Learning from Colleagues: How Collaboration Increases Workplace Satisfaction

Thursday, 3. April 2014

What do you enjoy most about your job?

During a recent MCWT Career Panel event at Oakland University, I was asked this very question. Without any hesitation, I said, “the people.” However, the fact that I didn’t even need to think about my response surprised me and made me consider the exact reasons why I derive job satisfaction from my colleagues.

Emulate…or Not to Emulate

Now don’t get me wrong. We all, at times, experience coworkers that make our lives more difficult.  Yet even those situations can help us develop our leadership skills and assess our own opportunities for improvement.  Take note of how a person may effectively handle a situation.  We can learn a lot by observing those people whose behaviors we want to emulate.  Conversely, when those around us exhibit behaviors that are not appropriate, we can take the opportunity to think about whether we also exhibit those behaviors and how to avoid them in the future.

More Heads are Better than One

Throughout my career, I’ve found that after drafting some initial thoughts, there is tremendous value in pulling together a few coworkers to see if my thought process is easily understood.  The end result is always better than the initial draft.  Not only do I achieve a better outcome, I find that my colleagues appreciate the opportunity to share their insights.


Recently, we completed one of the most difficult projects that I’ve ever encountered in my career.  But we went in with a “can do” attitude, and through sheer willpower and effort, we achieved the end result.  By showing our commitment and engaging others, we create an atmosphere of dedication that feeds on itself.  It’s truly energizing.

Global perspective

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit my colleagues in Europe and Asia.  As we worked through our language and cultural differences, it became apparent that we are more the same than we are different. There is that same internal drive to achieve results and assist each other in being successful.  By embracing the unique perspectives that we all bring to the table, we are able to have a much broader view.

Appreciating the differences and value of our colleagues makes the workday all the more enjoyable to me.  What do you enjoy most about your job? I’d love to hear what makes your work experience rewarding. 


Paulette-OzgaPaulette Ozga is responsible for the Human Resources, Payroll, and Environmental Health & Safety services in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) organization at Chrysler LLC.  She serves on the Advisory board for MCWT.

Top Five Reasons Everyone Should Start a Blog

Monday, 3. March 2014

My name is Jackie, and by day, I am an IT professional with over 25 years of experience in mainframe systems and web architecture.  In the evenings, I change hats, update and run my website, www.FREEISMYLIFE.com, where I write about the things that interest me most – mobile technology, Metro Detroit, and getting the best deals on everything.

This year will mark seven years since I started my blog. And as I look back over my experiences, I would have to say that from my first post back in 2007 to my 4000th post this month, blogging has been a very rewarding experience that I am glad I had the courage to try.

When I think about what I have most enjoyed about being a blogger, or as the  now politically correct title of “Social Influencer,”  I came up with five reasons why starting a blog is a good thing.

1.  Getting Your Voice Heard.  I love expressing my opinion on products and services I feel Metro Detroiters should be buying and how technology can be used to save everyone both money and time.  Having a blog has allowed me to have a real voice in positively shaping how people view living in Metro Detroit and how people can use technology to make their lives better.

2. Showcasing Your Talent.  Running a blog is in many ways a smaller version of running a newspaper or print publication.  I have had to learn to write in an organized manner, publish content on a schedule that people find interesting, market my posts using social media to increase my readership, and pitch companies to earn money.  My blog is in many ways my living resume and a great way to showcase my talents to the world on a daily basis.

3. Becoming a (Semi) Celebrity.  When I started my blog, I had no expectations outside of my posts being read by my frugal friends and family.  But as my number of posts grew into the thousands, I somewhere along the way became viewed as a local expert on shopping, technology, and blogging – fancy that!  It was kind of strange the first time an organization approached me about doing a speech – and offered to pay me for it!  And when I was approached about being featured on the local news, I had to laugh that my blog had brought me semi-celebrity status.

4. Being a Member of the Media.  When most people think of the media, the traditional response would be to think of TV and newspaper reporters and radio personalities.  But with the spread of social media, now bloggers are being viewed as being just as important as the traditional media.  My blog has garnered me invitations to cover the same media events that traditional media attend.

