The Alliance of Channel Women exists at the pleasure (and will) of our members like Marcia Dempster, Cloud Platform Executive at CDW. That’s why we love to learn more about members like Marcia in this recurring ACW Member Q&A.
After 14 years with CDW and five of them in the cloud practice as a team lead, Marcia brings a unique perspective to the cloud industry through the channel. Besides managing her team’s rebill program, she also is near completion of CDW’s elite 18-month Emerging Leaders Program.
Marcia co-founded the Women in Integrated Technology Solutions group within CDW and also participates actively in CDW’s Women’s Opportunity Network. Originally from Detroit and a graduate of Michigan State University, Marcia resides in downtown Chicago and loves to travel internationally as often as life allows!
Who influenced you in your early years to become a leader in your own life, and what did they do for you?
There were several significant influences throughout my childhood and teenage years, but the one that sticks out to me is my Aunt Marcia (yes, we share a name). She graduated from the University of Michigan and immediately started working in medical sales in her early 20s. She broke the mold in my eyes. Incredibly successful, so smart and always very generous. She always looked polished and was constantly traveling the world for business. She was a fully established professional before she hit 30 and I’m fairly certain she out-earned most of the men in my family.
She inspired me to carve out my own path and to never settle for less than I deserved. She showed me how to handle myself in a world crowded with gender-bias. Aunt Marcia is still a motivator and an amazing support system for me.
What difficulty have you overcome that impacted your career for the better?
I had a discouraging experience with a manager early in my career. He was blatantly discriminatory and inappropriate, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I decided to seek out some coaching from a leader I respected, and he helped me to effectively address and correct the situation. It was SO outside of my comfort zone, but it taught me that I have to be my own advocate every day. I learned very quickly that I had to stand up for myself and to demand respect. It has served me well to this day.
Why did you join (ACW) and what do you hope to get from members and give back to them?
I want to serve as an activist for women in the technology world. I believe we are stronger together, and we can always build on each other’s successes. I strive to be as transparent as possible in my leadership style, and I am always supportive of any efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
What advice would you give to someone new to the channel?
Don’t be shy! If you feel excluded, insert yourself into meetings, conferences, events, outings, etc. There are big personalities to contend with in this game, but most of the people I know and love in the channel are incredibly kind and thoughtful. Lead by example, and earn the respect of your peers. Don’t expect it to happen overnight; patience can be frustrating but it always pays off.
Where do you see the women in our industry thriving?
I am so incredibly pleased to see women popping up in executive leadership positions (including my very own CEO Chris Leahy), as well as engineers. It’s so refreshing to see smart, strong, qualified women in roles that used to be almost exclusive to men.
How are you positioning yourself to stay relevant and support your clients in the coming year?
My customers always come first. Some of the accounts I work on at CDW are extremely large enterprise level clients, but my approach has been to always develop personal relationships with my customers. Once a solution is sold, there is still a lot of work to be done. And at the end of the day, these people enable me to be successful at my job and in my personal life. I’m pleased to call some of my customers friends. I believe it serves everyone well.
When have you helped another woman gain confidence and connections? What happened?
I have small successes and failures on any given day. My department consists of about 1400 coworkers, and 92 percent of them are men. I fall into the small 8 percent group of women but we are a force to be reckoned with. In my past few years as a Team Leader, I have proudly and confidently established myself as a champion not only for the women in my department, but for my team overall. I am passionate about my work. Sometimes that comes out as joy, and other times it is white hot anger. But all of the challenges and successes along the way are all leading to bigger things for all of us. For the women we work with every day, for all of our companies, things are changing for the better. It’s a hard fight, but we’re going to win it. My bigger success is finding my own voice as a woman in the Cloud world. I feel supported and respected by my peers, my management, and my team. I’ve built my network to include inspiring leaders, both women and men. I started in this role as reserved and intimidated, and I’ve turned myself into a tough, confident, successful woman. That is a success I will continue to build on.
What can we do to prepare ourselves for the changes that are coming to our industry?
Hold firmly to your connections. The industry disrupters are always the future of Technology. Align yourself with people that inspire you and who challenge you to be better.