Our Women in Tech ERG (Employee Resource Group) kicked off 2021 with a new internal event that continues to draw big turnouts. Every other month, the group hosts a one-hour panel discussion on career advice in alignment with Perficient’s Growth for Everyone campaign. The sessions, held in Microsoft Teams, feature two to three colleagues who have achieved extraordinary accomplishments at Perficient.
Moderated by Erin Moloney, general manager, Dallas, and Women in Tech co-lead, the inaugural installment debuted with two notable panelists: MaryBeth Ostasz, area vice president, and Kimberly Williams-Czopek, director, digital strategy consulting.
From title to title and team to team, MaryBeth has “done a little bit of everything” since joining Perficient in 2007. She’s worked in sales and operations and played a key role in opening our Domestic Delivery Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Like MaryBeth, Kim has also strived to diversify her skillset. She has spent time in several digital agencies, digital product companies, and served as VP of digital on the brand side. She joined Perficient in 2019 and specializes in digital experience, retail and digital commerce, digital responsibility, and digital business strategies.
READ MORE: About Career Growth at Perficient
Career-Growth Tips for Women in Technology
MaryBeth and Kim shared a wide range of insights into how they’ve carved out successful career paths at Perficient. Here’s some of what they’ve learned from their experiences – and the skills they continue to cultivate.
1. CAREER ADVICE: Don’t Get Too Complacent
“Playing a multitude of different roles has given me a better perspective and appreciation for all Perficient does. I can honestly say I’ve never sat down and said, ‘I want to go here and then here and then here and then here. I’ve never had goals like, ‘I want to be a director, and then I want to be a GM.’ For me, what was important was getting the breadth of understanding how our business works. I always focus on whether I’m learning and growing.
“The more that you’re always stretching yourself and growing, the more things happen naturally. Be flexible and truly look at everything that’s handed to you as an opportunity. Ask yourself: what can I learn from this? How can I grow from this? Sometimes I think we put a target out there of where we want to be, and it actually can prohibit us in growing in some ways because we’re so focused that we’re not looking at the other things around us that could bring growth for us. Don’t get so focused on a certain path because you might lose sight of the scenery that’s along the way.” — MaryBeth Ostasz
“I think people get caught up on titles and what organization you’re on and how you grow, how you move forward. That’s why I love the idea of lateral movement within an organization, just not feeling like you’re stuck in one place. I think that’s such a fantastic offering in the organization. People make the wrong assumption – in any organization – that, ‘this is where I’m at; this is my business unit; I must stay here,’ or, ‘I don’t see a growth path.’ Well, look outside your business unit. What are you interested in? Where could you do work that you’re more interested in now than you were a couple years ago? I think that flexibility is really encouraging and important.” — Kimberly Williams-Czopek
2. CAREER ADVICE: Collaborate with as Many Colleagues as Possible
“Surrounding yourself with really smart people and having a good team around you is huge. One of the things I love about Perficient more than anything else is the people. This organization is such a supportive organization across the board. There are very few people I’ve met that aren’t willing to step in and do whatever it takes to move something forward. One of the big things I’ve learned from my career is that it’s so important to do that for others as well. Our jobs are to make 10 more of ourselves. We need to continue to grow and develop others, so that we can continue to grow and develop as well. At the end of the day, there’s no way for you to move on if someone else can’t step into your shoes. That’s the mentality at Perficient, and I love it.” — MaryBeth Ostasz
“What I really like – what keeps me at Perficient – is the level of intelligence, the level of thinking, the level of passion in your discipline or area of focus; that’s been really exciting to see. In reaching out to others, I’ve found that everyone is very open to discussions such as, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking. What do you think?’ We win as a team. We’re only going to tell the right story by involving a group of people. Those interactions allow you to build empathy as well. What I’ve seen as being most successful in building truly diverse organizations and corporate culture is to focus more on what you have in common and not the differences.” — Kimberly Williams-Czopek
3. CAREER ADVICE: Keep Networking and Building Relationships – Even Remotely
“There are a lot of really smart people at Perficient. The more you can network and help people understand what you can bring to the table – and seek to understand what they can bring to the table as well – the more you’ll be able to leverage those relationships. Leveraging the relationships across the organization is what’s going to help you grow and develop both ways: you’re helping others, and they’re helping you as well.