5. Earning a Side Income.  Once my blog built up a sizable following, I was able to find companies that were willing to sponsor posts on my blog, which allows me to make money on some of my content.  While the income will never replace my day job pay, it is still nice to be able to make money from my side hobby.  After all, most hobbies cost people money, not the other way around.

Those are just the top five reasons that I think starting a blog is a good thing.  But I could go on and list even more great opportunities that blogging can bring.  If you want to learn more about starting a blog, join me as I speak on the topic “Blogging Your Passion” at the Michigan Council of Women in Technology  ConnectNet Lunch and Learn Webinar on Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 11 a.m.   Not only will I be speaking about blogging, I will also be doing a giveaway on Twitter. Just follow the hashtag #MCWTech on Twitter to join in the fun.


Jackie_HarperJackie Harper is an IT professional during the day and by night, the creator and editor of the website FREE IS MY LIFE (www.freeismylife.com), a lifestyle and frugal living blog.  Jackie loves to help her readers to spend their money wisely by informing them about deals, discounts and FREE items and events in Metro Detroit and beyond.  Now in its seventh year, FREEISMYLIFE.com readership has grown to over 90,000+ readers by Jackie using social media to connect with the frugal and the cash-strapped on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.  Jackie has been featured on WDIV Local 4 News, the Oakland Press and in Real Detroit Weekly as a Hot Blogger to follow.

Robotics Team Puts the Pedal to the Metal

Monday, 17. February 2014

Robotics is a fun and effective way to drive home STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. As an extracurricular activity, it gives youth an opportunity to solve problems and work together to reach a common goal.

I enjoy teaching, mentoring and watching girls gain a passion for the technology field each time they meet to make machinery come alive. And that’s exactly what our 2013-2014 Robofest Robotics team from Our Lady of the Lakes High School in Waterford, Mich. is doing. Although we’re a smaller school, we’ve been involved in the Lawrence Technological University Robofest since 2001.

This year, a group of three students teamed up to compete—including a senior who’s been a member of our Robofest team since the sixth grade.  This very experience has helped her carve out a career path that includes studying computer science and engineering at college. She’s joined by two technology-oriented sisters—one sophomore and one in seventh grade.

Thanks to the MCWT Robofest grant, we purchased parts for our robot and paid our entry fee for the Robofest Game competition in March. We’ll be programming in RobotC, a version of C++ geared for our Lego Mindstorm NXT robot. The real value of this support, however, is in inspiring the next generation of future tech professionals and demonstrating just how fun STEM can be through this hands-on, collaborative activity.

MCWT helped enable us to provide this opportunity for our students and it’s one that will stay with them long after the final competition.


Cottrell, MaryMary Cottrell is the High School Robotics Robofest coach at Our Lady of the Lakes High School – Team 133.  She has coached the high school and middle school Robofest robotics teams since 2002.  She is also the technology coordinator  and has taught computer classes for middle school and high school since 2001.   She has a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and prior to changing careers to the educational world, she worked as a systems analyst and programmer at Electronic Data Systems (EDS) for 12 years and Unisys/Burroughs for three years.

Mentoring – a Win-Win Situation!

Monday, 27. January 2014

Mentoring is a great opportunity for a few reasons. Studies have shown that people with mentors have a higher success rate of moving up the ladder. It gives you an opportunity to take action on achieving your goals. The mentor can help provide an unbiased view, give suggestions for conflict resolution, be a sounding board for ideas, and much more.

Last year I was involved in a year-long mentorship program thru Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT). It matched up mentees with a mentor who was at a more senior level. The ultimate goal was to help improve the mentee’s personal and professional lives. I’d listen to monthly webinars related to specific topics, complete short assignments related to that month’s topic, participate in a seminar and attend a conference. Plus, I was given the chance to take the role of project manager for the Pay-It-Forward project. (Each mentee was responsible for a portion of coordinating/executing an event from start to finish.) I got matched with an awesome mentor and we met once a month for a one-hour dinner. Overall, I found the experience to be very rewarding.

