The technology field may be notably male dominated, but it’s one in which Sue Rickard has made a distinguished imprint. Her career began in 1986 when The Hartford hired her as a developer fresh out of college. Today, she is a vice president and the company’s chief architect—with perspective on the secrets of success for women in tech that is born of decades of experience.
Reflecting back over her career and her life as a wife and mother of two daughters, Sue shares how she climbed her way to the top, and how you can, too.
1. Know your priorities.
“My advice to younger women is to make sure you know what’s most important to you at every point of your life,” Sue says.
Success means different things to different people, and what matters to you most may change over time. That’s OK, Sue says, and to be expected. The key is to stay in touch with what truly makes you happy, and let your priorities guide your way.
“You always have choices,” she says, “whether it’s home and children or career—or both. Career-wise, you may choose high or low, or decide you like where you are right now. At every stage, you get to choose your own path.”
2. Build your skillsets.
In her early days as a working parent, Sue focused on building skillsets—in part because she loved what she was doing and the opportunities available to her were abundant, but also because she knew that technical competency would be essential to fulfilling her career aspirations.
She advises young women in technology to do the same. Develop your technical skills, seek opportunities at the cutting edge of technology, grow your base, and keep rounding yourself out, even if it means taking unglamorous jobs others don’t want. You’ll have a resume to show for it that demonstrates the depth and breadth of your tech experience, and supports your ability to make career choices on your terms.
“Get the experience at the early stages of your career, look to find your passion, then every step will bring you to the place you have to go,” Sue says.
3. Keep learning, keep pace.
Technology never stands still, and neither should you.
“It’s all about continuous learning and making that part of your DNA,” Sue says.
Be open, excited about the fast pace of technology, and always seeking to learn new things you didn’t know yesterday. And most importantly, look for a company that offers opportunities to develop new and different muscles and strengths, and matches your passion to never stop learning and always keep growing.
For example, tech employees at The Hartford can take advantage of IT University, an online training and learning environment, and tuition reimbursement for undergraduate and graduate programs.
4. Look for a flexible, contemporary working environment.
A flexible work schedule can be the key to successfully navigating a full-time career, especially if you have young children or other competing priorities, Sue says. When she was raising her daughters, The Hartford offered flexibility she couldn’t find anywhere else. Today’s contemporary work environments also support employees with additional perks such as a casual dress policy and onsite health and wellness centers.
Flexibility also is vital for maintaining work-life balance at every phase of your working life. Overtime may be necessary at times, but if you are to contribute your best and most creative, it should be the exception rather than the rule.
“Make sure you’re balancing your time so you’re coming into work with a fresh viewpoint every day,” Sue says. “Recognize when you have to put in extra time, but also recognize when the balance is off and strive to restore that balance.”
Most of all, be clear about what’s most important to you, now and as you move through life.
Connect with Sue Rickard on LinkedIn and learn more about an exciting career in Tech & Data at The Hartford.