Lauren Dornfeld – Bringing Business and Organizational Expertise to Technology
I am a Senior Manager with Imaginea, where I partner with companies nationwide and across industries to ensure their digital touchpoints are optimized and engaging for their users. Whether they are customers, employees or partners.
From Retail to Technology
I sort of fell into a career in technology. I began my career in retail. After receiving my MBA, I ended up on a path that led me to technology – working with predominantly retailers and CPG clients across the U.S. I’ve been in technology for a little over 4 years now. I’ve stayed in tech because of how fast moving and innovative the industry is.
I don’t consider my journey to technology to be a straightforward one, in the sense that my education was unrelated as was the beginning of my career. In college I was a double major in History and Spanish. I began my career in retail and later completed an MBA with concentrations in Finance and Strategy.
After spending about a year in economic development, a move that brought me south to Atlanta, I was recruited into my first technology job. It was not based upon my technical abilities, but my industry and domain knowledge of retail and CPG, in addition to my MBA education. My employer was looking to bring on new hires that could round out its predominantly technical workforce with people who could understand the organizational strategies of the companies we were working with. They were looking for opportunities where technology could give them an edge in the marketplace, create efficiencies, or create new connections with customers.
Encouraged by Mentors
I’ve had a few mentors over the course of my career that have made an impact. When you’re a young female in a predominantly male industry, it can be somewhat easy for you to doubt yourself or be over cautious at every move. Each of my mentors played a role in encouraging me to have confidence and trust in my abilities, and that I add value to my clients and employers.
I don’t think this is surprising, but blockchain is a huge buzzword within the industry right now. It goes beyond just cryptocurrencies. While the technology isn’t necessarily new, a lot of enterprises have just started to explore use cases and strategize where it makes sense to incorporate blockchain into their ecosystems. Another area is AI. I’ve seen a lot of enterprises finding impressive impact, not only in cost reduction, but also data integrity by adopting AI, such as robotic process automation, into their organizations.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
I anticipate numerous technological advancements in the next decade or two (proliferation of AI, anyone?). What I find more fascinating to watch for is how technological advancements and the digitalization of the world will impact society. Much of what we’ve witnessed through history is how a new technology can be a divider between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’
For example, when the car first reached the market (pre-Henry Ford), it was predominantly those of higher incomes who could afford the luxury and convenience of the invention. Ford’s standardization and thus cost reduction of production democratized the automobile and forever changed society. It in part gave rise to the American middle class. The same trend could be seen in personal computing, where the cost was rather prohibitive in its infancy.
Flash forward to today. We are living through the democratization of technology. This has a huge impact on societies across the globe – particularly in developing nations. A prime example is what mobile has done. Whether it be greater access to information, capital or services such as healthcare, mobile technology has vastly impacted the ability for the traditional ‘have nots’ to experience some of the same opportunities, or modern human necessities as those of greater economic means.
This opportunity has enabled developing nations to advance themselves and leapfrog developed nations in adoption of new technology. Mobile payments is a great example. Overall, this phenomenon will only be accelerated in the next 20 years as more people gain access to technology.
Perception of Women in Technology
If I could change anything about the field, I would want to alter the perception of women in technology. I don’t think this is simply men’s perception of women in the field, but that women can often subjugate themselves to undue criticism that can hinder their ability to grow professionally. This ultimately results in fewer women in leadership positions. Fewer women leaders don’t bode well for the industry, or the companies they’re a part of.
Sharpen Your Skills
Technical acumen is incredibly important in technology, and more so depending on what career you are trying to pursue. However, some of the most successful people have a blend of technical skills and business strategy knowledge. It enables them to see the big picture and dive deeper to find a technical solution to a problem.
There is a Place for You in Technology
There is a world of opportunities in technology. It’s important to go beyond the traditional mindset that only engineers and developers have a place in the industry. There are numerous opportunities for “non-techie” people to make an impact in technology. It’s easier to pick up technical skills quickly than it would be to learn business strategy in the same timeframe. It can take years to build up your knowledge of businesses across various industries and is often something that is best learned via experience.
Having a strong foundation in this area allows you to get ‘out of the weeds’ of technology and have meaningful conversations with a company’s leadership (whether your own or a client). You’ll add great value to the process.
Lauren Dornfeld is a Senior Manager with Imaginea. She is an IT-oLogy Tech Hero!