Did you know that Orchestry is a primarily female-led organization? 2 out of 3 of our Co-Founders are women, including our Chief Technology Officer Sarah Wilson, and Chief Operating Officer Denise Ching.
3 out of 4 of Orchestry’s Directors are women. Lastly, our Quality Assurance Manager (a role that is often overlooked) is also a woman. This is highly unusual for a tech company in the M365 space, but our practices of hiring women for technical roles, are by no means intentional.
Orchestry’s potential team member prerequisite is being “the best in the world” and “having a burning desire to make a difference” (you’ll see those exact words in every job posting by Orchestry). It so happens that the best people for the above-mentioned roles with that burning desire to make a difference, were all women.
To celebrate International Women’s Day we set out to interview some female members of the Orchestry team and ask them some burning questions.
Every woman we interviewed agreed that pursuing a status of a “Woman in Technology” was not about breaking the boundaries of an industry commonly seen as male-dominated. Instead, each and every one of them was simply passionate about technology and strived to become the best in their field. What they embrace the most is the balance that collaboration between male and female team members brings, as well as the mixture of approaches and perspectives. This balance is what makes Orchestry stronger every day.
Now, let’s take a dive and learn more about some of the incredible women of Orchestry.
Sarah Wilson – Orchestry's CTO
Sarah’s IT world origin story goes way back, and her dad plays a pivotal role in it. “When I was a kid, my dad was always tinkering and building computers. I was really into taking things apart and trying to figure out how they work. It was a perfect fit.” Sarah shared with us. Sarah’s dad, seeing her innate proclivity towards mechanics and computers nurtured it in every way, and in no time Sarah had built her very first computer from parts laying around her childhood home.
She continued on her path of technology into her early and late teens, and her first paying gigs (once an entrepreneur is always an entrepreneur) were building websites for local businesses in her small town. “Part of my sales pitch was teaching them what the internet was, and why they should even consider a website,” – Sarah spilled the secret sauce of her winning strategy.
After graduating, Sarah went to school for 3D animation fueled by a coveted dream of working at Pixar, but halfway through her last semester, she pivoted into web and new media. Although these were the days post .com bubble burst, she wasn’t discouraged, as that’s where her heart was leading her. She recalls “sitting in the animation lab, watching the students next door working on websites through the glass wall made me crave getting into the industry even more”.
Sarah feels constantly charged and challenged by the ever-changing and evolving nature of technology. “It holds my attention and it is never stale,” she says, “sometimes this ever-changing state can be exhausting, but most of the time I feel it’s liberating”. She sees technology as a set of tools and believes that what really makes technology outstanding is the creators’ interpretation, experience, and creativity. And she takes on that challenge with “Ostinato Rigore” (Leonardo da Vinci’s motto which translates as “stubborn rigor” or “tenacious application”).
Sarah shared that her path toward success as a woman in technology hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “I’ve encountered difficulties in making my voice heard and being able to push myself beyond the confines of my comfort zone to assert myself in professional settings. Oftentimes, I experienced a sense of exclusion, under-recognition, or even avoidance”. Through it all, Sarah remained resilient and made a point of addressing the challenges of being a woman in the workplace. She sought out and built strong relationships with supportive colleagues and mentors who guided and advocated for her, and helped her develop her strong voice, which she now uses to encourage other women, paving the way for greater gender equity and inclusivity in the workplace.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Sarah plans to spend time with her partner and daughter. There may even be a special dinner prepared to her daughter’s liking in the cards!
Denise Ching – Orchestry's COO
Denise started in IT when she was only 21! She was still attending a university part-time and was enrolled in a marketing program, as the world of advertising looked alluring to her back in her teenage years. Through a very improbable, yet truly fortunate turn of events, she found herself presented with an account management opportunity in a tech product company. “I kind of fell into technology, and never left,” Denise recalls.
Turns out, Denise hates paper. Her hostility towards paper stems from one of her earlier jobs as a Co-Op student, where she was responsible for filing documents. “it completely crushed my soul,” she says, “seeing rows and rows of filing cabinets and knowing that’s the only place where the information within those documents is represented and stored, drove me nuts”.
