Career tips

8 career tips from a female CTO

Last March, Thomson Reuters CEO Jim Smith announced that Thomson Reuters had committed to reaching a minimum of 40 percent female representation in senior leadership roles, globally, by 2020. Women who see other women successfully holding senior leadership roles have greater confidence in their ability to hold those same roles in the future. In fact, according to KMPG’s Women’s Leadership Study from 2015, seeing more women in leadership is one of the leading indicators of whether female employees feel encouraged about their own leadership potential.

We sat down with Lisa Schlosser, chief technology officer for Thomson Reuters FindLaw, to learn more about how she has become so successful and advice for those who are interested in a career in technology.

Lisa Schlosser

What advice would you give to a female who is interested in entering the technology field?

“The intersection of technology and how we live continues to become more intertwined. There are so many problems that can be solved through the application of technology. Diverse teams are best positioned to create these innovations which make all humanity a better place. My advice would be to focus on areas that incite your passion. Figure out a problem you want to solve and learn the technologies in context of that problem. The technology field needs you. Our society needs you.”

Where do I start?

“Harvey Mudd College has increased the number of women that graduate with a degree in computing from about 15% to greater than 50% over the last 10 years. One of the things they discovered is that women weren’t even signing up for computer classes, thinking that in order to take the intro class, they needed to already be programming. They changed the name of their intro class, introduced projects that better reflected human problems, and encouraged women with no programming experience to take the class. What they found was that more women signed up for the intro class and realized, ‘hey I can do this’. For me, I was a mathematics major. I found that the way I had to break down complex, difficult math problems translated well to computing. In addition, understanding computing helped me as a tool for my math problems. You won’t know the opportunities you are missing if you don’t give it a try.”

Should I get a technical certification?

“A technical certification is proof of your mastery of a particular level of expertise. A certification in and of itself won’t guarantee you a promotion or land you a new role. Your application of the learnings you acquired in obtaining that certification, in both expected and unexpected situations, will.”

What’s the most important programming language?

“The most important programming language to learn is the one that is best for the problem at hand. It’s like being able to choose only one tool in your tool belt. Would you use a screwdriver to pound in nails? That said, if you are just starting in your technical journey, starting with a high-level scripting language like JavaScript is a good way to become productive quickly. Experiment and get some hands-on experience. Learn by doing.”

What types of roles should I look into if I’m just starting my career in technology?

“If you are just starting your career in technology, focus on the culture of the company and team more so than any role or project. You want to work somewhere you enjoy getting out of bed for each day. Getting experience in all levels of the technology stack, in different industries, in hardware and software, and in various parts of the business (e.g. back office systems, product development, operations) will not only increase your technology skills but also your business acumen. Broad experience is a valuable asset and a keen understanding of the business is critical for advancement. If you are just starting out, how do you know what you like until you try it?”

Do you recommend any books?

“Two books that I enjoyed reading and was able to apply immediately are ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg and ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain. Neither book would appear in a best of technology list, however, the fact that we are human and the majority of our work is done in teams, these books provide great learnings. As a self-proclaimed introvert, working in a technology career that tends to attract other introverts, Quiet provided some great insight into the benefits all behavioral styles bring to the team and how to enable people to perform their very best.”

Can I break into the tech industry with no coding experience?

“Technology is part of nearly every career opportunity. To be successful in marketing, for example, you need to gather and analyze data. Fulfillment operations require in depth knowledge of workflow orchestration. The best product designers are experts in user experience and user interface designing. Projects are run with technical project managers. Agile methodologies are run by scrum masters. There are many rewarding technical careers that do not require you to code.”

What’s the most important skill needed in today’s workspace?

"Whether you are in a startup with a small group of people or large global corporation, you need to collaborate. Working on a large project that spans systems, services, locations, and teams is hard to simulate in a school setting. Building strong partnerships, knowing how to work as a trusted teammate, and honing collaboration capabilities are some of the most important skills you will develop and will constantly grow and improve over time. Having solid mastery of the technologies is still important, but a diverse team can accomplish so much more together than any single person can do alone. Be that person everyone wants to be on their team."

Lisa Schlosser is chief technology officer for FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business providing digital marketing solutions for law firms and FindLaw.com, home to the largest online legal directory of lawyers. Fostering a dynamic and customer-centric work culture, she collaborates closely with the business to build innovative solutions.

Lisa has over 25 years of experience in information technology, holding several programming and leadership positions throughout her career. She earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Lisa believes strongly in volunteerism and was elected as a board member of the Minnesota High Tech Association in January 2010 and vice-chair in 2015, as well as board member of the Science Museum of Minnesota in December 2015. In addition, since May 2015, she has served on the board of the Anita Borg Institute, a social enterprise focused on the advancement of women in computing and founder of the Grace Hopper Celebration. She is involved with many efforts in the community to promote students in STEM careers and women in technology, and has also appeared on an episode of Driving Change.

Lisa Schlosser