This year, I felt it was important for me to return the favor to someone else. So I signed up as a mentor. It will be an interesting experience, since it’s a bit of a role reversal. However, I’m up to the challenge and eager to help another person reach their goals.

I encourage you to find someone to mentor you. Or to consider being a mentor. Mentors don’t necessarily have to be people in your organization. There are so many alums you can reach out to using LinkedIn. Think out of the box and get creative. It can be something as informal as meeting for a cup of coffee in the morning once a month. Or more formal, by finding a professional group that offers a structured program. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for both parties!

Have you been a mentor or mentee before?  What was your experience like?


knapik jessicaJessica has a BS in management information systems from Oakland University and a MSM with a specialization in marketing from Walsh College. She specializes in querying/reporting, testing, web page/Portal and social media management, and event planning at Walsh College. She also volunteers for the MCWT communications team.

Originally published at http://www.walshcollege.edu/mentoring.
Shared with permission.


A Sneak Peek of MCWT in 2014

Thursday, 16. January 2014

As much as 2013 was a success thanks to our members, supporters and volunteers, 2014 is gearing up to be another solid year full of expanded programming and new outreach efforts. Here’s a sneak peek as to what’s to come in the months ahead.

Thanks to a $15,000 grant from Chrysler Group, LLC, MCWT will offer five new scholarships to college students, in addition to our annual scholarship allocation.

MCWT is working hard to identify young women for internships with our partner companies this summer. We’re also expanding our Camp Infinity program to Livingston County; the first of several additional locations we’re exploring.

In March, we will be co-hosting more than 300 girls in grades 4-12 for a “Girls are IT!” event with University of Michigan, Dearborn, University of Detroit, Mercy, and Lawrence Technological University. This one-day event will provide hands-on experiences to girls to get them excited about IT careers and educations.

We are also planning several field trips for girls in high school programs and the highlight of these field trips will be another visit by Olympic winners and hopefuls in late February/early March. Our collaboration with ITEC in Lansing is enabling us to replicate our GET-IT clubs at the middle school level. The hope is to roll out a similar program in SE Michigan next fall.

Programming for members will again include In-Transition Workshops and an Executive Technology Leadership event. Our ConnectNet suite of webinars, social events and educational forums continues to reach hundreds of men and women each year. And our annual fundraisers and member events help bring IT thought leaders together to learn from each other in support of our mission.

With the strong support of our more than 300 active volunteers and 55+ partner organizations, MCWT is fulfilling its mission of inspiring and growing women in technology. I look forward to reaching more girls, their parents, teachers and influencers to also help Michigan become the No. 1 state for women in IT! We look forward to your help and support.


Janette_PhillipsJanette Phillips has been the executive director of MCWT since April 2011. Prior to that, she spent 16 years in the tech industry working for Ameritech/AT&T in sales of telecommunications and networks to major accounts, including General Motors and EDS. Janette was the owner/operator of two medical clinics that provided physical therapy and pulmonary rehab to the communities of Sterling Heights and Livonia/Redford Township. She also serves as PTO co-president of Bloomfield Hills High School. 

A Reflection of MCWT in 2013

Friday, 10. January 2014

2013 was a great year for MCWT and Michigan’s IT industry. Both experienced growth. Thanks to our members – hundreds of women and men from all industries and points in their career lifecycle – and our dedicated volunteers, we’ve experienced the following successes.