Her first encounter with SharePoint was a ticket issue tracking list she was presented with (does that story sound familiar?). “That is so cool,” she thought, “anyone without knowing any code, can go into SharePoint and start building these lists”. Needless to say, SharePoint was everything she dreamed of and more, as it offered a digital and reliable alternative to paper.
As a natural progression to eradicate paper, many of the projects in Denise’s early SharePoint days revolved around optimizing business processes, turning them from manual and paper-reliant into modern, automated, replicable, and digital. She’d completed a few courses and received certifications in business process modeling and design and Business Analysis as that became her passion.
What Denise appreciates about technology is how nimble and flexible it is. “Not having to wait for a manual process to catch up, you’re able to iterate quickly with technology and adapt to the changing landscape of your business. You can react to things that don’t work,” she says. Orchestry is not the first, but a SECOND tech company Denise co-founded in the Microsoft 365 space. Any startup co-founder knows how much passion, perseverance, and dedication it takes to get a successful business off the ground and soaring. But one ingredient that cannot be overlooked is true love for the space you’re in, and clearly, Denise’s love for technology has no limits.
To celebrate International Women’s Day Denise plans to “do what we want” with her daughter Victoria, as well as partake in a full-on dance party (chocolate will also be present in abundance!).
Rayna O'Neil – Orchestry's Director of Partner Enablement & Sales
Rayna has always been in love with technology. Playing SimCity on her home computer back in 1989 was her favorite pastime. Her first SaaS company job goes back to 2004 with the company called Info-Tech Research Group. “This job allowed me to experience all facets of technology,” Rayna said, “and the three things we always focused on were People, Process, and Technology. In that order”. She wholeheartedly believes technology is supposed to support processes and people, and should never take center stage.
Although Rayna never passes an opportunity to convince us that she’s not as technologically advanced as some other members of our team, or deeply gifted in coding, we disregard those attempts each time, as we know where Rayna’s superpowers lie. She digs deep to understand the problem that human beings are experiencing in their work, evaluates the impacts of these problems on the organization they are serving, and then looks for ways to optimize the process and get them out of the sticky situation they are in with the help of technology. “I’m not afraid of technology, I embrace it wholeheartedly, but I bring in a different perspective in terms of what problems it solves, how it makes life a little more beautiful. It’s soul-sucking to do redundant tasks that bring no joy, so if there is a way for a technology software to support removing the soul-suck, it makes me very excited,” Rayna says…“Human beings are so imaginative and creative, so if we release them from the tedium of these repetitive redundant tasks, who knows what they can achieve?”. Rayna has become Orchestry’s in-house litmus paper – she has a knack for identifying gaps in user experience on the fly and often suggests ideas that make our platform accessible to any user with any level of tech background, skill, or knowledge.
“Being a woman in sales, especially in a SaaS company is very unusual, I’ve always been one of the few ladies at the table, but working at Orchestry is super exciting, as I’m surrounded by such talented women.”
For International Women’s Day Rayna plans to get together with her daughter, who will be wrapping up her midterms for her second-to-last year of the engineering program (yet another woman, ready to enter the world of technology!), to celebrate each other’s success!
Joy Apple – Orchestry's Director of Partner & Customer Success
Joy has been in technology for over 15 years. Sharing her story of how she got into technology, Joy referred to herself as a “self-taught computer nerd” in her teenage years. Joy’s father, who was an Aerospace Engineer was the impetus behind Joy’s desire to immerse herself in technology. “I would watch him work with tools and tech, and get to go to his office, where I would be completely mesmerized by the green screens of the computers,” says Joy.
What not many people know is that Joy actually went to college on Drama and Theater Scholarship – not at all related to technology, but we are willing to bet the grand success of her “Joy of SharePoint” webinar and social media presence has something to do with her incredible ability to deliver often very technical material in such an invigorating way.