“To continue to build relationships, I’ve told people that as much as they can video, they should. Even if it’s just a simple 15-minute call just to make that connection because it’s amazing just to see someone’s reaction to something – their body structure, their facial expressions. You can get a sense of how they’re feeling about the topic, and it helps you to connect as much as possible.” — MaryBeth Ostasz
“I try to start calls with a personal conversation. We don’t always have time for that, but I think it goes a long way in getting to the outcome that you were actually hoping for out of that call. I always think it’s important to have a personal connection. What I’ve seen be most successful in building truly diverse organizations and corporate culture is to focus more on what you have in common and not the differences. For instance, if you say, we’re going to have a group that’s focused on what it takes to get a graduate degree today or what does it mean when you’re raising younger children and you’re working full time – it’s finding those commonalities and then you can better appreciate the differences, and you’re much more open to organic learning that drives that diversity in culture.” — Kimberly Williams-Czopek
4. CAREER ADVICE: Find a Mentor
“I think having a good coach and mentor right out of the gate is important. However, although I’m a believer that you could and you should have a formal mentor, I also think that everyone around is your mentor in some form or fashion. Oftentimes, depending on what you need, you should be reaching out to different people because everyone has a different strength that you can play off of or something you can learn from them. To always be looking at one individual to provide you with everything you need I think is maybe limiting yourself.
“There have been so many individuals who have been there to support me – that I’ve felt like I can reach out to and that they’re there as a sounding board. They give me the tough feedback when I need to hear it. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for someone who’s just going to pat you on the head all the time and say, “you’re doing a great job,” then you’re not looking for the right person. It’s someone who’s going to play that tough love for you as well but know that they’re supportive of you in the same fashion. There’s been so many of those folks I can’t even count.” — MaryBeth Ostasz
“I’ve had more formal mentor relationships outside of Perficient that are more what people might think of as traditional. I feel like I’ve just found my footing at Perficient, and now at this point, I can start expanding or building more one-on-one and longer-lasting mentor relationships. I know we have programs set up for that, which I think is really great compared to other companies.” — Kimberly Williams-Czopek
5. CAREER ADVICE: Determine What Success Means to You
“Everyone has a different definition of success. For me, I consider, ‘Am I happy? Do I feel like I’m working with good people? Do I feel like I accomplished something? Am I just moving paper around and keeping the train on track, or are we actually moving forward?’ It’s really important to me that at the end of the day I can say that something was accomplished and that I’m happy and am I growing. That’s another thing: I have to know that I’m growing.” — MaryBeth Ostasz
“For me, it’s accomplishment and productivity. The worst days are the days when I’m in back-to-back meetings, and I’m wondering, ‘what have I done – at all today?’ I feel like that can impact someone’s job happiness.” — Kimberly Williams-Czopek
6. CAREER ADVICE: Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
“In the context of women in technology, I don’t hesitate to stop and make sure that I’m not being talked over or say, ‘this is my idea, let me talk about it.’ After all this time, I try to be diplomatic, but I’m certainly not shy in pointing out when I think my voice is getting drowned out. I think that sometimes comes with age and experience and being a little more confident in what you know and what you don’t know. I would say that for anyone younger you shouldn’t be afraid of that; it’s more on the delivery than the message.” — Kimberly Williams-Czopek
“The delivery is huge. You can deliver something and how it comes across is either going to engage your audience or it’s going to shut them down very quickly. Make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Make sure everyone feels they are truly a participant in the discussion.” — MaryBeth Ostasz
Another inspiring Women in Tech ERG event: LPGA Golf Pro Morgan Pressel Meets with Perficient’s Women in Technology Group
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