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Board Profile - Susan Vaughn

03/28/2019 8:02 AM | Lori Boyer (Administrator)

Susan VaughnSusan Vaughn got involved with Women & Hi Tech at a crossroads in her career. She worked for ten years as a consultant for accounting firm Crowe Chizek, supporting them in managing projects and improving processes. Then, the day came when her next move was to take the step up and become a partner. “I would have been the first female partner in our Systems Consulting Group in Indy,” Vaughn remembers. “But in that moment, I looked up and saw that everyone above me was travelling all the time. They were all men, with wives who stayed home with the kids, or had a nanny.” As a new mother, she knew this would not work for her family. She started looking for like-minded people who could help her define the next best step. “I wanted to find role models who I could look up to and learn from about work-life balance. I found so much more than that; I found a family in Women & Hi Tech.”

Vaughn joined Women & Hi Tech in 2000 and is one of its longest-running consistent members. “As I was starting my business The Project Authority almost 19 years ago, I was networking a lot. I found that a lot of the interactions and conversations I was having were surface level; that is, until I found Women & Hi Tech. The relationships I developed through Women & Hi Tech were unique and valuable.” This inspired Vaughn to get involved with the Board of Directors. She served as both Executive Women’s Forum Director and Technology Director before being nominated President. During her presidency, Vaughn leveraged her project management expertise to improve the experience for all the women who volunteered on the Board of Directors. “We clearly defined every Director’s role, and what responsibilities were tied to each role. If a board member needed help, they could ask for it, but mostly they could do it on their own. This was a pivotal change,” she explained. “Before I was President, the women in that role got so burned out they sometimes left the organization. Now, people stay on the board and stay active members long after their presidencies have ended, and I think that’s at least in part due to my impact.”

The year she was President, Vaughn also chaired the Leading Light Awards, simply due to the need for volunteers.

“One of the ways I have seen the organization grow and change is in doing a much better job of supporting and leveraging our members who want to volunteer and helping them find opportunities that align with their interests.”

She thinks this is especially true when it comes to the organization’s engagement at the K-12 level through events like Ignite Your Superpower! (IYS) and Passport to Hi-Tech. “Women & Hi Tech facilitates these programs in order to further our mission to change the landscape of women represented in STEM to be more inclusive. For our members, they value these programs for that reason as well, but also value in the opportunity to volunteer in helping others and giving back to the community, while creating camaraderie with other women in STEM.”

As a single mother to two daughters, Grace (19) and Gabi (15), Susan sees firsthand the impact that involvement with Women & Hi Tech can make on young women. “Both my daughters have come to events with me, and I have tried to teach them the value of networking and stepping outside your comfort zone. Even today in my role helping my clients’ tech sides and business sides communicate with one another about a project, I am frequently the only woman in the room. That requires the confidence to step up and assert yourself, which I developed alongside many of my role models in Women & Hi Tech.”

Susan thinks one of the most valuable offerings Women & Hi Tech can make to girls and young women moving forward is teaching not only the power of networking, but how to do it well. She told the story of how The Project Authority landed a big client early on because Susan showed up to an intimidating event. “Of the 200 people in the room, 190 were probably men,” she said. “I realized quickly that showing up as a woman made me stand out, and that if I stood out in the right way, I could make the most of that. There is more we could do around that piece of growing young girls and teaching them how to go out and hustle. You have to make yourself uncomfortable, but in the right ways.”

Susan’s unique insight into risk and return as a project manager also supports this philosophy. “A lot of times on a project, everyone around me is saying we don’t have to worry about a risk, because it’s unlikely to occur. But whether I’m helping a robotics company pull off a new product or helping a major health system deploy a new website, I know that there will always be risks and we should choose the places we take those risks strategically. In the same way, if you go to an event, it is easier and maybe more fun to sit with the people you know,” she pointed out. “But then you’re taking a bigger risk you don’t even see – missing an opportunity. The short-term challenge of going to meet someone new, of stepping up, might seem more difficult, but it’s also the route to bigger and more fulfilling success.”


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