By: Shaquille Fontenot
On the 10th of April, hundreds of well-dressed women flocked down the escalator, eager to meet and network with other ladies at Women in the Channel’s sold-out WiC Connect event.
When they neared the Tradewinds ballroom, the women were greeted by WiC Event Committee members and volunteers who “wo-manned” the registration table and handed out smiles, name badges, and distinctive purple bags, packed with items from WIC’s amazing sponsors.
Heavy hors d’oeuvres decorated the entryway including an elevated taco bar, charcuterie and cheese trays, and mountains of petite desserts. The decadent macaroons and fluffy cakes were instantly a crowd favorite. The bartenders on each end of the room kept the drinks flowing, as laughter and joy filled the room and lobby.
As the event began, eyes quickly darted to the tall roll-up banners on each side of the room. These WiC sponsor banners surrounded the comfortable chairs that sat in tidy rows, awaiting their guests.
Suddenly, Beyoncé’s “Who Run the World” blasted from the DJ booth as emcees Laura Bella (NetCarrier) and Helene Kidary (OnSip) jumped on stage and welcomed guests. After lovely introductions, the ladies welcomed Lorna Garney, Editor in Chief at Channel Partners, who briefly discussed how proud she was to attend and how important it was to continue to support Women in the Channel’s great initiatives.
Soon after, Bana Qashu (Avant) moderated the Rapid Fire Sponsor Panel featuring Amy Bailey (Telarus), Keli Davis (Intelepeer), Trish Kapos (MicroCorp), and Lisa Del Real (Ring Central). These women discussed the evolution of their own organizations, why their organizations continued to support WiC, and how much they had gained from a personal standpoint, as a result of their sponsorship.
Soon after, Trish Kapos returned to the stage with Angela Hefner (Telarus) and they gavea Diamond Sponsor perspective. By uniting with and supporting women, they saw their organizations flourish.
Then, the audience welcomed Hilary Gadda, Director of Partner Channel for Telepacific and Women in the Channel’s president. Hilary discussed the state of Women in the Channel and how despite the political turmoil going on in our nation, we could still be united as women. She also introduced the hashtag #beboldforchange and gave examples that illuminated how women could be supportive of one another. The list included supporting businesses that encouraged women’s enablement, pointing out biases in the workplace, and bringing junior colleagues along to events and meetings to foster professional and personal development.
With Hilary, audience members made the commitment to forge for women’s advancement and to celebrate the achievements of women, because being bold for change means being bold in our daily lives.
After this inspiring chat with WiC’s president, moderator Amy Bailey, VP of Marketing at Telarus, welcomed the featured panel, “The United State of Women.” Panelists included Lisa Miller, SVP of Sales, Global Accounts at Level 3, Dee Dee Lear, formally SVP of Emerging Channels & Recruiting at Avnet Technology Solutions, now an independent business owner, and Davida Johnson, Director of OIT’s Community Partnership Programs at UCLA.
These powerful women shared their personal experiences and gave insight into how they were able to navigate to their current positions in a male-dominated industry. As a result of seeking out sponsorship and mentorship, supporting others, and not being afraid to ask “why,” they were able to make great contributions to their respective organizations.
At one point Davida mentioned that women “can contribute, even if [they] start small. I’ve moved from being intimidated to confident.” Lisa also added that, “being confident means helping other women.”
The panelists revealed that women who “are mentored and [who] learn to negotiate have greater success in tech.” Lisa also shared that women often question their worth and knowledge and that they should “fake it ‘till [they] make it,” especially when applying for new positions that seem out of their realm.
Later in the presentation, Dee Dee revealed that while she was no longer in the tech industry, she was still able to grow and learn from the many women that came before her. She also offered the same support to those seeking mentorship.
Following the panel, the emcees revealed that Women in the Channel had over 350 members from 23 states and 185 companies, many of which were on WiC’s nine committees.
As the event came to an end, the audience and panelists all agreed that members of WiC have the tools and partnerships at their disposal to create and maintain a culture of equality at their respective organizations. What a great event!