  • Raised funds for MCWT programming: Through the sold-out Golf Classic and Signature Gala events, of which more than 800 people attended one or both, we raised money to enable our work on behalf of girls and young women to continue.
  • Hosted our first Executive Technology Leadership event: We brought together 500 IT executives to network and learn with the CIOs of General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler. The CIOs of State of Michigan, WalMart, Boeing, and IT execs from Cisco and IBM rounded out the event.
  • Strengthened our Mid Michigan presence: Through a member event hosted by CMS Energy and a Wine Tasting fundraiser, we’ve spread the word about MCWT’s mission. In its first year of participation in the high school girls’ website design competition, Mid Michigan MCWT saw one of its contestants make the finals. MCWT is teaming with ITEC of Lansing to provide programming to 100 at risk middle school girls in the Lansing Public Schools this winter, only possible from a generous grant from the Lansing Area United Way.
  • Hosted two US Rowing Olympians at Canton Public Library: Esther Lofgren and Natalie Wells spoke about what it takes to set and achieve goals and be wonderful role models for the 50 girls attending from our GET IT teams, Camp Infinity alumni, and other MCWT programs.
  • Launched our first In-Transition Workshop for nine motivated women: The curriculum was designed and taught by MCWT volunteer Cindy Swiantek, vice president of human resources of ANXeBusiness. The women had the strong support of coaches who were there for them every step of the way. Curriculum included resume revamping, elevator pitches, mock interviews, the importance of social media and networking and more. Many of these women obtained jobs during or just after the program ended! Way to go!
  • Inspired young women to consider IT: Awarded more than $50,000 in scholarships in 2013, hosted 85 girls at two Camp Infinity programs, sponsored seven all-girls robotics teams, three high school GET IT teams and more than 90 high school students with our web design competition. Our university outreach committee was revamped and we are touching all colleges and universities that offer four-year degrees in computers and IT.

In 2014, we plan to continue the momentum gained in 2013. We appreciate the continued support of the IT community to help us realize our mission of inspiring and growing women in IT.


Janette_PhillipsJanette Phillips has been the executive director of MCWT since April 2011. Prior to that, she spent 16 years in the tech industry working for Ameritech/AT&T in sales of telecommunications and networks to major accounts, including General Motors and EDS. Janette was the owner/operator of two medical clinics that provided physical therapy and pulmonary rehab to the communities of Sterling Heights and Livonia/Redford Township. She also serves as PTO co-president of Bloomfield Hills High School. 

A Decade of MCWT Volunteerism

Monday, 23. December 2013

By Kathleen Norton-Schock, MCWT marketing and communications team

“When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we may never see will benefit from our actions, even as we enjoy the gifts sent to us from a donor upstream.”   Dr. Maya Angelou

I have been a volunteer for MCWT for 10 years this month, having become active in December 2003.  In my first 18 months, I was just an occasional MCWT helper, balancing philanthropic volunteer work at HAVEN with a busy career at CA Technologies, helping my husband run his small business, supporting a large extended family, enjoying strong relationships with friends, having an active social life, and much more along with my MCWT activity.

But in late 2004, my enthusiasm for giving back to our technology circle to a larger degree was ignited by many meaningful discussions.  The first chats were with one of my closest colleagues (Sue Andrews, still at CA but no longer — sadly — in Michigan); then great interactions with a number of MCWT members/leaders who were stepping up to do even more (Tracy-Ann Palmer, Beth Vance, Cherri Musser, Jane Sydlowski, and Michelle Pallas particularly stand out in my mind); and then forming a friendship, which has deepened considerably over the last 9 years, with one of MCWT’s founders, the visionary Rosemary Bayer.  For me, it is always people that will inspire me and will come first.   While I am definitely and consistently an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs (and TJ means oriented to data, concepts and ideas), I think it is that dominant “E” (extroversion) that always wins out.   Ha!   But no matter why I got inspired to give more, I did.  We all have our various triggers, don’t we?

So from early 2005 through early 2010, there was very little about marketing and communications at MCWT and the MCWT Foundation in which I was uninvolved or did not lead.  With the help of the talented Becky Johnson and a team of people we recruited, we created a newer brand, fostered and improved our image, were instrumental in the launch of quite a few new Foundation and council initiatives and events (most of which continue to this day), and reached out through every imaginable communication/media outlet to get the MCWT word out to as many people as possible.  At the risk of being immodest, I know we did a stellar job with minimal resources.  And being volunteers, we tried to do it well, and still maintain balance in our lives.  (Although my ever-patient husband, the hyphenated Dale Norton-Schock, might dispute that last statement…LOL).

