Verizons Janet Schijns Inspires Tech Sisterhood at Women in the Channel Event

Ellen MuraskinJanet Schijns, vice president and chief marketing technologist for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, delivered the keynote address to a packed room at the tenth Women in the Channel event, held on the day before the official opening of Cloud Partners at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center Tuesday night.

Schijns spoke to a room of about 100 women, owners or agents of telecom and data reseller organizations from around the country. They’d come, mostly in cocktail attire, to network, to meet friends, make deals, and nurture and cheer on the tech sisterhood.  Hosted by Channel Partners/Informa, sponsors were MicroCorp, Jive, Oncore Marketing & Media, Genband, Vonage Business and NetCarrier. Friends of WiC sponsors were iagentNetwork, Sales Enabled, Telarus, Telecom Brokers, TelePacific and Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

Schijns’ presentation was titled, “Ctrl-Alt-Compete; Take control of your career. Alternate your approach. Compete to win.” She started by congratulating those present for being in the tech forefront, in an age in which tech is not “part of the economy. It is the economy.” Further, she urged the crowd to “stop talking about whether women will be in tech and start talking about how we’ll become the CEOs and the leaders,” the female change agents that the economy desperately needs to attract.

Verizon's Janet Schijns (right) poses for a fun photo with Women in the Channel leadership at WiC's Cloud Partners event.Schijns pointed out that the job she currently holds for Verizon Enterprise Solutions – chief marketing technologist – didn’t exist two years ago.

“Gartner was talking about how marketers and CMOs are spending more on tech than CIOs,” she said. In today’s world, marketers would rather have a dialogue on Twitter with a single customer than a Super Bowl ad that simply broadcasts to an audience. Digital relevance is crucial, she stressed, and asked those in attendance to search on the hashtag of her presentation, #ifthetechfits, and to retweet it before the next slide appeared.

For those not quick enough on the Twitter trigger, she recommended finding “a reverse mentor”; a Millennial or Gen Z-er to help you upgrade your tweeting and Instagram skills.  

“It’s not cool to promote or sell on social media.  It is cool to have a conversation. My reverse mentors taught me how to do that in a digital world,” she said. 

She shared the personal story of the time her son Sean (who, she hastened to add, at 26 is a fine upstanding and successfully employed MBA), was the only one who came home from school without a tie-dyed t-shirt, because she’d missed reading the note sent home to bring in a shirt to dye.

“I’m traveling in Paris. I miss the note.  ‘We’re going to tie-dye a t-shirt for our Memorial Day party.’” That Friday I pick my son up.  My son does not have a tie-dyed t-shirt, just a little piece of cloth with tie-dye on it. This was my wake-up call.”

But instead of quitting the job or cutting back her work schedule, she started her own …

… tech marketing firm with other women who were also missing parts of their kids’ lives.  A tech marketing firm, it was the first all-female tech consulting firm in the industry, she said, and it attracted Motorola and Verizon as clients.

Schijns said that the way to acquire the tech experience you need is to gain the skills and apply them to a cause you can be passionate about.

“Don’t wait for the company you’re at to give you the experience you want. Go out and find the experience you want. Tech is taking over every single industry and every industry has a nonprofit or someone you can apply tech to … so when next big opportunity comes up, that person becomes you.” 

Schijns also invited attendees to write down their goals, and offered a career goal planning form among the session giveaways.

“People who write down a plan and execute against it, achieve their goals. I have people from Verizon who I’ve watched go through this process. Not because it’s fancy, but because it works.”

And while mentorship matters a lot, there’s one more secret to promotion that no one tells women, she said.

“All that good work is what gets you the interview for the job.”  But it’s the personal endorsement – the sponsorship – that gets you promoted.  Someone to say, “She’s ready, I know her, I know she knows how to do this well.” That “sponsor” is a peer of your boss who’s willing to risk the blame if he or she can share the credit for promoting you. 

And finally, she urged women to get over their aversion to competition.

“’Compete’ is not a dirty word. All the tech you’ll see at this show is ripe for the next generation of leaders. Seven-figure incomes are up for grabs. New careers are coming now that you can set your hat for,” among them data scientist, chief scientific officer, social media analyst, and others we can’t predict even a year from now.

Schijns wound up an engaging and colorful keynote with a pitch for a serious cause she is personally passionate about – domestic abuse prevention and response. She asked those in attendance to donate used phones to Hopeline, an organization that provides women with cell that their abusers don’t know about. She also asked WIC members to raise awareness of the problem and to paint a nail purple, to “drive a nail into domestic violence.”

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