ECi Software Solutions Inc.

03/04/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 03/04/2024 04:42

Celebrating International Women’s Day: An Interview With ECI Female Leaders


Celebrating International Women's Day: An Interview With ECI Female Leaders

By Kelly Peters Monday, March 04, 2024

This Friday is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world. So, we sat down with a group of remarkable female leaders at ECI to hear about how important inclusion is to them and what advice they have for other women on their journeys to success.

These women are:

The conversations were rich with personal stories about overcoming challenges, driving inclusion, and fostering mentorship that is sure to empower all readers seeking inspiration and guidance in both their personal and professional lives.

So, let's get into it!

Tell me about your career journey to where you are today.

  • Sarah Hagan (SH): I began my career in accounting and very quickly learned that I was developing a passion for crafting strategic paths forward for companies rather than managing the accounting for the company. After this realization, I spent 15 years rotating through several finance-type roles while learning more about and partnering with all different departments within technology companies. This gave me a unique and highly valuable understanding of how the various roles all feed into the growth and future of successful businesses.

    I joined ECI Software Solutions in 2018 as the CFO and progressed my career to now hold the President and Chief Operating Officer position for the company. In addition to this role, I am also an external board member of a SaaS company serving the healthcare industry.
  • Laryssa Alexander (LA): I have been in the field service industry for 27 years and progressed my career from an implementation role for one of ECI's products to President of the field service division at ECI that includes over a dozen products. On my way to this point, I moved through different implementation and training roles, as well as new system sales and marketing management roles.

    What has helped me tremendously is walking in everybody's shoes along the way and getting hands-on experience across various departments. It gave me a comprehensive understanding of our operations and a unique ability to relate to my team and understand what I am asking of them. I believe the diversity of my experiences has contributed significantly to my credibility and leadership style.
  • Christine Philips (CP): I started my career as an auditor at Deloitte, one of the 'Big Four' accounting firms. The long hours in client service taught me a lot about accounting but, more importantly, about persistence, diligence, and the value of working with people you like. I left there and went to Sabre, a software company that gave me my first experience with private equity ownership. I primarily covered external reporting and complex accounting research. I loved the dynamic environment and the opportunity to learn something new, frequently. My next position at Trinity Consultants was my first opportunity to own full-cycle accounting operations, and I learned how much I'm energized by driving process improvement. I developed a team, adjusted processes, and implemented systems to make the department run as efficiently as possible. I tend to get bored quickly, so once things were cleaned up, I was ready to move on and found ECI. It has now been almost five years that I have been tackling similar issues on a bigger scale.

    As the Global Controller for ECI, I lead a team of about 80 individuals around the globe, and we work to manage all processes having to do with money coming into and out of the company. This includes billing, accounts receivable, cash applications, treasury, AP, payroll, and tax, not to mention all the debits and credits to ensure we have accurate monthly reporting.
  • Rachel Hansen (RH): My career journey hopefully can be somewhat inspirational to other women as I summarize it with one word: mentorship. Going back to when I was fresh out of college, I worked for an ERP software company as a receptionist just to get my foot in the door. Through hard work and a lot of asking questions, I learned, took on more responsibility, and had the hunger to grow in my career.

    It was during those initial years that I met a female Executive Consultant who encouraged and inspired me to leverage the drive and personality I have to enter into the Professional Services realm. Through her connections, I interviewed for a job at JobBOSS and was accepted at an entry-level position within that ERP's Customer Services department. I never could've imagined what that job change would do for my career. Almost 25 years later, I am still working with that ERP! The first five years I spent at entry-level positions learning the ropes, digging in to learn the software inside and out. Throughout the last 20 years, I have spent leading and growing teams and revenue year-over-year and currently hold the position of Senior Vice President of Professional Services.

Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women's Day?

  • SH: International Women's Day is an important day for us all to recognize the progress we have made in women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. It is a time to thank those who have contributed to this progress, no matter how small a step or a giant a leap. At the same time, this day serves as a reminder for us to continue to talk openly about the challenges many still face and work together to continue equalizing the workplace.

  • LA: International Women's Day serves as a powerful platform to highlight and celebrate the significant contributions of women throughout history. It's not about men versus women. Rather, it's an opportunity to recognize the strength, achievements, and pioneering spirit of women through struggles and victories. This day encourages us all to appreciate the diverse and impactful roles women have played and continue to play in shaping our world.

  • CP: International Women's Day has been celebrated for over 100 years and, while great progress has been made, women are still underrepresented in positions of leadership and influence - in business, in government, in community organizations, etc. I recently read that until 2023 in the US, there were more CEOs named John in Fortune 500 companies than there were women CEOs! By celebrating the success of individual women, we encourage and empower other underrepresented populations to have a voice and strive for more.

