It’s Women’s History Month! As a nationally accredited Women Owned Business, it is our goal to continue to inspire and empower women across the tech industry. There is a lot of pride in the culture we have nurtured here at ForeFront and part of that culture is recognizing powerful women as leaders and future leaders of the industry. We caught up with a few of our women in leadership to talk perspectives & lessons learned.
Let’s meet our leaders!
Christelle Aponte: For the last 3+ years, I have been Director of Enterprise Services. This means that I have the opportunity to work on many different aspects within the company but primarily think of my role as helping our team and our clients collaborate successfully.
Aneta Crown: My title is Senior Manager, Talent Engagement & Management. My role involves creating and maintaining a positive employee experience. I emphasize company culture and employee success to ensure top talent engagement and business growth.
Mercedes Marchetti: I’m the Business Analyst Lead. The Business Analyst team is responsible for working with clients to understand their business processes and challenges. We also work with the project team to communicate business needs & ensure the quality and accuracy of system implementation.
Define a great leader – what are some traits you think great leaders possess?
Aneta: There are so many ways to lead a team professionally, but there is a significant difference between being a leader and a boss. A leader is someone who defines the strategy and vision for the team, and supports them in every step of executing that vision. They guide those who look to them instead of blindly dictating tasks. Leaders help others understand their roles, both daily and long term, and nuture their strengths while addressing their weaknesses. They also “lead to succeed,” which means they encourage their team to succeed in all aspects, ultimately leading to the growth of the business. For a long time, you would close your eyes and visualize all of those traits as more of a male image. I think it’s incredibly powerful to recognize that gender no longer belongs in the definition of a great leader.
What female leaders have inspired you throughout your life and why?
Mercedes: Having been new to the industry and working world when I first started with ForeFront, our president Anne Marie Berger recognized my potential and was instrumental in nurturing my growth. We worked closely together in Client Engagement/Sales, where at any moment anything can change. Christelle Aponte, who has been my manager for the past 3+ years, really changed my perspective on what it means to be a strong and confident woman. Her leadership skills transformed the Business Analyst team, and now that I am the BA Lead, I can only strive to be half as great a leader as she.
That level of learning & support is something I will always be able to take away. The fact that as a woman, our strengths are taken into consideration, especially in the eyes of other strong female leaders. When the time came to go from a Jr. BA to a BA Lead mentoring other new hires, ForeFront was the back bone in that process, guiding me to begin my journey as a leader.
What advice would you give to women trying to break into various tech fields?
Christelle: When you’re starting out, it’s important to remember that you are able to learn something of value in nearly every role so don’t say no to a role because it isn’t an exact fit or isn’t prestigious enough. Then when you’re in that role, never stop learning, proposing new ideas, or taking the initiative to try something new. If that “new” is the opportunity to leap into the tech industry, take it. A favorite quote of mine is “the rung of ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a [wo]man’s foot long enough to enable him[/her] to put the other somewhat higher” by Thomas Huxley. It encourages everyone to continue growing – but at the same time, it’s important to recognize that the ladder sometimes looks more like a jungle gym. ForeFront embodies that jungle gym mentality to create opportunities for all women, across all departments.
What do you think is your favorite/most important DRIVEN value and why?
Mercedes: To elaborate, ForeFront bases its culture on being DRIVEN – Determined, Respect, Integrity, Versatile, Esprit de corps, & Nurture. While I feel all DRIVEN values are really important, my favorite value is Integrity. It is so important for a team to have trust amongst one another, and without integrity, trust will fall short. Whether they are male, female, junior or senior…when you have that level of trust amongst team members, collectively you grow and lift each other up. As a woman of ForeFront I know our team sees past that gender boundary to hear all ideas & thoughts, and continue to complete honest & successful projects.
How has ForeFront “nurtured” your growth as a leader?
Christelle: ForeFront has allowed me to come into my own version of leadership and nurtured me to becoming the type of leader that I hope a younger version of myself would look up to. I enjoy the challenges that I face in managing a team and working with clients because it makes me stronger and more confident in how I lead. I appreciate that women’s voices are actively sought and heard here. And I love the ability to demonstrate leadership by nurturing the future leaders of ForeFront.
What advice would you give yourself, just starting out in the working world?
Mercedes: 1) Identify your comfort zone; once you’ve done that, look forward to how you can step outside of that comfort zone. Eventually, what was once uncomfortable and scary will become easy and fulfilling. 2) Grow from your mistakes and never stop learning. Seek outlets that allow you to express yourself in ways that nurture you and those around you. Take every opportunity you are given to learn, listen, and laugh.
What does being a woman in 2020 mean to you?
Aneta: I’ve always been surrounded by strong and independent women. My mom, grandmother and aunt were business owners for many, many years! I know that not everyone has had that opportunity – to have & witness strong women figures in their lives. Then I grew up seeing the culture change in front of my eyes. TV shows, movies, politics, in the work place – women gained the power and respect, and we continue to fight for what we want and deserve. I am excited for women in 2020. I believe that we have many more opportunities to express ourselves and be who we want to be, without gender-role pressure from society. We get to decide.
Are you looking to empower others and expand your leadership skills?
We’re always looking to add talented DRIVEN individuals to our Team.
Check out our open positions!