Women & Hi Tech’s Leading Light Awards has become a cornerstone of the organization’s premiere event lineup. It gives the organization a chance to identify and elevate women who have made waves in the STEM field, particularly those who have acted as tenacious innovators throughout their career.
While the awards are undoubtedly a team effort, Ali Hromis played an important role in the 2018 iteration of the Leading Light Awards, a long-standing, biennial event for Women & Hi Tech. Hromis showed great dedication to the cause and helped to make the celebration memorable.
“We knew we wanted the Leading Light Awards to give meaningful recognition to the women who deserve it” said Hromis. “With the help of a great committee, we were able to make it the largest Leading Light Awards to date and I am so grateful to have helped.”
Hromis joined Women & Hi Tech back in 2014, after her mentor and former Women & Hi Tech President, Rosanne Burge, urged her to connect with other women in tech in Indianapolis. . She was encouraged to check out the Leading Light Awards, as well as the Executive Women’s Forums. Hromis was impressed with the programming and felt inspired to engage as a member. After her contributions to the 2016 Leading Light Awards, Hromis joined the board as the first Leading Light Awards Director. When the 2018 ceremonies rolled around, she was given the chance to lead the planning and execution of the entire experience.
Hromis’ efforts focused largely on growing awareness and recognition of women who have contributed to the advancement of STEM in Indiana. Though the awards are already Women & Hi Tech’s most visible event, the 2018 Leading Light Awards landed over 600 attendees. In addition to the spike in attendance and awareness, Hromis worked to attract over 120 nominees for the various awards and scholarships, as well as adding an important new award category.
“We gave out over $15,000 in scholarships that night. Women & Hi Tech already gives 20% of our sponsorship dollars for scholarship, but community partners contributed even more,” she said. “We also rolled out the Change the Landscape Award. We created it to honor a driving force in changing the landscape for women represented in STEM.” Hromis looks forward to all of the improvements she and her team implemented during the 2018 program to be capitalized upon at Women & Hi Tech’s 2020 Leading Light Awards being held on October 1, 2020 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, which she expects to be even bigger and better than ever.
Hromis’ journey into STEM began somewhat unexpectedly. While attending Valparaiso University, she studied marketing and business as opposed to technology. Though she greatly values her area of study, Hromis said her decision was based in some part on societal expectations.
“I was a girl and wanted a job where I could make money, so I was supposed to be a business major, right?” she said. “My other options were something like law or medicine, but those didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t even consider studying technology.”
After graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2011, Hromis joined the team at Apparatus, a technology firm in the Indianapolis area. While she would end up working in technical roles, her first position at Apparatus was primarily based in tech marketing. She eventually moved into a role analyzing business processes and their supporting systems, which inspired her to learn more about technology. Before long, Hromis was excelling at tech companies like Allegient (now DMI) and Project Lead the Way, where she led an IT team.
In 2018, Hromis found a new home at Salesforce’s second largest location in Indianapolis. There, Hromis is a release manager where she coordinates the deployment of code produced by hundreds of engineers.
“I start with ensuring pre-release requirements are met, then plan and lead teams through the release of new code to customers, until the release has been successfully validated and considered complete ,” Hromis said. “I also play a management role. I’m kind of the quarterback of all these handoffs between teams. While I’m not the only one calling the plays, I am responsible for leading the team through the execution of whatever play is called. We continually analyze releases in an effort to make them more enjoyable and valuable for our customers and our engineers.”
When asked to reflect on her experience as a woman in the STEM field, Hromis says that while it started off unbalanced, she’s already seen an improvement with inclusion in the workplace.
When asked the benefits of diversity in the workplace, Hromis makes sure not to mince words.
“I think it’s incredibly important to have women and minorities on the team.. We need diverse opinions and thoughts and approaches to create better outcomes. I also think that women are uniquely positioned for success in a diverse workplace. We have a tendency to be more empathetic. I’m serving the people I work with, so my engineers are my customers. I know they’re under an incredible amount of stress. But, bringing a sense of empathy to the job helps determine a way to move forward without leaving a path of destruction behind you. Through that empathy, we can manage through complex situations in a positive and inspiring way, as opposed to a way that demotivates and discourages those we are leading.
“In short, empathetic roles helps create stronger relationships with our customers but also with our team.”
Though great changes to the industry are occurring nationwide, organizations like Women & Hi Tech are making measurable impact on the Indiana area. When Hromis is asked her vision for the future of Women & Hi Tech, she’s nothing short of excited.
“I see Women & Hi Tech as a leader,” she said. “I want the problem we’re addressing to evolve. I hope our mission continues to expand and morph with the problems themselves .”
But that’s not all Hromis wants out of the next 20 years of Women & Hi Tech. She said that the group should continue to be a champion of inclusivity and a model for those who want to change the world, even if it’s in their backyard.
“Now, I want to help other groups get started. I want to show the types of things communities can do with volunteer time to change the world. You don’t need a huge corporation or a huge sum of money. You can just be a group of passionate people acting as an inspiration to others.”