Women & Hi Tech exists to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be equally inclusive to all. To achieve our goal, we work to connect female STEM professionals with each other and our community in Indiana. Our members and sponsors represent a wide array of STEM fields, including life sciences, accounting, engineering, psychology, statistics, and information technology. Today, we are proud to highlight one of our members, Nikki Manus.
Originally from Florence, Alabama, Nikki Manus currently serves as a Technical Project Manager at Sallie Mae. Following her undergraduate experience at Alabama State University, Manus moved to Indianapolis to work for Sallie Mae, where she served as a Data Analyst for six years. She eventually transitioned to Roche Diagnostics where she skillfully and diligently worked in the Near Patient Testing department as a Marketing & Sales Development Consultant. Knowing that she needed to stay ahead of the learning curve with Systems, Applications, & Products (SAP), Manus learned any and all terminologies needed in order to thoroughly understand her scope of work.
During this time, Manus earned her Master’s in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University as well as her certification in Project Management from the Project Management Institute. She has since earned her certification as a SAFe Scrum Master, and Agilist.
Shortly thereafter, Manus dove into private consulting at Briljent and worked with government contracts, learned Adobe Dreamweaver to create functional and efficient websites, implemented new applications, and maintained standards for quality, content, and training.
While at Briljent, Manus later secured the lead role as Project Manager and then as Program Manager on contract with the state of Indiana, where she was the only African American to serve in a management capacity on contract for Indiana’s Medicaid system. During her time there, she led a team of testers, analysts, developers, trainers, and customer service specialists. Her strategic use of the waterfall methodology helped to develop improved software and its capabilities.
It goes without saying that Manus is a highly-powered, prolific professional and conduit between business and IT. However, her journey to success was not without difficulty.
While it comes as no surprise that most industries are governed by men, Manus believes in the importance of women's involvement and leadership in the tech industry. We asked Manus about the importance and benefits of being a woman of color in leadership. “It’s so important for women to be involved in the management process because of the overarching picture,” she stated, “and it is imperative that we clearly understand the perspectives of our IT partners and our business partners. In doing so, we will understand how to make both sides work together for a more efficient industry.”
Manus also pointed out that, historically, women have had difficulties with acquiring the information needed to learn the industry. In such a male-driven industry, it is unfortunately common for women to be overlooked by male counterparts. “For women it is difficult to learn the industry because developers are usually men,” she affirmed, “and they sometimes don’t want to communicate the knowledge. Then, the acquisition of information becomes a tug-of-war which means that we [women] have to be intentional about taking the extra time to do our research to understand the uncommunicated pieces. It’s not enough for me to have a seat at the table. I want to sit at the table to be heard, acknowledged, and to make decisions. This is not because of my race and gender, but because I did the work to know and understand the vision, background, initiatives, and roadmaps required to achieve the expected outcome.”
Now, in times of great and necessary transition into a society where more women of color are entering into management and executive leadership roles––even with the history-making inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris––Manus sees the next 20 years of Women & Hi Tech as a pivotal era of growth and emergence for women. Within the tech industry, Manus stated, “Women will take over even more and will own more companies. We will make coding easier and will start simplifying a lot of things. Everything doesn’t have to be complicated.”
As a member of Women & Hi Tech, Manus has seen the organization grow exponentially over the years in terms of volunteering, programming, and networking. “Women get to talk with each other to provide the connections and partnerships into the STEM community. Partnerships turn into ideas,” she stated, “and ideas turn into change.”
Manus hopes that, in the coming years, Women & Hi Tech will proliferate more nationwide initiatives, efforts, and opportunities for expansion to empower more women to take a stand in leadership in STEM. “Over the years, women have decided to step outside of the box and have positioned ourselves accordingly because of our interests,” Manus said. “We have decided to be more than administrators or customer service specialists and, because of our growing interest––despite things being hidden from us before––now, we are coding and developing apps, consulting, starting our own businesses, and being innovative in an ever-changing world.”