As the tech field continues its global expansion, career opportunities for forward-thinking, innovative professionals are growing as well. Technology-based workplaces, once overwhelmingly staffed by men, are becoming increasingly diverse as more women pursue degrees in scientific fields.
According to Women Who Tech, an organization devoted to furthering the success of female technology professionals, 28 percent of U.S. workers with their B.S. in computer science are women. This figure has ballooned over the past 25 years, and continues to expand as women continue to be drawn into the technology industry.
Much of Pega’s success lies in its diverse workforce, which includes a large number of innovative women leaders. Alex Quigley, Pega’s Director of Technology Operations, is one of the women driving innovation, breaking boundaries and encouraging diversification.
From philosophy to technology
Although Alex, who holds a Master of Arts in Management of Technology from Harvard University, is a leading tech professional now, her career has more creative roots. She spent her years as an undergraduate studying philosophy and art, and earned a M.A. from Eastern Washington University in Education and Art History.
She arrived at Pega after being referred by a friend, and found that her liberal arts education was a strong foundation on which to build a tech-focused career.
"I would say technology companies – at least based on my experience of Pega – take innovative ideas and turn them into practical, profitable realities. This is different from my academic background which focused on epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, etc.” she explained. “That is not to say that abstract concepts are antithetical to Pega – far from it! Innovation is based upon ideas. One could assert that, at their core, all innovative ideas stem from a single source – creative thought. It is merely their execution that creates a branching of disciplines.”
The distinct connection that Alex draws between technology and the arts was fostered by one of her earliest mentors, a metaphysics professor she studied with in college. His philosophy, that creativity is a product of discipline as opposed to chaos, has informed her entire career, and allowed her to envision herself as a tech professional, despite having previously pursued artistic endeavors.
“Why did this impact me so profoundly? It meant that I was in control of the generation of my innovation capabilities – not the environment, not random sources, not someone else – me. Every individual was responsible for, and could design, a disciplined and unique series of personal parameters that flowed with a rational order, both systemically and logically, that could become the springboard for true innovation. This realization was exhilarating! And utterly freeing. This meant that I was completely in charge of my own destiny as a thinking and creative entity.”
Bringing other women into the tech sphere
Alex is focused on helping other women realize success in the technology sector through recruitment efforts with Pega. By working with programs geared toward girls and young women interested in S.T.E.M, like the Women in Technology group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and promoting participation in Pega’s internal Women@Pega events, she hopes to inspire a new generation of female tech leaders.
Alex isn’t only interested in connecting with women actively pursuing tech careers, however. She’s also working to reach out to young women mirroring her own path – those whose studies revolve around the arts, but whose talents would be well-suited for a forward-thinking job in a dynamic, tech-focused environment.
“In general, I would say that our Pega culture tends to intrinsically appeal to a broad and diverse population – a love of innovation, logical and analytical processing, abstract conceptualization, creative problem solving, lateral thinking, a quirky sense of fun, and an appreciation and enjoyment of unique talents and viewpoints– these characteristics appeal to a large and diverse swathe of the population,” Alex said. “Technology people tend to be diverse by nature. The candidates that interview for our open positions tend to come from very diverse backgrounds.”
Increasing gender diversity in a field long dominated by male workers is crucial for the industry’s success – studies show that mixed-gender teams perform better than their single-gender counterparts. Adding more women to the tech workforce is no easy feat, however, and it starts with increasing awareness among all of today’s tech leaders, said Alex.
“I think both women and men need to consider what can be done to encourage and promote young girls to explore careers in technology. Both women and men make up the adult population, and both need a voice in this encouragement.”
As a woman leader at Pega, Alex has felt the sense of equality that many tech organizations are still struggling to establish.
“I see women being recognized in the same way that men are being recognized: promotions, equity grants, leadership positions. I don’t perceive a difference,” she said.
Life as a Pega leader
When talking to prospective hires about pursuing a career at Pega, Alex highlights the key traits that make up a leading technology professional: results-driven, adaptable, comfortable with change, collaborative, interested in learning, data-specific, empowered, tenacious, and equipped with a sense of humor. In her role as Director of Technology Operations, she embodies these characteristics – and many more – on a daily basis.
Creating a work-life balance is never easy – and its challenges can be magnified for those in high-powered tech leadership roles. For Alex, the passion and satisfaction she gleans from her career makes juggling professional and personal realms a non-issue.
“Juggling implies that something is being tossed in the air while something else is being held – a bit unnerving to consider a portion of my existence is flying somewhere over my head ready to crash to the ground! Maybe this is just unnerving to me because I’m terrible at juggling. I actually don’t juggle life and work because they merge into the same thing – my overall life. I am always confused by the phrase “work/life balance”. The phrase itself suggests a concrete division between the two, and I don’t experience that,” she said. “My work is a subset of my life, and Pega is a subset of my work. I try to ensure that I give myself enough time to do, experience, and enjoy, what I need and want to do, when I need and want to do it. Of course this involves prioritization. For myself, the trick is to stop doing things that are both unimportant and that I don’t enjoy. By eliminating this category, I generally find enough time for everything else.”
In a recent Pegaworld session on Women in Technology, Pega’s Global Healthcare Business Line Leader Susan Taylor advised, “You should never let someone else define you.” Alex’s addition to this valuable piece of advice for women pursuing tech careers is to include yourself in this statement.
“Don’t be your own worst enemy!” she said. “You are free to redefine yourself as you need and wish throughout your life. Your life is your own.”