Tracy Kleinschmidt, strategic consultant at Zebra Technologies, had an unusual career path. She majored in communications but always knew it didn't quite fit her. She doesn't regret her decision to go that path in college -- she says she learned "quite a bit," adding that while her major didn't translate directly into the tech field, it did help her to learn about managing people.
"I didn’t know I was cut out for technology," she remembers, but adds she was always good at using computers. She always imagined herself going on to work for a PR firm and managing public relations initiatives.
Once she graduated, though, reality set in, and Kleinschmidt found herself in need of a job. She took what she assumed would be an interim role as an administrative assistant for a newly formed e-commerce team at an insurance firm. She held the role for a mere three months before being promoted to business analyst within the same group. It was a perfect fit.
"When I realized that I would be put into this position, I just threw myself completely into my work … I loved the people I worked with, I love figuring out how things work, I love solving … problems."
One of the first things Kleinschmidt did in that role was to develop an intranet for her organization, and then put together a promotional package for it. She also created a system for electronic bill presentment. It was 1998, and she remembers her greatest challenge being people's lack of familiarity with technology back then.
"The type of tech was so new, people were unfamiliar with it. We had to educate people about it. Just getting leadership to realize that our department could add value [was difficult]. There was a huge change management piece to it as well."
A balance of work and family
A typical day for Kleinschmidt depends upon where she is in the project she's currently involved in. During busier times, it's not unusual for her to work later hours and weekends to ensure they make their deliverables and timelines. Also, because Zebra is a global organization she sometimes needs to adjust her schedule to sync up with other time zones. She is usually in by 8:00 in the morning and has to leave by 5:00, as she has two small children. If she has additional work she needs to get done in the evening, she works on it after her children have gone to bed.
"This can be a grind, but since all projects must end, there's always light at the end of the tunnel, albeit temporary," she says.
Kleinschmidt's duties vary. If she's managing a project, her day is spent handling resources and tasks, and communicating with others in meetings, via email, phone, project plans and tasks lists, issue and risk logs and status reports. When she's not managing a project, her focus is on process improvement initiatives and supporting Zebra’s HR department's Human Resource Information System (HRIS) needs. Kleinschmidt also plays a significant role in Zebra's Project Management Office (PMO), auditing deliverables and adherence to their development and implementation methodology.
Girl in an Oracle World
Name: Tracy Kleinsmidt
Title: Strategic Consultant, Zebra Technologies
Job description: Manages projects -- is an experienced business systems analyst
Educational background: Holds a bachelor's degree in communications
Kleinschmidt began using Siebel in the late '90s, and began working directly with Oracle applications when she joined Zebra Technologies. The first experience she had with an Oracle product was replacing an antiquated call center tool with an Oracle application, swapping Vantive with Teleservice. Kleinschmidt has had very good experiences working with Oracle.
"It's solid," she says. She recommends that clients use it, moving from multiple platforms toward one consolidated system. "There is a lot of value in having a common platform," she adds.
Other technologies Kleinschmidt uses on a regular basis include several Microsoft applications, including Project for managing tasks, resources and timelines; Visio for documenting process flows and network diagrams; Sharepoint for maintaining project documentation and risk and issue logs; Outlook for email; Excel for budgeting, estimating and tracking; and PowerPoint and Word. She also uses a screen scraping tool called SnagIt for creating end-user procedures and documenting errors uncovered in testing.
Mentoring and guidance
While Kleinschmidt has never formally had a mentor, she believes she's had many informal mentors. In April 2012, she participated in the "Women in Technology" panel at Collaborate, an Oracle user group conference, and was inspired to begin mentoring a young professional. Since then, she has helped him to get his PNP certification and manage his first project.
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What does Kleinschmidt think of people who believe being a woman gives them a unique perspective in the world of technology, business and Oracle?
"I don't think being a woman gives [you] a unique perspective," she said. "Your experience gives you a perspective, not your gender."
When asked if she has felt discriminated against for being a woman, she said that "there are times, especially when you walk into a new project, when people will view you with a certain kind of skepticism. 'What does this person bring to the table?' There is sometimes an additional level of scrutiny, and maybe it's because I’m a woman … but it doesn't take long to show them otherwise."
Kleinschmidt said that immersing themselves in the world of Oracle is the best way for young people to work with Oracle products.
"If you're in college, consider internships, write blogs, post on forums. Experience always helps, which goes back to internships," she said. "Oracle is in every business function -- you don't have to major in technology to use Oracle technologies."
Specifically for female prospective Oracle pros, she says that the key is networking.
"A lot of women are willing to pay it forward and hook you up with the right resources and contacts," she said.