By Sherry M. Adler, freelance writer
Do you think IT is a man’s domain? Think again. In fact, think like Anne Bell and let your passion guide your career. She joined Xerox 36 years ago. Then and now, technology was buzzing. The developments inspired her. Today she wants to inspire women to follow suit.
Q. You’ve been quoted as saying, ‘I love technology.’ Why is that?
A. Technology always changes. It’s fascinating, challenging and hard to keep up with what goes on in the field. That pushes us to learn continuously and apply innovative thinking to tackle today’s challenges. My love of technology has expanded based on my experience here at Xerox, and the journey the company has been on taught me that technology is only the starting point. It’s critical to apply new technology both strategically and effectively. Create a strategy, along with a well-planned roadmap and execute. Recruit people with passion and move the company forward.
Q. Did you always want to be in the technology field?
A. I found my way by accident! My high school guidance counselor suggested the computer field because I did well in math and science. As a student at the State University of New York in Alfred, I earned a two-year degree in data processing, then went to Xerox in 1978. That set me on a path. I went on to earn bachelors and masters degrees in business administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology. I grew with Xerox. Its vision, leadership and talent ignited my interest in technology in a business setting.
Q. What are two highlights of your career in IT?
A. (1) Times were trying for Xerox in the 1980’s, when patents for flagship products expired and competitors rushed in. We fought back by driving process improvements through “Leadership Through Quality.” Rallying around this program turned the company around and earned us the prestigious Malcolm Baldridge Award. We all contributed. In IT, we consolidated applications for Order and Administrative processing, which enhanced productivity. (2) As Xerox expanded globally, our IT systems had to too. I had IT responsibility for our operations in Latin America. We delivered an Enterprise Resource Planning system, which tightened controls and standardized processes. In addition to spearheading this IT initiative, I learned from our extended Xerox family the importance of diversity and the value of cultural differences.
Q. Recently, an industry group named you ‘Technology Woman of the Year.’ What does it mean to you?
A. To me, the award is about giving recognition to all women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or, as we say, STEM. Since 2000, women have entered and made progress in the fields of medicine and law, but not in STEM. We need to build awareness of opportunities for women. Most of all, we need to be role models and reach out through our educational system to make a difference.
Q. Please cite one way you encourage women to enter the STEM.
A. In my community, my church partnered with a girls’ high school in Tanzania that concentrates on math and science. We have sent teachers from the Rochester area to the school, twelve women from Tanzania have studied at Nazareth College, then returned to leadership positions at the schools. Now, we have Rochester high school students corresponding with their new friends. We travel to Tanzania every two years. The results are gratifying.
Q. What career advice do you have for both men and women in technology?
A. Ursula Burns, Xerox CEO, says to ‘bring your whole self to your job every day.’ That’s the best advice for everyone. Use it as your north star to navigate your career. Work hard. Keep up with technology; it’s never going to be the same. Stay alert to opportunities and seek the ones that align with your strengths. Adjust to marketplace needs and try to anticipate them. Security is a key issue now. Learn about it. Contribute. And don’t hold back.
Anne Bell is vice president, Enterprise & Corporate Applications in Xerox Information Management, She manages the team accountable for the systems that run the corporate environment – including Finance, Employee Communications, Sales Management, HR, Procurement and Business Intelligence. Their task is to integrate data and processes across the enterprise. It’s a Big Mission. And she Loves Her Work!