Managing Director, Washington, D.C.
We spoke to Angela Zutavern, a managing director in our Digital practice, about her advice for women in the field of technology. Angela is a regarded leader and author, with more than 25 years of experience in artificial learning and other areas of digital consulting. At AlixPartners, she works with clients to implement robust and sophisticated digital solutions to drive effective, data-led decision making.
In this Q&A, Angela shares her advice for women seeking leadership roles in technology fields, what she's learned from the female mentors in her life, and an insight into what motivates her, outside of the office.
Q: How digital is your life?
A: I’m definitely an early adopter and like to buy all of the latest gadgets. I’m looking forward to self-driving cars and self-flying airplane taxis. My two teenage kids are my absolute best source for keeping up with cool apps. On my phone, you’ll find social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. Not Facebook though – it’s not cool enough, haha). I do all my reading on Kindle. Favorite work app is Evernote and favorite game is an oldie but a goodie: Clash of Clans.
Q: What advice do you give to women seeking leadership roles in technology fields?
A: First, make sure you have deep technical experience in your area of interest, and if necessary, build it up more through training, education, and project delivery. It’s difficult to be a technology leader without having “been there, done that,” and technology is constantly changing. Having said that, it’s never too late to learn, and the credibility of those experiences will stay with you throughout your career. Second, once you have the technical know-how, flaunt it. Build your personal brand internally and externally so that you’re known for your favorite tech. Developing thought leadership is a great way to get your ideas out there. Third, once you’re in the leadership role, remember that technology is all about teamwork. Often, creative, collaborative, experimentation-type approaches are required – the more diverse teams you assemble, the more successful your projects will be.
Q: Have you had a woman mentor or role model and if so, what did you learn from her that helped you get to where you are today?
A: Yes! I’ve been lucky enough to have many inspirational women mentors and role models throughout my career. Something I learned from them was how to take chances. One of my favorite leaders made “get out of jail free” cards and handed them out to everyone on the team because she wanted to encourage breakthrough innovation. The first time I turned in my card it, she told me it wasn’t a big enough offense and to use my card when I was facing a more serious charge! Of course, we must be smart and ethical about the chances we take, and we can’t put the firm or our clients at risk. However, it’s very liberating to break out of the permission-seeking practices that often go along with many corporate environments. When the goal is to pioneer new ground and do something for the first time ever, we have to take a few chances along the way. If you never fail at anything, you’re probably not pushing hard enough.
Q: Have you had an experience where you felt like you were treated differently from a male counterpart? If so, how did you handle the situation?
A: Of course, I think every woman has. We all have unconscious biases, so the goal is not to pretend they don’t exist, but to be able to recognize them and talk about them openly. I have found that honest dialogue usually works really well. If not, I vote with my feet.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about working at AlixPartners?
A: What I enjoy the most about our firm is our collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a place where we succeed truly based on our merits. We have the freedom to pursue our areas of interest, but we never have to go it alone. Our one firm, firm approach is a huge differentiator.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?
A: I’d love to have lunch with Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper. It would be incredible to talk with such early pioneers of the field I’m working in today.
Q: Name a place you would like to visit but have not.
A: Argentina! I was supposed to visit in February, but my first AlixPartners client project kicked off at the same time. Can’t wait to get down there and meet the team in person.
Q: What activities do you most enjoy outside of your job?
A: I’ve always enjoyed dance – dancing myself as well as teaching, choreographing, and watching performances. I’ve done tap, jazz, ballet, and even a little hip hop. Growing up in the Washington, DC area, as a kid, I got to perform at the Kennedy Center, National Theatre, Arena Stage, and Wolf Trap. I was also part of the first ever amateur group to perform at Disney World.