  • RH: International Women's Day carries an importance to me specifically as it relates to the workplace. Women in the workforce continue to climb. The balance of women to men is almost becoming equal in total numbers but not within leadership. Yet, in the business sector specifically, women exude the same abilities and capabilities as men. Many of these women are leaders in their households but are not respected or looked upon with the same regard in the workplace.

    Promoting and highlighting the strength and contribution that women make to the workforce is near and dear to me and something that I have strived to demonstrate throughout my career.

This year's International Women's Day theme is #InsipireInclusion. Why do you feel it is important to inspire inclusion in the workplace?

  • SH: Inclusion in the workplace empowers individuals to contribute their best ideas and feel safe doing it. Applying various perspectives and experiences drives better outcomes. It is imperative that we create a world that values everyone equally and that we hold others accountable for this same standard. This goes far beyond just gender equality and also includes race, age, physical and cognitive abilities, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, education, and so much more.

  • LA: Inclusion is fundamental in creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and knows that their voices matter. It's about taking various inputs and seeing things through different lenses. It's about leveraging the diverse strengths, perspectives, and expertise of all team members in a collaborative and innovative culture. Any one person isn't going to know it all or do it all. Inclusion not only enhances decision-making and problem-solving but also ensures that all employees feel part of the company's journey and future. No one's talents go to waste.

  • CP: When we bring people together with diverse backgrounds, ages, education, or gender, we are opening ourselves up to a world of possibilities and outcomes that cannot be achieved with a homogenous team.

  • RH: Women are just one of many minorities and biases that exist in the workplace today. Aside from physical strength situations, when given the opportunity to contribute and lead individual initiatives, teams, or even companies, women have continued to prove that they are just as capable of performing and delivering at all levels within business. In fact, their added involvement, combined with the historical expertise of men, has proven to elevate the success of an organization. Though most skills between genders are similar, having the perspective of all sides ensures that companies can connect to customers of all varieties. Women play a strong part in success and need to be included. Inclusion is not only fair; it is essential for growth.

What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?

  • SH: At 25 years old, I was studying for the CPA exam and raising two babies. At this time, I thought I was almost done learning everything I needed to know. Little did I realize it was just the beginning. If I were to go back, I would tell my younger self: "Learn your craft. Learn how to be present. Learn how to be a mom/wife. Learn how to lead. Learn how to accept. Learn how to relax. Learn how to focus on what matters." The learning never stops if you invest in yourself.

  • LA: When I was 25 years old, I was getting started in this industry. I would advise my younger self to stay true to who you are, believe in your abilities, and be patient. Understand that change is constant, and adapting to it is the key to success. Challenges and setbacks will come, so prepare for reality and embrace them as opportunities for growth and learning. The path isn't always straight, but every experience builds your character and guides you toward success, professionally and personally. It's hard when you're young to completely envision the impact of these ideas.

  • CP: Strive for perfection but give yourself (and your loved ones!) grace. It is important to continue to push yourself to do better, but this constant hunt for perfection can lead to burnout, strained relationships, or missed opportunities. We're all human, so giving grace is important to ensure we are taking mistakes as learning opportunities, not failures.

  • RH Keep pushing. Don't settle for the status quo. Listen, take the feedback seriously, and apply it. The tough situations are what will prepare you for the big opportunities ahead. How you handle the rough and tough times is what will give you credibility and confidence with your peers and leaders that you can take on the next promotion that becomes available. Stretch yourself. Don't be afraid to fail!

How important is it to have a mentor, and how does someone go about getting one?

  • SH: I am a huge believer in mentors and think everyone should try to have one formal and up to two informal mentors at any one time. A formal mentor relationship should last about a year and allow you to work through goals that you set together.

    Many companies, like ECI, have mentorship programs. If you do not have access to a mentor program at work, consider joining a club or association that focuses on your career goals to see if they offer a mentor program. There is nothing wrong with seeking a mentor directly yourself. Identify someone you think you can learn from and ask them if they are willing to help. Past work relationships or LinkedIn groups can be great places to start.

    Before you reach out, make sure you have a clear plan and make the request as specific as possible so everyone is aligned going into the engagement. Include details like meeting frequency, duration of mentor engagement, topics you are looking to work on, and so on.

  • LA: Mentorship is critical at any stage of your career. A mentor doesn't necessarily have to be in a leadership position but should be someone who inspires you and whom you can learn from, especially during difficult transitions. It can be a peer or someone in another company that you connect with on LinkedIn.

    For women, having other women to look out for them and help them along is valuable, especially in a traditionally male industry. While formal programs are valuable, and we're fortunate to have them at ECI, if you don't have a mentor program, don't hesitate to reach out directly for guidance from professionals who resonate with you. Even a quarterly or monthly call can be extremely helpful.

