Women in Tech: Evelyn Graham advises women to "Keep on Trying."

Evelyn Graham says women should develop people skills, build relationships, network and treat people respectfully.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Evelyn J. Graham, President of Presynct Technologies, Inc.

Evelyn J. Graham, President of Presynct Technologies, Inc.

Summarize your experience and what you do now. Please give a brief summary of your current role/business.

My current position is founder and President of Presynct Technologies, Inc., a software development and sales organization that specializes in paperless documentation, business process management, and third-party systems integration.

My experience is diverse in markets and companies, from Fortune 100 to small business to entrepreneur and currently business owner.  My first job was with IBM Corporation in administrative positions.  Then after taking time out to raise a family, I became a real estate broker until the depressed market of the 1980s.  I leveraged that experience into a position as a Regional Vice President selling partnership investments to security broker-dealers and representatives.  Then the infamous stock market “crash” in 1987.  Weary of sending out resumes, I entered the world of entrepreneurs with a small healthcare services company.  In 2004, I reorganized and diversified the company into Presynct Technologies, Inc., a software development and sales organization with expertise in paperless business operations and third-party systems integrations.

As President of Presynct, I am responsible for vision and leadership.  Since I have a strong operational bent, a lot of my activities involve working on corporate operations and with our corporate counselors.

Do you think that being a statistical minority in the Tech world has given you that extra push that you needed to become a top performer in your field?

Women business owners are a statistical minority.  But they are also major players in business.  If U.S. women business owners were their own country, it would be the 5th largest GDP in the world.  The estimated 8 million majority women-owned businesses in the U.S. wield an economic impact of over $2.8 trillion annually and employ more than 23 million people .

Being part of this statistical minority is both a positive and a negative force.  I have to constantly remind myself to reject the invincibility of the stereotype that it’s a man’s world and you have to be a member of the old boys club to succeed.  Admittedly, it’s not a woman’s world, but attitude is about 80% of success.  Despite the prominence of the glass ceiling, there are increasingly more women CEOs and executive managers in technology, and they are successful by any benchmark.  These women are role models who give the rest of us the energy and momentum to push through and go for it despite the obstacles.

The negative force is working through unnecessary or unintended obstacles.  Most women CEOs and executives will relate to what frequently happens when they walk into a business meeting accompanied by a male member of their staff.  The attendees automatically address the male manager, not the female CEO.  I’ve learned to smile inwardly when this happens and then enjoy the reaction when they discover I’m in charge.  It’s always “advantage Evelyn” when I’m under-estimated.

How did you choose the technical field from all other possibilities that were presented to you?

I was young and naïve about the business world when I finished school.  I didn’t know I could pick and choose.  My first job with IBM was happenstance.  I was walking down Madison Avenue in Manhattan knocking on doors when I happened upon IBM’s then Corporate HQ.  I applied, interviewed, and was hired.  That’s pretty much the pattern of all my career moves.  They were more about creating opportunities than making choices.  My resume demonstrates someone who leveraged knowledge and experience in different capacities in multiple industries and then discovered entrepreneurship.

Do you think that the tech field provides the opportunity for you to think more creatively or to innovate more freely than other fields?

Technology offers more opportunity to be creative and innovative than many other fields.  It’s exciting to identify a problem and figure out the best way to solve it with technology.  In software development and business process management, the pace of technological advancement is exhilarating, if not exhausting at times!  Just when you think you’re done, it’s time to revamp and upgrade.  As an entrepreneur-owner, it’s extremely satisfying to be responsible and accountable for finding new and better ways to find solutions through new technology.

If you were asked to mentor a young woman interested in a tech career, how would you advise her?

Inform and educate yourself.  Stay up-to-date on public policy and advocacy; join an organization like Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).  Take full advantage of the extensive knowledge and educational activities dedicated to small business and government contracting at the AMEX OPEN Forum on the web.

Practice survival strategies.  Associate early with legal and financial professionals.  Diversify revenue sources – no more than 15% in any single customer.  Monitor and manage cash flow.  Understand the differences in marketing and sales strategies between the government and commercial markets.

Develop people skills.  Build relationships, network, and avoid “burning bridges.”  When a customer or employee leaves, treat them respectfully and wish them well.

Fiona Barshow, VP of Business Development at Citizant, Inc. has mentored several women in business. Barshow advises women in technology to seek out multiple mentors, both male and female, for insights, contacts, and endorsements.  This expands her network by association, which is invaluable when seeking new opportunities in the workplace.

What are some of your proudest career achievements?

My proudest career achievement is thriving while surviving!  I started my company with credit cards and cashing out my retirement fund.  I am proud of bootstrapping a successful company while raising a family as a single mom.

In all my career choices, I achieved a measure of success and recognition.  At IBM, it was a Suggestion Award for redesigning the office layout of a new HQ building.  In real estate, it was Rookie of the Year and Top Salesperson awards.

In technology, it was the 2008 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility and 2010 Woman Contractor of the Year.  The Sloan award recognized my goal of a desirable work environment for employees, especially working mothers.  Woman Contractor of the Year, an award given by American Express OPEN at their Victory in Procurement (VIP) events, recognized my determination and hard work as a successful entrepreneur.

When I was raising my sons, I had 3 words on the kitchen wall that I wanted them to live by.  It was simply “Keep on Trying!”  I enthusiastically offer the same advice to women entrepreneurs and professionals.

Evelyn J. Graham is founder and President of Presynct Technologies, Inc., a software development and sales organization in San Francisco, CA.  The company specializes in paperless documentation, business process management, and third-party systems integration.

See Also:

Women in Tech: Cynthia Rubio's proudest achievement

Women in Tech: Manuela Hutter sees endless possibilities

Women in Tech: Progress still to be made (photos)

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