Considering the recent spate of media reports about the challenges facing women in the high-tech sector, a conversation with Vivienne Wang is a refreshing change. Despite having completed two computer engineering degrees (the first at the McMaster University in Toronto, where she was one of four women in a class of eighty; the second from high-tech central, Stanford University) and then working for IBM, Vivienne reports a remarkably hassle-free experience.
When questioned, she attributes this to the very strong work ethic and self-confidence instilled by her family from a young age, as well as the value she places on genuinely connecting with colleagues. And while her own experience may have been relatively smooth, Vivienne is acutely aware of the obstacles facing many women in the tech sector – especially young women seeking to enter it.
Vivienne’s experience as a well-paid “cog-in-the-wheel” at IBM left her wanting more – in particular, the opportunity to have a greater impact on corporate strategy and direction. The solution for her was to do an MBA, and she chose UBC Sauder, both for its reputation and location in Vancouver, where she hoped to settle.
The program met her expectations, especially within the innovation and entrepreneurship program, where she built a strong relationship with Professor Paul Cubbon. As with several of the professional relationships she established at UBC Sauder, Dr. Cubbon has become a valued colleague – supporting her when she took on the position as head of the innovation accelerator at enterprise software giant SAP.
Vivienne’s next accomplishment was a daughter, followed very quickly (during her maternity leave, in fact) by the founding of not one, but two organizations dedicated to nurturing women working or seeking to work in technology. Her networking abilities led to yet another fruitful professional relationship with the founder of the Girls in Tech organization, resulting in a flourishing Girls in Tech franchise in Vancouver. The second organization, co-founded with another UBC contact, is especially close to her heart – Bluesoxx, an extracurricular computer science program for talented and ambitious high school girls.
Vivienne has continued her involvement with both organizations since returning to SAP in an even more senior role. She is also the single mother of an active two-year old – and says that these days her main challenge is finding that elusive work-life balance.
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