Oracle CEO Safra Catz had a couple of different answers to a question posed by BYU chemical engineering student Halle Murray: “What are important qualities to be successful?”
“The most important quality is courage,” Catz responded Friday at the Women Tech Council’s 10th annual awards program, which packed the Grand America Hotel’s Grand Ballroom with hundreds of people interested in the thoughts of the woman who help guide the computer-software giant.
“Courage is about doing something new,” she elaborated during a question-and-answer session with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “A lot of people are comfortable doing things the old way — and they will constantly fight you. You have to have the courage of your convictions to just go for it.”
At the same time, she added, be flexible. It’s paramount to “understand that continuing to do what made you successful in the past may not be where your future is.”
That happened at Oracle, Catz said, when the high-tech company started moving its database technology and other software systems into the cloud — no easy task for an operation with 140,000 employees, customers in 165 countries and $40 billion in annual revenue.
“We had to change Oracle entirely by rewiring all our products for the cloud and changing ourselves while we were at it,” she said. “I liken it to changing a tire [on your car] while you’re going 65 on the freeway — or, in this state, 75.”
The technology industry’s top challenge, Catz said, is “getting the right talent. With all of our [developing] technology, everything is a tech company. Taxies are tech companies now with Uber and Lyft. Hotels are tech companies with Airbnb.”
“We need to make sure we have the right people to bring the rest of society along with us so they can participate in the incredible improvements in productivity and standard of living that come from having tech in our lives,” she added. “As some jobs become unnecessary, we have to bring society along and retrain people to do the newer, better jobs of the future.”
It’s also imperative, Catz said, to get more women involved. “Tech is about solving problems people don’t realize they have yet. To solve problems, you don’t want to exclude half of your group.”
To involve more young women, Oracle has sculpted class offerings at a new high school it established on its main campus in Redwood City, Calif. (The company has about 1,000 Utah employees at offices in Sandy and West Jordan).
“We wrote a curriculum that brought fashion and computing together in a class called wearables. It unleashed so much creativity,” Catz said.
Women Tech Council President Cydni Tetro said Utah’s tech industry has a fairly decent record in hiring women, but more can be done.
She said 24 percent of Utah’s technology workers are women, less than the national average of 28 percent. Leadership positions are even rarer — less than 5 percent in Utah, compared to 11 percent nationally. And nearly 40 percent of women who have tech jobs in Utah now say they are looking out of state for their next position.
To retain more female employees, Tetro suggested that Utah firms look at six-month paid maternity leave, having a woman on every panel interviewing candidates for open positions and making sure every vacant job has a woman among the candidates.
The Women Tech Council presented awards Friday to seven women, from among 20 finalists, for shaping Utah’s technology industry. The winners were:
Ashley Dreier • HealthEquity’s chief information and technology officer.
Mariah Hay • Pluralsight’s vice president of product.
Michelle Denise Jackson • Associate fellow in metallurgy at Orbital ATK.
Rachel Hofstetter • Chief marketing officer at Chatbooks.
Lindsey Kneuven • Pluralsight’s head of social impact.
Dasha Kadulova • Executive director of IT security for USANA.
Tammy Platero • Weber State University computer science major.
Other finalists were:
Alison Lutjemeier • Head of global customer success programs at Adobe.
Amy Knapp • O.C. Tanner’s vice president of information security and service delivery.
Debi Mofford • Workers Compensation Fund Insurance chief information officer.
Holly Rimmasch • Health Catalyst’s chief clinical officer.
Jamie Morningstar • Principal products manager at Qualtrics.
Kira Booth • Product engineering leader at Qualtrics.
Laura Butler • Workfront’s senior vice president of people and culture.
Sandra Hemmert • A Granite School District career and technical education specialist.
Sharon Kitzman • General manager of Dealertrack DMS.
Trina Limpert • EBay’s senior manager of IT strategy and performance.
Yolanda Chong • Recursion Pharmaceutical’s vice president of innovative and enabling biology.
Michelle Maxwell • Utah State University environmental science major.
Vanessa Chambers • Utah State University physics major.