Karen Nowicki was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged her interest in STEM. Now in turn, she wants to encourage women to join the largely male field. Her expertise is wide-ranging, from extensive experience and success in leading cross-functional groups on multi-million dollar global software projects, turning around underperforming projects, program management, and product launches. She’s worked for Fortune 500, consulting, & software start-up companies.
She is currently the Manager of the Engineering Division at Enova International. The innovative fintech company provides online financial services through its AI and machine learning powered lending platform to individuals and businesses who are frequently overlooked by traditional financial institutions. To date they’ve provided more than $40 billion in loans to seven million customers. Karen recently shared with Fairygodboss how her Dad’s tinkering first sparked her interest, the role of mentors in her life and her advice for women just starting out in the field.
Why did you choose a career in the tech industry?
I’ve been in tech since I started my career. My dad was a mathematician, and he did a lot of work on programmable calculators to run his business. He really inspired me to get into the field.
How did he inspire you?
Girls were supposed to be doing girl things and my dad allowed me to do whatever interested me. And that gave me an expectation of the possible as well as the confidence to just go forth and be comfortable in who I am. He was always interested in fiddling and technology. It was just so fascinating to me that you could combine math and technology, and that kind of set my path for my career.
As I’ve progressed in my career, I often have ended up being the only woman in leadership meetings. I bring a very different perspective and I’m not afraid because of my dad. I’m not afraid to ask the question and really push the envelope.
What advice would you give women hoping to start careers in the tech industry?
Find a part of tech that aligns with your passion and run with it. During college in the 1980s, I found that a good portion of the course content wasn’t geared towards my interests. If you find yourself in this position, don’t give up on a career in tech. If you don’t like one area, try another.
What is one way in which Enova supports women advancing in the industry?
Our [email protected] employee resource group helps connect, develop and retain female talent by providing networking, professional development and community engagement opportunities to all employees, regardless of gender identity. Their work also expands to the Chicago community at large. [email protected] members just planned and executed their third annual Chicago Women in Tech Conference.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
I’ve only had one female boss. I had to put together a team of advisors. People that could be sounding boards. So I am adamant about telling people starting their career “Get mentors in the company, get mentors outside the company.” Having mentors who can push you and help you survive through all of the twists and turns of your journey.
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