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In honor of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting some female leaders within the Microsoft Partner community. The theme for 2017 is “Be Bold for Change.” Here are some stories of bold women partners who are helping to shape the future of technology.

Women Changing the Industry

The demographic of the technology industry is changing. Women are buying more technology, they are designing more technology, and they are stepping into more leadership roles as well.

A recent analysis by Fortune showed that Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs earn higher stock market returns than those with male CEOs. McKinsey & Co. also found that international companies with more women on their corporate boards far outperformed the average company in return on equity and other measures, including a 56% increase in operating profit.

Microsoft partner Julie Simpson notes that “having more women in the IT sector both now and in the future gives all our businesses a better chance of winning more customers because with diversity comes new insight and value. The more women that come into the sector, the more opportunity we have to increase our profits and grow our businesses.”

Here are just a few examples of Microsoft partners changing the industry today.

Filipa Preston: CEO of Software Optimisation Services

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Filipa Preston had not planned a career in technology. But she was inspired by her independent and business-owning aunt to take her career into her own hands. After changing course midway through her Pharmacy degree, Filipa found the tech industry to be in high demand with high pay. So, while working two jobs, she self-funded her IT course then went on to study PR and Marketing.

While working at Microsoft in her early twenties, Filipa found her niche. After moving to Australia, she met an IT exec who put her up for a management role with a Microsoft Partner. She then spent over two decades working for major global IT outsourcers, focusing on a market with little saturation, Software Licensing and IT Asset Management (ITAM).

Filipa defined her “bold” moment as having the courage to start her own business. As a recently divorced, single mother in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis, the timing could not have been worse. “Leaving the safety of a great job to start a business with little to no idea of how to run a start-up was definitely jumping out of my comfort zone.” But she knew there was a gap in the market and believed in the value of the work her company did. She had a purpose, belief and an insatiable passion for the impact they were capable of making. In 2016 after just 6 years, the business she founded and funded won the Microsoft Worldwide 2016 Partner of the Year award for Software Asset Management. She describes that as her proudest professional moment.

“From my experience, women bring ‘heart’ to business. We need more decisions made on ‘heart’ versus ego and competition.”
– Filipa Preston, Software Optimisation Services

Julie Simpson: CEO of ResourceiT

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When she was young, Julie worked for a small US-based ISV where she was inspired by an American woman who ran the UK business. “I had never seen or met anyone like her. She was so sharp, so professional and such a dynamic personality. She really got stuff done. This was early in my career as a junior administrator and I had no idea that jobs like that existed for women. When I approached her about my future, she listened and said the only thing holding me back was myself. Now as CEO of my own multi-million-dollar company, I have never forgotten those words.”

Julie also describes her bold moment as when she decided to start her own company. “I’d had a tough time, with my first marriage leaving me without a job and without a career. I had a big mortgage and a child to support and so I got myself a great role with a Microsoft gold partner and never looked back”. A few years later, she and her new husband gave up their jobs, sold their house, and took the leap into entrepreneurship. “We literally held hands and jumped off a cliff, or that’s how it felt anyway. I was very fortunate to have the support that I did, as many women are held back because they don’t have that level of support at home. It makes it hard to reach for the stars, even if you have the ability.”

As the opportunity was greater in IT, Julie took the lead role and became Managing Director of the new company. “It was very hard with four children between us and giving up two well-paid and secure jobs, but we had faith in each other and went for it. It was transformational for me and I’m so glad I did it. Sometimes in life, you just have to roll the dice.”

“Being the only woman at the table is something we all get used to. It inspires me to support women in all industries. We are a special pioneering group of people, and we must continue to march forwards together and encourage and support each other in every way we can. Only we know how hard it is sometimes.”
– Julie Simpson, ResourceiT

Beatriz Oliveira: CEO of BindTuning

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Beatriz started her career 20 years ago as a consultant for one of the big five technology companies. But she soon embarked on more challenging projects as an entrepreneur. “After 2 years as a consultant, I along with my director (a woman) and another friend decided to create our first start-up back in 1999. We were still under the effect of the dot-com bubble in Portugal, and our company grew rapidly. After 2 years in business, we sold the company to the largest energy group in Portugal!”

Beatriz says that while success came fast, it came at a price. “Those were exhausting years, with crazy work schedules, from early in the morning until late hours through the night.” Her two daughters were born during that time and after sacrificing so much of her time during their first years, she decided to take a break and stepped out of the business for a couple years. She returned to entrepreneurship in 2003 with a new company, then another in 2005. Building on a love of web design and unique insight into the technology industry, she created a web design consulting company based on the .Net CMS platforms DNN and SharePoint.

After an accident in 2007, her life changed again. “Quickly the business I was running had to be shifted to a completely different one, from selling services to selling products, and during the following 4 years, I devoted my time to creating an engine that would allow me to sell cross-platform themes, in my own marketplace. In 2012 BindTuning was born.”

Beatriz was never afraid to make the bold choice when it came to her career. Of her personal journey, Beatriz says “I’m really proud of my ride so far. It wasn’t always easy as a woman. There are always moments when people doubt your competence or favor a man, fail to acknowledge your contributions, or endless meetings when men discuss football. Overall, I always felt recognized and was always extremely self-confident and was never afraid to speak up.”

“Women can help shape happier work environments, create better product solutions, and define the companies of the future. Let’s trust ourselves!”
– Beatriz Oliveira, BindTuning

How have you seen increased diversity making a difference in the tech industry? What female business leaders inspire you and your team? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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