Right Now is a ‘Window of Opportunity’ For Women in Technology — How to Seize It, From a Director

Sponsored by Intel Corporation

Photo Courtesy of Intel.

Photo Courtesy of Intel.

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Creativity is integral to Kelly Hammond’s career. As Director, Chrome and Linux System Architecture at Intel, she oversees product design on a series of client projects — from their silicon design to their software specialities — leading her team to architect some of Intel’s most impressive products. 

But Hammond’s notable creativity expands beyond her work function into how she manages and prioritizes her everyday life. As someone who took on a new job at the beginning of the year, she’s had to reimagine what leadership looks like in 2020 while navigating an entirely new role. And as a working mother with two elementary school students at home, she’s had to reinvent her workday. 

Hammond cites her partner and her children’s grandparents as important support systems during this time of transition — along with Intel and the important “safety nets” they’ve put in place for workers who are reenvisioning their world in 2020 and beyond. 

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Recently, Hammond shared more details on how Intel is supporting women in the workplace and how she’s gotten involved as a leader. She also shared the timely advice she has for other working mothers and what she’d say to women in engineering who are trying to take their career to the next level. Right now, she sees a “window of opportunity” for women in technology. Keep reading for information on how to access it. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?

I have been in this role since January of this year. Previously, I was leading several open source software teams spanning big data, machine learning and robotics. 

How did you first become interested in a career in engineering?

In high school I loved art and physics. My mom insisted that becoming an artist wasn’t a good return on investment for four years of college, so I went into undergrad with the intent of majoring in engineering and getting a minor in art but eventually pivoted to keeping art as a hobby. Luckily there can be a lot of room for creativity and new ideas in engineering, although I also spend time outside of work on a variety of artistic hobbies.

What projects or programs are you currently working on at Intel? What about this type of work most excites you? 

Every day I have the opportunity to make a very direct impact on the product design at Intel. We have an amazing team, and while they are impressive and accomplished product architects, they are also great people who I enjoy connecting with and learning from. The bulk of our current work is on client products that are two to four years out. One of the exciting things about this job is you touch almost everything — from silicon design to system hardware to software and functional specialties. There is always a new challenge to dig into.

How does Intel empower women who are pursuing careers in engineering? Do you participate in any employee networks or programs for women in engineering? 

Intel has a variety of programs across the company, so I’ll only touch on a few. Our Women In Intel (WIN) network is the global organization that has been there since I’ve been at Intel. In addition, there are many smaller and more organic groups. For many years I co-led a group for the women in our open source software organization, which helped women connect with others who they saw or worked near day-to-day to facilitate a stronger network, a sense of belonging and new skill sets. 

Currently, I’m participating in a senior women’s cohort that aligns with Intel’s RISE strategy to bring more women into Intel’s leadership ranks. The effort I am most optimistic about, however, is the inclusion program. I recently participated in a six-session learning program with about 10 other managers, both men and women, where we together explored some of the key skills to becoming an inclusive leader, including integrating continuous feedback into your team, listening to build trust and hiring inclusively. It was impressive to hear other leaders own up to their own challenges and mistakes, and become more comfortable with receiving challenging feedback and deciding to improve. It built both a sense of humility and comradery. Most importantly, it brought men who were a part of the majority into the conversation as equal partners in addressing the challenges women and minorities face. I hope to someday not need ‘programs’ to advance women, but rather for the system to be as meritocratic as those who benefit from it claim it is.  

Attaining work-life balance can’t be done solo. What people, resources, and tools do you rely on to get it all done?

I prioritize and reprioritize constantly. It is an essential skill that serves you well as you move up the career ladder. I highly recommend Patty Azarello’s book “RISE,” which has many lessons in it that I’ve learned through my own career and deals in depth with how to create ruthless priorities. 

Beyond prioritizing, I have the privilege of a very supportive partner, I believe in therapy as a tool for having a great home life, and I probably would go crazy without using ‘calendar blocking’ liberally as a tool for my own sanity and ability to concentrate on high-value work. Last but arguably most important, I value rest and self-care as a critical tool for achieving high performance.

What resources or support has Intel offered you during the crisis? 

