Actian Life

Leadership at Actian: Expert Advice for Women in STEM

Actian Corporation

March 8, 2023

Crowd of women of diverse age, races and occupation

Empowering women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is important year-round and can reap significant rewards for businesses and individual employees. These efforts are especially important today—International Women’s Day—and throughout March, which is Women’s History Month and Gender Equality Month.

Actian has a rich history of supporting women in the many types of jobs related to STEM. Actian celebrates women in STEM, including the women who contribute to Actian’s ongoing success. In honor of women in STEM—and those who will be stepping into these roles in the near future—female leaders at Actian offer advice to women to help them advance their careers.

Know That Leadership Entails Feedback and Teamwork

Successful leaders surround themselves with highly talented people who complement, challenge, and encourage each other. In STEM and in business, strong teams are essential to ongoing success and innovation.

“As you grow in your career, there will be many opportunities for 360° feedback. Take that feedback seriously but know that you do not have to be good at everything to be successful,” says Jennifer Jackson, Chief Marketing Officer. “A great strategy for success is to focus on doing more of the things that are your strengths and surround yourself with people who can fill the gaps that you know you have. In other words, when you start to manage and lead–hire well! Hire people who will challenge you, who do things differently than you do, and who are strongest where you are not.”

Pamela Fowler, SVP – Customer Success, agrees that leaders should surround themselves with inspiring people. Strong, successful coworkers help employees and teams do their best work.

“Stand tall and drive towards your aspirations and dreams and you can get there. Roadblocks may sometimes stand in your way but look for ways to build around them. Roadblocks are sometimes the building blocks to your success,” Fowler says. “As a leader always ensure you surround yourself with people you can inspire to be their best and who will help you be your best. It is the people we lead and the inspiration we gain from them that helps us be better leaders. Always work to build strong networks of people around you and people who inspire you to be and do your best! And always believe that you can because YOU can!”

Be True to Yourself—That’s the Best Foundation

Leaders say that being yourself is essential to success. This is true in STEM fields too.  Allowing people to be their authentic selves while doing inspiring work fosters innovation.

“My advice is to be yourself. I know it’s simple, but it’s the core of what I see from women in leadership who I admire and aspire to be,” says Kimmah Lewis, Senior Director, Digital and Demand Generation. “The intersectionality of being both black and a woman in tech can be either empowering or oppressive. But, like all things, I view life as a series of choices. In this, I chose to be empowered by my “otherness.” I embrace what makes me different and show up fully, truly, wholly, and authentically me. I spend zero time trying to “fit in” to ensure I can “stand out.” In doing so, I can bring my best self to everything I do and am a part of.”

Taking inspiration from others can help women build their career paths and set goals, but no two paths will be the same. That’s why it’s important for women in STEM to be comfortable and confident forging their own opportunities and achieving unique successes.

“You will be at your best when you are yourself–keep in mind you are shaping your own path,” says Romy Mager-Omphalius, SVP – Renewals Sales. “You are allowed to dream big, make mistakes, fail, stand up, try again, and learn. Always stay curious and surround yourself with people who challenge you.”

Realize That STEM is Competitive—and Mentors Can Help

STEM jobs are very competitive, yet they encourage innovation and allow people to utilize their skill sets. Emma McGrattan, SVP – Engineering, encourages women looking at a STEM career to have a mentor who can help navigate obstacles and opportunities.

“It has been my experience that the STEM world is a meritocracy and highly competitive. Being female will not be a hindrance but will also not be an advantage. Be prepared to have your ideas challenged, as this happens to everyone engaging in an innovative environment,” McGrattan points out. “View it as an opportunity to improve upon your original ideas or to reinforce your original thinking, not as a personal attack. Set career goals, build a plan to get yourself there, and work your plan to completion. Find a mentor and an ally willing to help execute your plan. Finally, never underestimate the power of networking and getting to know a diverse group of people. This will help you gain focus and perspective, which can be invaluable in the world of STEM.”

Becky Staker, VP of Customer Experience, also advises women to engage with mentors. She finds that helping women advance in their careers is personally rewarding.

“One of the greatest career joys for me is to lift up the women in my organization and help them progress through their careers. Women face unique challenges in the workplace and need our support to seek out and go for those opportunities with confidence,” Staker says. “Early in my career, I was fortunate to have many wonderful women mentors and managers trust me with challenging assignments that would allow me the visibility and opportunity to show my impact and potential. I have never forgotten about the path they helped me blaze and continue to be a champion for women’s career development. I would encourage women to find those who want to lift others and make the time for mentorship.”

As XuanThu Pham, Senior Director of Product Marketing, notes, helping others even outside of mentorships is important.

“Seek to help those, especially from underrepresented communities, who you can connect with to share what has been given to us in our own careers—uplifting others along the way. Reach out. Remain humble in our own abilities, and share back without expectation of anything in return—whether it’s through sharing of your time or your experiences. The intention of what we do matters to make fundamental shifts in uplifting communities, culture, and mindsets,” Pham says. “The impact you help create will not happen overnight or be in big spurts—it’s the small moments that can compound over time that we celebrate—and what a feeling to know that we can change at least one person’s career or life trajectory.”

Career Opportunities at Actian

Interested in joining the data revolution and becoming part of a diverse, collaborative environment? Actian was named a top workplace and offers opportunities for people to contribute in an environment that values employees, a supportive culture, and the chance to thrive. Internship opportunities are also available at Actian.

Additional resources:

These blogs feature interns sharing their experiences at Actian:


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About Actian Corporation

Actian is helping businesses build a bridge to a data-defined future. We’re doing this by delivering scalable cloud technologies while protecting customers’ investments in existing platforms. Our patented technology has enabled us to maintain a 10-20X performance edge against competitors large and small in the mission-critical data management market. The most data-intensive enterprises in financial services, retail, telecommunications, media, healthcare and manufacturing trust Actian to solve their toughest data challenges.