To this day, I am still involved, to a lesser degree, in the marketing/communications team now ably led and fostered by that same Becky Johnson (now Becky Price!), with whom I have forged another strong friendship over the years.  I am consistently awed by her, and other MCWT leaders, and the level of volunteer talent we keep attracting and utilizing to further our mission.

As the acclaimed and eloquent Maya Angelou has said, it is truly a PAY IT FORWARD process.  Upstream, someone inspired me, and made me think and grow in ways I could not have imagined.  Downstream, my efforts have helped countless girls and women enter schools or professions which will help them blossom;  helped our corporate sponsors/partners grow, through getting a more qualified pool of talent to contribute to their innovation and progress; and helped my adopted state of Michigan become an even more attractive place for technology-oriented talent to thrive.

I am so glad I took those first steps in 2003; and chose to really plunge in as a leader in late 2004.  The experience has enriched my life so much.  To me the next decade looks even brighter. With the strong MCWT infrastructure being forged, new energy coming from our executive director, Janette Phillips, and her team, and the consistent and growing ranks of amazing women in our membership and on our board,  I can envision more rapid growth, more girls and women being mentored and helped, and more women giving back.  It’s awesome, isn’t it?

Happy holidays! May this generous season inspire all of us to continuously be part of the vortex of positive giving and growth that is at the heart of MCWT.


KathleenNortonSchock - Color

Kathleen Norton-Schock is the co-founder and chief connection officer for ardentCause L3C, a woman-owned company dedicated to serving the nonprofit industry with technology solutions and services.  She has a 30-year career that spans full P&L management at several Fortune 1000 technology companies (Unisys and CA Technologies); the presidency of a medium-sized national contact center software company (Telecorp Products Inc.);  marketing and strategic planning consultancy stints (Onset Marketing, Arzika and Solidworks) and ownership of two other startup companies.  In her volunteer life, she also served for six years as vice president of     marketing/communications for MCWT and the MCWT Foundation.


Thoughts from the 8th Annual Website Design Competition

Tuesday, 17. December 2013

Sponsored by the MCWT Foundation, the 8th Annual Website Design Competition for high school girls again demonstrated the knowledge, creativity and dedication from all who participated in the competition. This year the theme for the websites was “Ancestors: OMG!”, encouraging not only creativity, but also some research on behalf of each contestant.  Below are statements from Savannah Ruby, a student from Computer Science Academy in East Lansing, and her teacher, Michelle Jennings.


“The MCWT Website Design Competition for girls never seemed like an option for me never having known anything about web design. The opportunity to participate has pushed me to learn so much about not only web design in two months, but my ancestors too. The knowledge I gained from the research for this competition has made me a more well-rounded individual and a more involved family member. I bring a lot more to the table now that I know how to create my own website, how to use Dreamweaver and so many other software packages. I feel more prepared for college and more ready than ever to move on in my education and becoming more involved in everything MCWT has to offer.”

Savannah Ruby
Senior student in the Computer Science Academy

“Last year I listened to a presentation about MCWT in Lansing and was very excited that this opportunity was coming to the Mid-Michigan area and joined immediately. I have always wanted to collaborate with females in my field of computer science and never knew about MCWT.  I volunteered to be the MCWT Mid-Michigan K12  Chairperson since I have a strong interest to assist with creating a pipeline of individuals pursuing their degrees in computer science. I am hoping that the Mid-Michigan area will contact MCWT since we offer so many opportunities. For example, schools can start a GET-IT after school program.  As you can see from Savannah’s comment, MCWT makes a difference in a student’s life.”

Michelle M. Jennings
MCWT Mid-Michigan K12 Chairperson
Computer Science Academy Instructor


jenningsMichelle M. Jennings has been employed at Ingham Intermediate School District for 15 years. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and business, a master’s degree in information technologies and a master’s degree + from University of Colorado.  She is currently the instructor for the Computer Science Academy, a collaborative partnership between Ingham ISD, the Capital Area Information Technology Council (IT), and Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, engaged in educating high school students to pursue computer science degrees.

