Since we last profiled Kelly Sandstrom in 2019
, she has gone through many changes, getting married and starting a new job at Lev, a premier Salesforce consultancy for marketers. But her passion and commitment as the Secretary of the Board of Women & Hi Tech has not waned into her third one-year term. “I am proud to serve as a Women & Hi Tech Board Member,” she said. “I build the agenda, and capture the minutes, and tasks during our monthly board meetings. But unlike the other board members, I don’t necessarily have a focus area I direct. I think that’s actually an asset, because I get to spend time participating in the committee areas and projects I want to be involved in.”
Sandstrom shared the story of when her professional and volunteer lives intersected last year. “We obtained a nonprofit license of Salesforce and brought it to the Board to consider implementing, because we knew a tool like this was needed to make our relationship management easier through technology. I was able to bring my experience from Lev and lead the committee to get Salesforce in place for Women & Hi Tech.”
Sandstrom made the career change to Lev in late 2019 to not only expand her capabilities as a Project Manager, but also to get more experience as a people manager. “I still get the opportunity to be front-facing with our clients and lead implementation projects, while also leading a team of Project Managers. They are working with other clients, and I am making sure they all have what they need to achieve their goals.” Sandstrom shared that 2020 changed the way work gets done in her profession. “Client service and consulting relies on relationship building, which is typically done in person. We used to travel to a client location, meet each other, and get set up for success at the start of a project. When COVID-19 hit all that went away—and not just for us.”
She shared that Lev’s amazing work-from-home policy helped many members of the team weather the transition to remote work without too much struggle. But for her the experience was different. “I was very much someone who liked getting up, going to a workplace, and having separation between work and home. I really wondered how I would make this shift.” However, she has now made a 180-degree pivot and calls herself a work-from-home convert, because she has seen that virtual work can still generate authentic and meaningful connections.
Part of her belief in this power has come from the adaptive response of Women & Hi Tech to the need for virtual events. “Women & Hi Tech recognized early on that virtual meeting fatigue is real, and impactful. As a result, the organization has looked outside the box for how to do a virtual meeting that is unique and doesn’t just feel like a continuation of the workday.” From early use of breakout rooms, to virtual escape rooms, dance parties, cooking classes, and beyond, Sandstrom described how Women & Hi Tech continues to push the envelope to ensure members are getting the content and networking experiences they need.
“We have an Executive Women’s Forum coming up with Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, about Indiana’s COVID-19 response,” Kelly shared. “We might not have provided that pre-COVID. But we know people need it right now, so we are adapting to bring members the content they need.”
Sandstrom also shared how a personal passion project of hers has grown and blossomed during the pandemic—the Women & Hi Tech Virtual Book Club. “Last year, I made a proposal and received unanimous approval from the Board of Directors to begin a book club. I truly felt like Women & Hi Tech members would benefit from a formal book club, as it would be a new way for members to participate in and engage with our organization,” she explained. So far, the club has read three books, and have twice connected with the authors of those books. “In March we will be hosting our third meeting to discuss The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone. Fagone will actually attend our meeting—he reached out to me after seeing a mention on Twitter,” Kelly shared proudly. Suggestions for the reading material are crowdsourced from members, and attendees vote on what will be read next. The books are focused on historical women in STEM or on leadership topics.
“One of the biggest goals of the Board, that we continue to strive for even virtually, is to provide members and attendees with an experience they won’t get anywhere else,” she said. “We just want to creatively connect people in ways they don’t expect, because those unexpected connections are what lead to excitement, engagement, and growth for our members.”