Intel has offered flexible schedules, time-off benefits, and part-time work, including job protected leave. Additional support includes programs for parents with children managing virtual schooling, such as extended backup childcare. It’s interesting because I know very few people who have taken on the more formal offerings, yet they are as important to the people who don’t take them as the ones that do. It’s like a safety net, knowing that if it gets too hard and you can’t take it anymore, you don’t have to quit — you have options.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as you are navigating this ‘new normal’?

Starting a new job in the pandemic has been very challenging. As a leader, a big part of my job is relationship building. And since I can no longer run into someone at the coffee stand or chat for 5 minutes in the hallway after a meeting, it’s made things a lot harder, especially when it comes to the broad network.

One thing that has become ‘normal’ for me is being incredibly purposeful about being positive and finding little things every day to elevate my spirits. I follow ‘The Female Lead’ on LinkedIn and I really enjoy their little day-to-day stories and inspiration. I also try to do quick check-ins on friends and colleagues, usually just a quick “Hi, hope you are having a good day!” or something simple that can brighten their day without them needing to be interrupted for a long conversation. Occasionally one of my kids pops in to where I’m working and gifts me a picture or a hug… those are the really special days.

Do you have advice for other women who are working remotely with their children at home?

As a working parent of a 1st and 2nd grader in a pandemic, the term ‘maxed out’ has taken on new meaning — even with my partner taking the primary role for helping with the kids’ virtual education. I have to think constantly about how best to spend my time. A really hard thing for me has been concentration, as there always seems to be interruptions in my household. Sometimes feeling like you are choosing between your job and your children’s education can induce guilt and anxiety, too. 

The best advice I can offer is to share your challenges and lean on each other. Even before COVID-19, the common thread for the majority of highly successful women that I know was that they got help, either through parents, partners, family, neighbors, or hiring a nanny or au pair. They didn’t do it all, they shared and delegated. 

Right now, I know a lot of working parents are turning to PODs or outdoor schools to supplement virtual school. We’ve done some virtual reading time with grandparents for afternoon activities. Get creative, but most importantly, have compassion for yourself on those hard days when all the variables come crashing down at once. And know how to take some time off, even if it means letting the kids have a bit too much screen time.. 

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

One of the most memorable pieces of career advice I ever received wasn’t from a mentor. I had asked for advice from a peer and was complaining about some ambiguity in my job role when he asked me point blank: “What do you want?” He listed three roles he said I could easily get if I asked for them, but at that moment I realized I didn’t want any of them. I was in the wrong job. So, I took the time to think, not about titles but about the aspects of the job I wanted. It made me realize that I was fighting for things that I didn’t really want and ultimately, it helped me pivot to a people manager role. 

When you consider what you want, it’s important to consider all aspects, including who you will work with, what is the location, is there growth, is there stability, are you looking for opportunities for advancement, is flexibility and time to spend with family more important right now… When I made my last spreadsheet, the actual technology or product I’d be working on was only one of 10 or so factors. It’s important to consider these things every few years or so, as priorities often change. Life is full of tradeoffs and you won’t get everything you want, but you can make more purposeful decisions when you know what’s most important to you.

What advice do you have for women in engineering who want to take their career path to the next level?    

It’s time to change the game. That’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Being the ‘first’ woman anywhere is a laudable achievement/ But in today’s cultural climate, when I see women making firsts, I think less about ‘How did she do it?!’ than I think about ‘What took those guys so long?’ 

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to be in groups with a healthy proportion of women and I’ve also been ‘the only.’ I can feel the difference in the everyday interactions. To be the first, you have no choice but to play the game as it is, follow the rules of the boys’ club and work twice as hard to get there. To pull up the rest, the systems must change, as the day-to-day decisions that impact diversity are majority led by men. 

Right now, I see both hope and a window of opportunity, as well as daunting challenges for being a woman in technology. One of the most fascinating gender studies I’ve read recently is this one which concluded that women’s voices were respected far more when they made up the majority of a group than if they were alone or a minority. To be seen and promoted as a leader you must be heard, and one of the best ways you can do that is to bring more women to the table with you.


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