Celebrating International Women’s Day at TrueCommerce: Part I
March is Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day: a worldwide celebration of the social, cultural and economic achievements of women with a focus on global equality for all. Here at TrueCommerce, we are proud to not only employ women throughout our organization, but to stand both behind and with them as they grow and develop in their careers.
This week, we had the opportunity to sit down with four women who exemplify the best of TrueCommerce’s values: Integrity, Culture, Innovation, and Customer Success. In this two part series, we’ll be taking a look into how these women have navigated the Technology field, how they support gender equality, and what they have to say for the next generation of tech women.
First up, Loretta Eldridge, Customer Success Manager, and Kristen Puluso, Director of Implementations.
Ladies, thank you so much for taking some time to sit with us! Let’s start with the basics: Tell us a bit about yourselves including how you got into your field.
Loretta: I started in the insurance industry and evolved into a subject matter expert within aftermarket insurance products for automobiles and then was rolled into an IT role because of that. That’s how I ended up in the IT world. [I] became a project manager and then I had a family and put them all through school and college. Then during the recession I got laid off. I didn’t have a degree myself, so competing with other people without [one] was a difficult challenge. So I decided, alright, kids are all off, now it’s my turn. I went back to school and ended up getting a business degree and also got an art degree in furniture design and woodworking. I was reinventing myself if you will.
Kristen: I have two children, my son is four and my daughter is one. My family is the most important thing to me of course. I graduated from Robert Morris University with a bachelors in information systems management, and came to TrueCommerce in 2007. This was my second job out of college.
What was your first role at TrueCommerce? What roles have you gone through here and what is your role now?
Loretta: I started with TrueCommerce ecUtopia as an Implementation Specialist. I graduated in June of 2016 and then a few days later I landed this job! From there I evolved into Project Manager and a Customer Success Manager at this point.
Kristen: I spent about 4 years as a technical support specialist and then was promoted to the supervisor. From there I went into our add-on implementation team as their supervisor. I grew myself into the management role of the mid-market team in 2015 and also took our integration deployment team underneath my umbrella. In 2019 we did some restructuring and changes with my role and [I’m] currently the Director over the Emerging market and add-on teams.
So, why is gender equality important to you?
Loretta: My expectation is that it exists. And I know it doesn’t, but for lack of a better word, I plow through as if it does exist. Breaking down those barriers is a challenge but it’s been something that I’ve experienced my whole life. The good thing about TrueCommerce is, I don’t feel that there are those barriers here.
Kristen: I have a daughter. And I want to be able to see her grow up and be able to do whatever she sets her mind out to do. Male or female, if you work hard, you shouldn’t have gender holding you back.
Let’s dig in deeper. Although there have been huge strides in workplace diversity, especially in the past few years, the tech industry is still largely male-dominated. What is the best part about being a woman in tech?
Loretta: I’m thinking of some things at San Diego State which is where I went to school. I continue to mentor women coming into the university and dealing with the challenges of role changing. I feel TrueCommerce does a really good job of being blind to gender. I don’t see that there are significant barriers for women here. I’ve experienced those in other companies but I’ve not really experienced that here.
Kristen: I agree with you. There were less than 10 women when I started in this organization-- it was very male dominated. I feel that, now, I am well respected in my role, with what I’ve done and what I’ve proven over the years. [In Tech] you’re unique because it’s not an industry overwhelmed with women, and I think you’re more respected because of that.
What would you say is the hardest thing about being a woman in tech?
Loretta: I think sometimes there are barriers to entry. And that women may start at a lower role, and have to work harder and show more success just to compete for recognition and or even position.
Kristen: I think there is still the lack of respect in some cases. The “Do you know what you’re talking about?” tone when you’re on the phone with some individuals. I don’t hear it too often, but there are some cases where you’re questioned-- “Are you the right person to handle my issues? That is something that I've seen across my entire career. Again it’s not often, but you can tell that there are some individuals out there that do question that. It’s hard when you know that you’ve been doing something for so many years that you might have to prove that you are the right person to get the job done
With all that in mind, how do you think we can attract more women to careers in Tech moving forward?
