean to you?
My interpretation of feminism is empowering women to push boundaries and look beyond social norms and historical expectations. It’s about believing in myself as an executive and knowing that I have the unique skills and organizational support needed to achieve success in my role, regardless of my sex. Any female executive or professional has faced discrimination at some point in their career. Feminism is not accepting that as a blocker to success, but recognizing it, overcoming it and becoming better and stronger because of it.
Also Read: The 10 Influential Women in Tech, 2023