Reflections from a MCWT Gala Newbie

Tuesday, 10. December 2013

Ever since I joined MCWT in May of 2012, I have heard rave reviews about the MCWT Gala. I’ve been told it is “the event” of the year, the place to be every November!  So I must admit that I had pretty high expectations for my first Gala experience.  All I can say was I was blown away!  From the first-class venue to the elegant décor to the flawless presentation given by Maru Flores, the entire evening was top notch!

I could go on and on about the glamorous atmosphere and wonderful food, but just like the holiday season isn’t all about the gifts, the MCWT Gala is about a lot more than just the party. The Gala is about friendship, generosity and opportunity. The members and volunteers of MCWT build great friendships all year long throughout the planning of the Gala.  We work together, depend on one another and support one another during both the stressful and celebratory times.  The generosity of the corporate partners and the Gala attendees was tremendous, raising nearly $300,000 to fund scholarships, fantastic programs and other opportunities for girls and women.

As we expand into Mid-Michigan, we plan to bring more of these programs to the region. We’re collaborating with the Information Technology Empowerment Center (ITEC) to offer the 2020 Girls program, an after-school program for middle school girls in the Lansing area.  We are already in the planning stage of our second MCWT Mid-Michigan Fundraiser and we’re very hopeful to get more Get-IT Girl programs established in 2014.  This is just the tip of the iceberg as we have so much more to offer, but we need more resources to accomplish these goals.

If you’re interested in being part of this exciting movement taking place in Michigan, contact us via our website, mcwt.org. Tell us how you’d like to help, whether it’s through event planning, Foundation programming or partnership development.



Maria-JasinskiMaria Jasinski serves as vice president of IT for Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance. She began her career and found her passion for project management at Electronic Data Systems, earning her PMP designation over her 15 year tenure.  Maria is also an active member of Michigan Council of Women in Technology, leading the initiative to expand the organizations presence to the mid-Michigan region.

Make 2014 a “Brand You” Year: Refresh Your Personal and Organizational Social Presence

Sunday, 10. November 2013

Social business is top of mind for many CIOs today. The conversation with their sales and marketing business partners is occurring regularly.

How social are you? How social is your business? Do you know how/if your organization is gathering sentiment information and analyzing it? Are you or your colleagues acting as brand ambassadors out in social spaces?

Garnering positive recommendations isn’t where social business stops. It’s easy to get a “like” on Facebook, but it isn’t as easy to get a specific placement resulting in referral visits. For example, when you see a thumbs up on Facebook, you are seeing a recommendation. Interesting, but not as useful for the organization garnering the positive feedback. What they really want (and what I gave a product I loved earlier today) is the referral through linking from the company’s website to my personal Facebook page, onto which I applied a personalized comment as to why I love the product. The organization’s hope here is that my network will click through, generating a referral visit to their site, materializing into real business. This new word-of-mouth is called eWOM in the social space.

If you want to maintain currency and relevance in your organization, find out what your organization’s social footprint represents. Do you have digital marketing teams, Twitter handles, Facebook landing pages and LinkedIn groups? Have you followed the bunny trail from your website through the social networks logos you’re sporting?

Finally, look at your own social profiles. Are they compelling? How does your headline read on your social network(s)? Would a recruiter, an executive or a potential partner want to meet with you based on your profile? Bottom line, as we head toward our New Year’s resolution development over the next few weeks, consider giving yourself permission for a makeover out in the social space.

Make 2014 a “Brand You” year… enjoy a warm and wonderful holiday season.


RhondaRhonda St. John-Hamborsky is the director of strategy & innovation for AT&T in Southeastern Michigan. Rhonda focuses on emerging trends and technologies with some of AT&T’s largest clients. She is an AT&T Brand Ambassador, an AT&T Twitter Tribe member and sits on AT&T’s Social Council. Social, mobile, digital are her watchwords. Rhonda is also a graduate student at Wayne State University, in the communications/new media program.