  • CP: I've found mentors in my personal life through involvement in activities - cycling, animal rescue, and church. Finding individuals with a common passion is a great starting place to build a relationship that can eventually lead to mentorship. This same dynamic can come through work relationships as well. The key is to take time to build relationships. If you want to expedite things, you should make your supervisor aware that you are interested in a mentoring relationship. In all mentoring relationships, take ownership of the time together by bringing thoughtful questions to the discussion so you both can get the most out of it.

  • RH: My career story is supported 110% by mentorship. But it wasn't because someone came to me and asked to be my mentor. I then took it upon myself to identify those that I aspired to be like and grow from. At every level of my career, there were people along the way that I clung to. I asked the questions, learned from what they did and said, and continued to grow my abilities through those learnings. Your career trajectory is your responsibility. It is the resources that you leverage and the connections that you make that will support that. Mentorship is a major component of that.

If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

  • SH: This is an easy one. I would select Marie Curie, my grandmother, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here's why:
    • Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win it twice, and the only person to win in two scientific fields. She came from very humble beginnings and worked hard to earn her way through higher education. This was all at a time when women weren't even allowed to attend many of these schools. Her discoveries led to effective cures for cancer, all because she always pushed the boundaries and never accepted "no" for an answer.
    • My grandmother was raised on a farm in Illinois by parents who didn't value education for their daughters. They lived by the mindset that "you don't need an education to stay home and raise babies." My grandmother didn't share these beliefs and worked hard to pay her way through school. When she was finished, she paid for her sister's education as well. By the time I was a teenager, my grandmother had established what she called the "grandma grant" that paid for the education of all five of her grandkids. She was a successful businesswoman and loving mother/grandmother who taught us all to love equally, work hard, and never underestimate ourselves.
    • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or RBG, or "the Notorious RBG" has done more for women's rights than anyone. From co-founding the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU to arguing six (and winning five) cases on gender discrimination before the Supreme Court, she fought hard to challenge the unfair way women were treated legally.
  • LA: If I had to narrow it down to three, I would want to have dinner with Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, Coco Chanel, and Mother Teresa. I would spend time with Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup, to understand her cornerstones to success while also caring for diversity and inclusion. I love fashion and think it would be incredible to hear about the challenges Coco faced so many years ago as a pioneer in the industry. She used to say that a woman can be overdressed but never over-elegant. Additionally, my faith is very important to me and what keeps me grounded, so meeting someone like Mother Teresa would be very inspiring.

  • CP: I don't think I can pick just three, so I'm going to bend the rules here and offer up four to the same dinner: Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Pink/Alecia Hart, and Sarah Blakely. This combination of a daredevil/goal seeker, selfless human rights leader, public speaker/performer, and down-to-earth entrepreneur/businesswoman would be so fascinating. Every day I am pulled by a strong desire to balance all the things - achieving personal goals, investing in my community, getting out of my comfort zone, leading with grace, and showing up for my daughter and husband. It can be exhausting but when I look at other women that are accomplishing big things, I know it's possible so long as I have the right people by my side!

  • RH: All three women that I have selected are directly in my circle. Previous or current co-workers and friends. Though many might select those with a greater level of fame, these three contribute more to my life, and that is why I'd enjoy spending additional time with them.
    • Diane Frisbie is the woman that I initially looked up to in my early twenties. At the time, she was one of very few women in senior roles within the software industry I was in. Her strong yet down-to-earth personality, drive for business success, and overall fun personality to have around attracted me to connect with her. It was that early career connection that provided me the opportunity to get into professional services and ultimately get me to where I am today. I will forever be grateful, and a dinner with Diane would be my way to thank her.
    • Sarah Hagan is down to earth and can connect well with those at all levels. If you met her on the street, you'd never know that Sarah is the President and Chief Operating Officer, of a global ERP company. As we speak of mentors, Sarah quickly earned my attention after meeting her. Women in leadership levels have always been inspiring to me, and Sarah's intelligence, across all areas of the business, is intriguing and has me leaning in with each interaction we have. Having dinner with Sarah would just be another great opportunity to learn another bit or two that can contribute to growth in my life as a whole, personal and professional.
    • Kelli Ingham and I were grade school and beyond friends. Childhood friends can also be amazing career partners. Going to college in different directions, we found ourselves post-college working in entry-level positions at an ERP software company. Fast forward 25 years later, with a few different jobs for each of us, we are working together again as senior leaders within Professional Services. Having always had a competitive relationship with athletics, that same fire and drive to win has carried into our careers. I am privileged to work alongside Kelli, making an impact on our business, employees, and customers every day. Dinner together would include some work talk, but also good ol' girl talk! Mixing business with pleasure is what helps create a good balance in life overall, and Kelli and I have that with our friendship together.

All I can say is, "Wow!" It was amazing speaking with these great women and hearing their humble stories about challenges and success.

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About the Author

Kelly Peters focuses on creating valuable, engaging experiences for our audience through content. She is passionate about helping businesses thrive by using modern technology in their everyday work life and has spent her entire career guiding businesses through their tech journey.