Stories from the WIT Trenches: Marcy Kellar

[This is the fifth in a series of posts exploring the personal stories of real women in technology. Every woman in tech overcame at the very least statistical odds to be here; this blog series aims to find out why, and what they found along the way. If you’ve gone to any SharePoint conferences in the past few years, you may have met-and had your jumpshot taken by-Marcy Kellar. A bubbly usability-focused consultant, Marcy is a passionate and supportive member of the SharePoint community at large. Check out her SharePoint blog here, and her event photography portfolio here. And if reading her story inspires you to share yours, please feel free to email me.]

Hello.  I’m Marcy Kellar. I own my own boutique consultancy that focuses on solution strategy and user experience design.  I am a consultant who goes by whichever title is appropriate at the time.  I’m a solution strategist, solution architect, user experience architect, user interface designer, creative director, branding specialist, business analyst.  Basically, I solve problems using user-centered design methods.  My primary focus is on SharePoint but I also engage in early strategy envisioning and user experience design while its platform agnostic.

1)       Can you take us back to your “eureka!” moment–a particular instance or event that got you interested in technology?

I was working at Roche Diagnostics as a project management specialist in R&D.  I was asked to surface text information from a dataset manually e.g. If X = Y and Y=P, then what is X+P.   That is when I discovered relational databases.  Ah, the many-to-many relationship – it was my eureka moment.  I started seeing everything as a UML diagram; I started building and rebuilding databases to best optimize them; I began hanging out in the IT building cornering people to chat about when an attribute has become an entitity. I’d say it was when I morphed from a dork to a geek.

2)       Growing up, did you have any preconceived perceptions of the tech world and the kinds of people who lived in it?

I did not understand my computer.  I thought tech people were evil geniuses whose sole purpose was to make me feel stupid.

3)       When did you first consider a career in technology? What did you envision doing?

I first considered a career in technology in 2006. I didn’t really know what I was doing and I hacked my way through designing a SharePoint 2003 Portal, and fully designed and architected it the way I wanted despite the limitations of that version.  A few of the IT managers at Roche convinced me that the quality of the solutions I was building was far better than I realized. One of those managers left for a career in consulting and recruited me to join him.

I came from R&D and was trained in process improvements, design control and the software development lifecycle process.  I had a knack for understanding user needs and mapping them back to business strategy and technology features (Many-to-many relationships and logic).  I envisioned a career as either a consultant or a Future Technologies / R&D researcher.

4)       Did you experience any personal or systemic setbacks at any point of your academic or professional career?

Yes.  I’ve overcome a lot of challenges.  I’ve learned to seek and keep a mentor, fail fast, be mindful of lessons learned and tell my stories to others.  Making sure you have a strong support group is the best way to proactively manage setbacks. I earned my stripes and I’m proud of them.

5)       You seem to have a creative, heavily visual background—what advantage, if any, has this given you in your work with SharePoint? 

I use visual design to communicate as often as possible throughout a project lifecycle.  From sales to the closing presentation.   It helps overcome language and vocabulary barriers.  Communicating anything visually has greater impact especially when implemented and guided by design principles and theory.

6)       Whom do you look at as mentors and/or sources of inspiration in your field?

  • Kristina Halvorson (b | t) – She had a novel idea that content mattered.  She wrote a book on it.  She’s changing the world.  She uses social media to drive her cause and the relationships she has nurtured is fantastic.
  • Laura Rogers (b | t) – I never told her this so she may be surprised.  She blogs regularly, shares what she learns, promotes her peers, utilizes novel solutions and approaches. Her passion for what she does is apparent and she champions the end user.  I think that’s fantastic.  I was so proud of her earning the Microsoft MVP status.

7)       How has your participation in both the on- and offline SharePoint communities changed the way you look at and work with SharePoint? 

It helped me realize that we are all searching for answers all the time–consultants, the business, the corporate world. That gave me insight into myself.  We can’t know everything all the time.  Utilizing the community for answers, support, and even job opportunities is important.

8)       Why do you think the rate of attrition for women in IT is higher than that of women in other tech fields?

Women generally have the role of caretaker of children. I’m not sure about the statistics.  This is a hard industry to be in as a parent.  Does the IT industry as a whole offer benefits to those that have that role?   I used to be a Registered Nurse, in a pre-dominantly female field. The health-care industry is much more sympathetic to child-care as a whole.

I’ve also seen women and men grouped into different categories, much like in high school sports like swimming and track. I’ve heard men that I admire qualify positive statements about female developers and architects.  “She’s the best female architect I’ve worked with” or “I only follow one female ASP.net developer on twitter.” You can be successful in your field but only after being separated by gender.

9)       Do you have any suggestions for how to get more girls interested in computers and computer science? Is this important to you?

My cause right now is to get IT to understand User Centered Design.  I do have an interest but haven’t thought about it much.

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