For many Women & Hi Tech members, they pursued a STEM field from a young age. However, for unique individuals like Carol Ganz, the journey to the STEM industry has been a lifelong and interesting one.
“I actually graduated college with a degree in agricultural marketing,” said Ganz. “I had original goals of joining the Chicago Board of Trade. I also eventually became a professional chef and worked 12 years for a heating and cooling company. Eventually a friend of mine said ‘Come work for my tech company.’ I said, ‘Doing what?’ and she said, ‘Don’t worry, we will figure it out.’”
That leap of faith into the unknown world of software sales and development has proven to be a good one for Ganz. Since joining Indianapolis-based Six Feet Up in 2006, Ganz has served in a variety of roles. However, the majority of her tenure has been spent as Director of Client Experiences.
“I started as a project manager,” said Ganz. “I was handling some of the office management, such as in the construction and renovation of our new offices. But because of my people skills, I ended up coming into sales. Now I’m focused on client experiences and client relationships. I want to make sure everyone gets that white glove experience, from the smallest to the largest client. In the end, I’m all about being an advocate.”
It’s that same commitment to advocacy that drove Ganz to join up with Women & Hi Tech roughly six years ago. She spoke about her love for helping and interacting with those around her, particularly when mentorship is involved.
“I wanted to be somewhere you could really make a difference. That’s one of the same qualities that drew me to the organization, getting to go and talk to people, help people, and mentor them. In fact, it’s great even if it’s accidental mentoring. You could just be having a meeting with someone, and suddenly something you’ve said ends up moving the needle for them in a positive direction.”
In her second year on the Board of Women & Hi Tech, Ganz has truly utilized and enhanced her people and organizational skills as the Membership Administration Director. Retrospectively, Ganz’s board tenure began as a voluntarily assumed non-voting board role to assist the Board of Directors to operate the group’s member management system ensuring that sponsors and members alike got the most out of their membership experience. Ganz showed such expertise, leadership, and value in this voluntary role with her management and interpersonal skills that the Board created a new voting position that Ganz currently holds. In this board role, Ganz leads and supports the operational infrastructure by which Women & Hi Tech interacts with corporate and individual members in the community. All along the way, Ganz has found the community to be one of the most important aspects of Women & Hi Tech.
“I knew that I needed to find my tribe. I needed people who spoke my same language, people who knew how to help me get my feet under me as far as the sales side of things go,” said Ganz. “Women & Hi Tech lets you meet people in your community, and often times those folks are on your same level.”
That sense of camaraderie and working with your peers has blended effortlessly with the organization’s dedication to helping members find their voice and their position. This understanding of independence, agency, and personal choice is what Ganz thinks sets Women & Hi Tech apart from other organizations.
Women & Hi Tech realizes that “[y]ou don’t always have to work upwards to increase your span or impact. Horizontal movement and lateral connection can be and often are just as important or effective. Not everyone wants to move up a corporate ladder. They just want to do something that they have passion for and be an agent of change and improvement in their environments or communities,” said Ganz. “Every little thing you do can affect someone, even if it feels like nothing to you.” Ganz points to Women & Hi Tech’s passion for helping others and growing inclusivity as cornerstones of the organization’s mission and future.
“Everyone has become more aware that what they’re doing affects others and folks are more and more understanding of the importance of being inclusive. We discuss these needs all the time. For example, Women & Hi Tech’s OperationALL is a program to invite male leaders to hear what others experience in the STEM workplace and how to be a champion of increased inclusivity. Even our Executive Women’s Forum is based around networking with peers from other organizations. There’s always that importance of reaching out to those around you to help people grow. That’s my passion, and I get to explore it in this organization.”
Over the last several years, Women & Hi Tech focused its mission on diversity, equity, and inclusion of all women in STEM, including at all ranks and reach of any organization, including our own. For example, Women & Hi Tech currently has its first woman of color as President, a clear demonstration of the organization’s dedication to diversity at all ranks of our own organization. And, while we are nowhere close to where we’d like to be, Women & Hi Tech continues to make purposeful advances to ensure that our organization continues to include, expose, inspire, support, and promote all women in STEM.
When asked about the next 20 years of Women & Hi Tech, Ganz wants Women & Hi Tech to continue the journey for inclusivity, regardless of where on the gender spectrum folks may fall. “I want to see gender and sexual orientation not be a discussion, but an accepted inclusion metric across the board. Whether you identify as bi, queer, pan, or gender fluid, I want it to be a non-discussion and for everyone to be honored for who they are. If we can make Women & Hi Tech a safe space for all, including gender fluid and non-cis people, I’ll be happy,” said Ganz. “We need inclusive to include everybody.”