Before committing to “happily ever after” with technology, Joy spent some time working in finance, and her technology-oriented mind came in very handy there as well. “One of the things I loved doing when I worked in the financial industry was helping people and specifically helping them solve problems. I was always happy to dig into it, and reverse-engineer the issue”. Many of Orchestry’s Customers and Partners get to reap the benefits of this trait, as Joy relentlessly digs into every support ticket and uncovers the not-so-obvious ways in which users can leverage the Orchestry platform to solve their day-to-day challenges.
Joy’s first escapade with SharePoint which set off a domino effect, plunging her into the Microsoft SharePoint world, was her involvement in the copy-editing of the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant. “I remember reading through it and thinking this is interesting… the concepts behind SharePoint are revolutionary,” says Joy. Her payment for the job was an opportunity to attend various training courses (which she, of course, gladly took advantage of), and, years later she became one of the most prominent experts and a recognized 2X Microsoft MVP.
Joy plans to celebrate International Women’s day with a nice martini in hand, toasting to the future, as women make strides in the world of technology and STEM, striving for more representation on the playing field.
Lily Zhang – Orchestry's Quality Assurance Manager
Lily joined the technology world 15 years ago. “I didn’t choose my major when I went to university,” Lily says, “my sister helped me make the decision. I had no idea what I wanted to do”. Lily’s sister who was living in Shanghai at the time, convinced her (and we send our appreciation her way!) that technology is the future. Universities in China are not as flexible in allowing major switching, so Lily had to stick it out to the end, and we could not be happier that she did.
Although Lily finished her studies with a degree in computer science, she was never a fan of coding. Her first jobs out of university were not at all related to technology, until one day when an opportunity to work abroad for a tech company as a Junior Tester presented itself. “Ok, I’ll try it out, why not” Lily recalls thinking. “Only after a few months I realized that I really love it, and also, I am REALLY good at it!” Lily says, “ultimately, everything I learned in school really helped me, although I am not doing the coding.”
What Lily loves about working in QA is the fact that day in and day out she gets to talk to machines. “I’m not very good at talking to people”, she says, “machines, on the other hand, never complain (at least not, in the same way, people do) and are very predictable”. She finds that the challenge and the excitement of having to know every moving part of the software to be great at QA and to be able to support every other department and team member are extremely rewarding.
Lily wishes that Quality Assurance would gain more recognition as an essential role in technology companies. “Many young people don’t want to get into QA and even if they do, their ultimate goal is to become a developer, because it’s an easy door to get into,” she says, “but for any tech company I see a lot of value that QA brings”. So if you are reading this blog, and considering a career in QA, consider this a mark of approval from our very own incredible QA talent.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Lily plans to prepare for the upcoming product release, which will take place the very next day, on March 9th!
Valerie Sergienko – Orchestry's Director of Product Marketing
Valerie’s journey toward technology started way back when she was growing up in a small town. The Sergienko household was the very first one in the entire town to acquire a personal home computer. Naturally, her brother immediately got into coding and together they programmed their first game on BASIC. They are to this day convinced that it was the predecessor of a famous game Angry Birds, as the premise of their game was very similar – 2 opponents would throw snowballs at each other, first precisely calculating the exact angle and strength at which throw them.
Valerie is extremely passionate about the ability of people to empathize with common problems experienced day-to-day, to then use technology to develop elegant, intuitive, and powerful solutions. “My entire household runs on technology,” Valerie says, “everything from my work and life calendars, the apps that make my life easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable, to technology I use each and every day as a modern marketer”.
What she loves the most about working in technology is the constant challenge. “Technology world is ever-evolving, it changes by the minute, so it keeps you on your toes. You have to stay ahead of the curve, performing a balancing act on the bleeding edge, and that excitement, thrill, and the opportunity to grow, constantly, is what I love the most”.
Originating from Eastern Europe, where International Women’s day is highly regarded and aggressively celebrated, Valerie plans to buy spring flowers (though they are hard to come by in the midst of Calgary’s wintery spring), and spend the evening eating chocolate with her daughter.
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