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Make History Every Day!

By | March 29, 2024

Written by Donna Hudi, Chief Marketing Officer at Phoenix Software and Chair of the Open Mainframe Project Marketing Committee

Women’s History Month is coming to a close.  I kicked it off by reflecting on my own journey and those that have come before me.  While it was great to reflect, as I said a month ago, history can be made every day and we do so not only through our actions and events, but also by telling the stories.  A month ago, I left you all with a challenge but I also decided to challenge myself.  My goal was to pay attention to all of the amazing women in this industry and community that I had the opportunity to observe, meet, work with, or just learn about.  Let me tell you, when I sit here now and think back across this month…all I can say is W-O-W!  So, let me take a few minutes to highlight some of them for you.

Cheryl Watson:  I wrote about Cheryl in my blog post at the beginning of the month and then I was fortunate enough to see that “giant among mainframers” in person at SHARE Orlando.  She sought me out and gave me a big hug.  I was able to get this amazing photo with her which I will treasure.  But more importantly, I was able to be in attendance for the many “Cheryl Celebrations” that occurred throughout the event.  My favorite being the opportunity to hear Cheryl tell her own story during the z/OS System Programming & Hardware KickOff session.

Maemalynn Nokdhes Meanor, Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Open Mainframe Project & Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Ambassador:  I have been very fortunate to work with Mae for a few years now while working with the Open Mainframe Project.  What folks don’t realize is that Mae is a passionate driving force behind the OMP.  She may not spend her days actually working on a mainframe, but she cares about this community.  Her drive and dedication shine through in every interaction.

Rose Sakach, Offering Manager, Mainframe Software Division at Broadcom Inc. & Zowe Onboarding Squad Lead, Zowe ZAC Member, Zowe TSC Member:  You can’t be involved with Zowe and not know who Rose is.  I had the opportunity to see her in action at SHARE Orlando and her dedication to and knowledge of Zowe is very clear.

Louisa Seers, Product Manager at IBM and Galasa Chairperson:  I actually met Louisa about a year ago and we became fast friends, colleagues, and maybe partners in crime.  Not only is Louisa passionate about this platform and Galasa.  She has an amazing story of working through her degree and the apprenticeship program (Skills for Life Campaign).  She is a real inspiration to all and I learn something new every time I get to work with or just talk to her.

Michelle Eggers, Security Consultant at NetSPI:  My friend, we all know him and love him, Phil Young, grabbed me while we were at SHARE Orlando and said “Donna, I want you to meet my colleague, Michelle.”  Oh, man.  Just let me say that I am so glad he did that.  She is amazing.  New to the industry, first-time SHARE attendee…basically drinking from a fire hose, but I really enjoyed getting to know her a little bit and very much look forward to getting to spend even more time around her.

Shari Chiara, Program Manager, IBM Champions and Community Advocacy – IBM Z and LinuxONE:  Can we just say “a force to be reckoned with”.  Her energy and passion for this industry and community are out of this world.  She likes to tell folks that she is new to the world of mainframes, but you would never know that.  I had the honor of being able to meet her in person for the first time at SHARE Orlando and we were even spotted twinning.

Kristin Speltz, Director, Strategic Technology Sourcing at Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.: I have had the opportunity to work with Kristin quite a bit over the last month and to learn about her passion for encouraging women in our space.  She is very active in promoting women and helping women within her organization to be successful and I would be remiss in not adding her to the list of inspiring women I have had the opportunity to interact with this month and am looking forward to a continued connection with her.

On March 13th I had the privilege to participate in the Making Our Strong Community Stronger webinar, Diverse Perspectives of Women in IT.  If you missed it, do not fear, you can watch it here:  This provided me the opportunity to get to know IBM’s Dr. Rebecca Gott, BMC Software’s Arshind Kaur & Broadcom’s Ruchi Saxena (CUA™, UXC) & Allyson Cook.  I won’t give out any spoilers here, I will just say that these are some amazing Women in IT and you should watch the video and if you have the opportunity, get to know these women.

Arshind Kaur, Manager-Product Development at BMC Software:  As I said above, I was fortunate to meet Arshind while participating in the MSCS webinar.  I have to say that I was immediately drawn to Arshind.  Her energy is infectious.  She loves the work she does on the mainframe, the teams she works with and that just emits from her.  She and I are becoming fast friends and I am actively looking for other ways to work together going forward.

Finally, I will highlight some of the amazing women that I learned something about over the last month:

Cynthia Overby, Director Security, Customer Solutions Engineering at Rocket Software:  Cynthia was featured in a riveting episode of the I Am a Mainframer podcast.  If you missed it, watch it here:  It was very interesting to learn about Cynthia’s journey over the years, the cultural differences she encountered along the way and the challenges she has faced and her views on resilience and inclusivity.

Lacey Darrow, Senior Global Public Relations Manager at Rocket Software:  Lacey wrote a great blog post for Women’s History Month sharing her journey of empowerment and innovation.  If you missed it, you can read it here:  As Lacey said, “So, to all women out there, chart your path, share your story, and know your worth. The tech world, and indeed any sphere, becomes richer with your contributions.”

Lauren Valenti, Head of Mainframe Education and Customer Engagement at Broadcom and OMP TAC Member:  Lauren penned an Open Letter to Women Interested in a Mainframe Career that you must read:

Billie Jean Simmons, Software Developer at IBM and OMP Zowe Explorer Squad Lead:  I had a brief opportunity to meet Billie Jean in person and to sit in on some sessions that she participated in at SHARE Orlando.  In addition to that, I learned a little about her and her journey through her blog post this month which you can read here:  Not only is it a great story, I too am “…amazed every day by the people around me and the dreams that come to fruition in this field and this community.”

And finally, Keelia Estrada Moeller, Marketing Content Specialist at Broadcom Software:  Keelia is someone that I have yet had the opportunity to meet, but I hope to change that in the future.  You should really this one:  I love when she reminds us all “You are stronger than you realize; but you’re even stronger when you’re willing to learn from others.”  I couldn’t agree with her more, my favorite part of every day is the opportunity to learn something new from the amazing people that make up this community!  And now I want to lift stones and pull firetrucks with her!

Whew!  That is an amazing list of women in this industry that I have had the pleasure of coming in contact with in one form or another, just over the last month and I am sure I have missed some.  All of these women are making history in their own way and within this industry and community just by being who they are and being involved.  If you have not had the pleasure of meeting, working with, or learning about any of these, then take a minute and do so.

I will end this post by saying that while Women’s History Month is coming to a close, we should all take a minute to acknowledge and celebrate all of the amazing folks in this industry and community every day.  I am very thankful to be surrounded by all of those that I have listed here and so many more than I have space to list.  Thank you all for allowing me to do what I love and for teaching me something new every day.