“Give zero f*cks what they all think. Be yourself.”
Kellye is a Director of Solutions Strategy at Phase2, an agency that develops open source solutions for businesses and brings them into the digital age.
Years in industry
I’ve been in the digital and technology space for 11 years. Ever since I hand-coded a slide show to feature photos about Hurricane Katrina and pushed it up to the server via Dreamweaver, I’ve been captivated by the technology industry. I don’t think I’ll be any less captivated anytime soon.
Who or what inspired your career in tech? How so?
Female astronauts inspired my interest in STEM. As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut and go to the moon. One of my first memories is of the Challenger exploding and realizing that Christine Mcauliffe was dead. I was devastated, but it didn’t deter me. Steve Jobs was another inspiration. He revolutionized personal computing with the beautiful design of the iMac. He did it again with music consumption, and again with the smartphone. Consistently meeting the market at just the right moment in the digital space is difficult. Although he didn’t always succeed, he never stopped pushing to achieve what he envisioned, and he never comprised his vision. Lastly, Sheryl Sandberg. She is the only person who can have a conversation about women in tech without people losing their shit. She can create and engage in an absolutely necessary dialogue that is productive and not antagonistic. As technology expands even further around the globe, diversity in tech isn’t just a warm and fuzzy nice-to-have, it’s a business imperative. Businesses that bring diversity to the table have better products and higher profits.
What’s been your best hack ever?
When I became the head of digital products at TheNation.com, the site was so old it would crash at the smallest whiff of serious traffic. We were having all these insane breaking stories on Blackwater and military contracting that would overload the database and crash the site. I figured out how to remove the computational “load” of all the traffic hitting the CMS and database, which kept the site from crashing.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how have you handled it?
Managing a team while at the same time being myself has been my biggest challenge. If you can get those two things right, everything else falls into place. Erasmus said “The chief happiness for a man is to be what he is.” Finding who you are and then being that person day in a day out, is what unlocks your passion and creates the most effective version of you.
What is your biggest career success to date?
Nerdily, I have to say it’s collaborating with 80+ people to ramp up my organization on a new technology in 6 months. It gave me the opportunity to test a lot of my hypotheses around knowledge management, organizational behavior and product management. I failed fast and moved quickly to fix things that didn’t work. It was incredibly challenging, which I loved.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to women who are starting out in the tech industry?
1. Don’t take it personally, but don’t stand for sexism and let it change who you are. Sometimes that will mean being unpopular for a bit. Don’t stop being yourself.
2. Enroll men who care as much you in workplace equality in your vision. They can be some of the strongest most effective advocates.
3. Remember that some days, having the courage to show up as your authentic self – and express that little girl who’s this total geek who loves techie stuff – can move mountains.
Who are your role models?
My brother, who is an incredible ICU nurse. My teachers and professors from school, and my Grandmother who finished her college degree at 72 years old! She dropped out of college when she was younger for economic reasons, was married for 50 years, raised eight children who all got their masters degrees or above. She valued education and loved learning like no one I’ve ever known. And clearly, she valued persistence.
If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
Give zero f*cks what they all think. Be yourself. Be courageous enough to bring the best, most authentic version of yourself everyday, and it will unlock your gifts and contribution to the world faster than anything else.
What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
Because my work is so heady, I focus on the physical. I like long distance running, Krav Maga and ballet.
Flats, heels or kicks?
All the above. It depends on my mood. Favorite heels are Armani mid-night blue suede with an ankle strap. Fave flats are tan leather derbies, and the kicks are definitely black and purple high-tops.
Best career advice book?
I have a few: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office (great for men and women); The Tipping Point; The Happiness Project; On Strategy (HBR);Who’s Your City?
Who are the women in tech that you most admire and why?
Megan Smith. She ran Google X, is the CTO of America, oh and she’s a lesbian/queer like me. She never stops leading, and has such tremendous intelligence and integrity. I’m just in awe of her.