Women in Technology: Meet Bridgette Arthur-Mensah
We sat with Bridgette Arthur-Mensah, a leader in technology and engineering operations.
After studying electrical engineering at Rutgers and Columbia University, Bridgette started her professional career in hardware and then transitioned to software thanks to an unexpected opportunity. Now, she provides advisory services helping clients enhance user experiences and growth through business agility, tech innovation, and cost management for a variety of industries.
Arthur-Mensah also serves as the Vice President of the New York Chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association and volunteers at the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation.
We spoke with Bridgette about trends in technology and how women fit into this industry. Here are the highlights of that exchange!
Describe the kind of work you are doing today.
Today I really think of my work as being a strategic leader and hands-on problem solver, and I focus on two things: the execution and the economics of technology.
For execution, I help organizations optimize and manage their technology investment. I look at the most optimal way to strategize, plan, and deliver services or products to customers and users. I make sure we are forward-thinking in how we are executing and being agile.
For economics, these days I’m focusing on cost control. I help organizations maximize economies of scale, think about how contracts are structured, and maximize purchasing power. The current economy makes it important to know how to use what you have and make money go further. For example, we might examine whether a business is collecting tech debt without first understanding which features are actually in use. It takes time and money to manage that tech debt, and I help companies scrutinize those decisions.
How did you get started in technology?
I grew up in Ghana West Africa, and in secondary school, I chose STEM as my focus area by the process of elimination. I didn’t love literature and liberal arts and I didn’t love biology (although my father would have loved for me to have been a doctor!) So, I focused on physics, engineering, and math. I enjoyed the challenge. I like the idea that you can build something, and it comes alive.
That early education put me on a path that led me to the US where I got my electrical engineering degrees.
I started in hardware, working in engineering at IBM. It’s amazing how much computing power you can get from little atoms, and how atoms power everything that goes on in the software layer.
After spending 12 years working with semiconductors, I was contacted about a job that would pull me from hardware into software, and I went for it. The rest is history.
How did mentors and leadership factor into your success?
A good mentor can help you avoid certain pitfalls and do something better with some advice. I wish I had connected with mentors earlier in my career because mentorship is great. If I were to do it again – and the advice I give my children is – find good mentors and keep them. Whether you are assigned to them or you build the relationships yourself, mentors are people that you can call for help when you are in tough situations.
Mentorship has helped me be intentional about my career, so I like to give back to my peers and those who are coming up in this industry.
How can we improve tech for women?
That’s a big question and we need more than one solution to make tech better for women. I will borrow from one of my role models, Indra Nooyi. In her book, My Life In Full, she showed that keeping women in business is a good economic decision. Similarly, keeping women in tech is good for the economy and the industry.
So how do we keep women in tech? Here are two urgent needs:
First, women are often responsible for caregiving, whether it is their parents, their children, or both. So, companies need to help women have a balance between home life and work life. Many companies are moving in the right direction, expanding things like maternal and paternal leave from six weeks to six months. Covid also de-stigmatized working from home, which helped in some ways. So, make the environment such that women can embrace it. Can you have company social events during the work day instead of after-hours? Can you give more notice before a multi-day offsite? If you make it hard for women to participate, you lose the benefit of their perspectives and experience.
The second urgent need is that leaders must be intentional about including women in strategic initiatives. Create opportunities for women to showcase their talent and advance their careers. This may mean that people in leadership positions need to address their unconscious biases. When our industry is infected with unconscious bias, it’s difficult for women to get equal opportunities. Leaders need to put an unconscious bias in check and commit to growing woman leaders by intentionally putting women in roles that allow them to stretch and show what they can bring to the table.
Remember that this is just as good for the bottom line as it is for women because keeping women in tech is good for tech.
What is one thing that you wish more people knew about supporting women in technology?
I wish more people would open their eyes to a fresh idea of what a leader could look, sound, and act like. There are differences between female and male leadership, and many women don’t fit outdated notions about what makes a successful leader. Letting go of those preconceptions can open doors.
Also, start young. I love that more organizations are marketing STEM to young girls now. We need to show girls that STEM is fun and impactful and that if they work in STEM, they can build products that change the way we live for good. We want girls to use their extraordinary talents in STEM to shape this world now and in the future.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with anyone reading?
First, tech is becoming a basic language and it’s necessary for us to be versed in it to make sure that it is serving us well. Even jobs that aren’t considered technical now require a level of tech literacy, from designing to legal services to medicine. When you open yourself up to knowing what’s new and understanding it, you open yourself up to more opportunities and ways to apply yourself.
Second, if you are a woman in technology, it might seem like the future is bleak right now because of the recent economic environment. But remember that this is a cyclical industry. Don’t let the downturn right now dampen your desire to do more, or grow more, or find new things to do in technology. Your career path might have a slower start than you envisioned, but your ideas and capabilities are needed in technology and business.
My advice is to keep swimming. Network. Please don’t leave the workforce. Keep contributing. Keep at it.
What trends are you seeing in technology?
First, AI is changing productivity, and even managing to be somewhat accurate. The next trend will be that AI will be trained to improve its performance for less mainstream uses and audiences. For example, AI voice recognition had been trained to understand the tonation of dominant demographics, and we must expand the training of these AI models to cover minority cases. Broadening the datasets used in training could help to improve accuracy.
And speaking of AI, we also need to be thoughtful about how to apply strategy to AI deployments. It’s a good tool, and people are excited. Businesses need to think about how it helps differentiate their value prop with accuracy, of course.
Second, businesses are scrutinizing the cost and economics of technology. For the past few years, there has been an insatiable appetite for technology and gadgets, especially in the health tech space. Investors are slowing down to question the economic value of these technologies and what it takes to keep them out there.
Third, globalization is changing cybersecurity. People want a seamless interconnected experience as we move from one tech to another, so we are sharing data and it is being used in ever-expanding ways. Business needs to care about cybersecurity if they want to operate in countries with strict security rules (including but not limited to most of Europe and the US). And if your brand is going to depend on customer trust, it takes just one major breach for customers to go to the next supplier. And one breach could also result in the loss of future opportunities and supplier considerations. Businesses are watching security more closely than ever for these reasons.
What tech does the world need now more than ever?
The number of climate change-related natural disasters and the extent of them are alarming. My greatest hope is that technology can help solve our global environmental issue. It’s the most important issue in our time.
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