Loretta: I think one of the things is identifying women that are successful and highlighting them like you’re doing here. Mentoring is [also] a big part of understanding how there are a lot of crossovers in multiple different industries.
Kristen: I think the culture is the big thing. The culture in an organization helps people have balance in their home life. It’s a lot for somebody to be able to walk out of the office and spend time with their family and enjoy it if the culture doesn’t support that. So [in terms of] attracting more women, I think TrueCommerce does a phenomenal job at this, it’s balancing the home and work life and making sure that people support that. The leaders need to support that for the employees. That’s one thing that this company’s always done and I think that will continue to attract individuals and women specifically into the tech world.
How has TrueCommerce supported your growth as a professional woman?
Loretta: We began working with an organization called WithIT, which is women in the home furnishings industry, so we’re members of this group of women that are in the furniture industry. It’s all women and there are some men all at varying levels of their career that participate and meet to help provide leadership, guidance, and scholarships. They’re partnered with City of Hope, so there’s a lot of ways to connect with other women, and mentor each other and it provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and giving back.
Kristen: They are extremely supportive. I’ve had so many mentors here that have spent a lot of time with me making sure that I have what I need to be successful in my career. If I’ve wanted to do something everybody’s been very supportive of it. I’ve never had somebody tell me that I couldn’t or I shouldn’t pursue a passion of mine. I’ve always found myself with somebody or a group of people that have supported me and challenged me, because if I’m not challenged I’m not growing. Work wise-- what I need to be successful in my role has always been provided to me. Home-wise, they’ve given me what I’ve needed to also balance my personal obligations. Surprisingly, I’ve been promoted twice, very close to when I’ve come back from maternity leave. I get made fun of, like “Oh Kristen will just go have another baby because she’ll get promoted again.” Jokes aside, it’s very comforting that you can walk away from work for three months and come back and be as impactful or even more impactful in a new position and nobody’s holding that against you.
The International Women’s Day’s 2020 campaign centers on the #EachforEqual. How do you embrace and strive for gender equality in your work life?
Loretta: Every day I show up to do my job. That’s kind of the way from a personal answer. Show up, you do your job, and mentor the other employees. For me it’s more an example by doing.
Kristen: I pride myself [on] employee growth. I like to see individuals develop themselves and grow in the organization, not based on their gender. Everybody gets the same treatment from me. They have the same opportunities in front of them, [and] the expectations they have from me are equal.
Which powerful woman has inspired you?
Loretta: I have three daughters that are amazing. I raised them to a certain point and they went out in the world and have done some amazing things. I’m really passionate about their impact, and it’s amazing because they’re so different. My oldest daughter is an attorney, and then my youngest is in the IT field also and then my middle daughter is a cosmetologist. So they’re all so different! But fabulous women.
Kristen: My mother! She didn’t attend college- she actually went to beauty school for a few years before she entered the workforce. She retired from an organization that she spent close to 40 years at. She was the finance controller, she ran her own finance office. She walked out of that organization with so much accomplished; she did so well for herself. She was able to provide so much for our family and continues that today. She worked her butt off and did everything possible to set my sister and I up for success – and she did it with the same company year over year. I see myself staying with TrueCommerce because I was able to see the impact that she had on her organization for almost 40 years she was there.
Finally: What is one thing that you’d like to share with younger women who are just beginning their careers?
Loretta: Take a chance. When I was a manager interviewing people who graduated from college, we selected music majors a lot of times for entry-level IT positions. The reason was, they knew they had to show up, they had to practice and hone their craft. They were often transitioning from, “Ok what am I going to do with this music degree and now I need to do something else.” They were good candidates for evolving into an IT type position because of [their] dedication. They fit very well.
Kristen: It’s important to put everything into it-- but be happy with what you’re doing. Don’t accept something that is going to not make you happy because you’re spending a lot of time doing it. It’s not always about money and you have to work hard to be successful. Don’t expect that you’ll l be successful right away. You might have to work your way up in an organization and you have to prove yourself. It’s important to understand and realize that being challenged is going to help you grow and make you a better person.