From an intellectual property attorney to the president of an electronic products company to a professor of electrical and computer engineering, this year’s Women in Technology issue truly shows the diversity of Pittsburgh’s technology sector. Each year, TEQ puts its spotlight on local women making a difference, finding success and pushing the technological envelope. TEQ searches high and low to bring you profiles of women working all levels and sectors throughout the industry.
This year’s list of Women in Technology has talent to spare, boundless energy and a drive to accept nothing less than excellence in all they do. These women in technology manifest the best and brightest talent this region has to offer the world.
Check out their stories:
Building an Electronics Products Company and More
Even though she’s a native of Chicago, SIMA Products Corporation’s Ilana Diamond calls Pittsburgh her hometown. After all, she’s moved here twice! Diamond first moved to Pittsburgh in 1986, as her husband pursued research at Carnegie Mellon University. Just having earned her MBA from Northwestern, Diamond joined PricewaterhouseCoopers and fell in love with the city during her cab ride over for the interview.
“I told the cab driver that I was new to town,” recalls Diamond. “He turned off the meter and drove me around the city before I went in for my interview!”
Diamond’s father passed away in 1990, and she moved back to Chicago to take the reigns of SIMA (the family’s business). Not much later, her husband was being lured back to Carnegie Mellon. Having fallen in love with Pittsburgh, Diamond decided to move SIMA to Pittsburgh. Diamond’s family and business are here to stay.
“I absolutely love it here,” says Diamond. “It’s an incredible place…especially if you’re running a business.”
As President, Diamond is at the helm of the approximately 25-person company that designs consumer electronics that she dubs “simple and fun to use.” Products include multi-connection cords for computers, inflatable home theaters and a bevy of accessories for cameras, camcorders and other popular electronics.
The company just launched its latest product, Vivo!, a live video sharing camera that broadcasts any event live to a private audience or to the world at large. SIMA worked with Fireman Creative on Vivo! And is always looking to partner with other Pittsburgh companies.
SIMA designs and engineers all of its products at its Oakmont headquarters and has manufacturing capabilities in southern China. Consumers can find SIMA’s products at Wal-Mart, RadioShack, Best Buy, Kmart and many other outlets and catalogs. Learn more at www.simaproducts.com
Her Westinghouse Roots Instilled Entrepreneurial Spirit
When Westinghouse Electric divested its business divisions in the mid 1990s, Janet Gualtieri had a choice. Ultimately, she decided to apply her knowledge and industry expertise as the CIO of Westinghouse’s Waste Management Division to start her own technology company, Contemporary Software in 1996.
Focused on automating and standardizing the hazardous waste management process, Gualtieri and other Westinghouse veterans developed the EnviroWare Software Suite based upon ORACLE technology. Now, 13 years later, Contemporary Software is in the midst of growing EnviroWare globally, with international clients in Canada, China and Abu Dhabi.
“We sold the first EnviroWare product in 1997 [ t0 Envirosource],” Gualtieri said. “Now our EnviroWare platform is installed in 35 different locations at 24 different companies. We are currently in the process of setting up international support infrastructure to help our clients abroad and continue EnviroWare’s global expansion.
“Our clients range in size from smaller hazardous waste brokers and transporters to very large treatment and storage facilities,” Gualtieri continued. “We are able to provide cradle to grave solutions to the entire spectrum of the hazardous waste industry because the EnviroWare platform is extremely flexible and modular.”
Although Gualtieri is 13 years removed from her tenure as a tech exec at Westinghouse Electric, the company continues to impact her and Contemporary Software to this day.
“Working at Westinghouse gave me a true appreciation for the power of technology,” she explained. “Additionally, Westinghouse Electric played a huge role in my decision to go out on my own and start a technology business because the company really empowered all of its female employees and taught me that I could do anything. I don’t think that I would’ve ended up where I am today if it wasn’t for Westinghouse.
“I think businesswomen need to take more chances and start more companies here in Pittsburgh,” Gualtieri continued. “There’s no denying that it is still hard out there to be a woman business owner. You have to be very persistent and tough-skinned to be successful. However, I know women can make a mark on this region if they take the chance. Going out on my own was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, but it was definitely the right move for me.”
Connecting Technology with the Community
Jocelyn Horner doesn’t come from a technical background at all. In fact, she studied sociology at Pitt and urban geography at the London School of Economics.
You’re probably thinking, “But this is TEQ’s ‘Women in Technology’ issue, what gives?”
What gives is the fact that Horner has found herself right at the intersection where technology and community development are giving rise to new enterprises. She is leading up the Sprout Fund’s just-launched Spark Program, which supports small-scale projects and programs that engage children ages birth to 8 through the creative use of technology and media. Horner, says Spark challenges individuals, organizations and communities to generate inventive solutions to issues and opportunities facing today’s children.
“This opportunity has been really exciting for me,” she says. “Technology can do great things…It’s more than just putting a screen in front of a child, but seeing how technology can be used in new and less traditional ways…Technology can really enhance interaction. That is critical to the first years of a child’s life.”
Spark is geared toward adding tools to a child’s life, improving literacy and building stronger connections between parents and teachers. Spark intends to fund initiatives that connect technology to the real-life experiences of children. Horner notes that supported programs will empower children to learn and play creatively, while also addressing critical needs in their growth and development.
A native Pittsburgher, Horner says she was excited to return to her hometown to pursue her career. She notes that Pittsburgh is a town where you can have a direct and almost immediate impact on the community. With the Spark program just now bringing technology and children together, Horner is quite excited about the future:
“My hope is that these areas can really come together and grow.”
If you have an idea that uses technology to improve a child’s life, check out the Spark Program at www.sproutfund.org/spark.
Combining Her Passion for Science with the Law
Even though Julie Meder is Director and VP at one of Pittsburgh’s most prestigious intellectual property law firms, she admits she’s still sort of a geek at heart.
After all, successful patent attorneys at The Webb Law Firm must have a technical and/or scientific background and a passion for innovation rooted in their souls. So, there’s probably a little geek in every patent attorney out there.
“I really get to combine my passion for science with the law,” Meder exclaims.
And, her resume proves it, since she has held positions in research with the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands and in engineering and sales with E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc. She holds a J.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, an M.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia, and a B.A. in physics from Colgate University.
Founded in 1845, The Webb Law Firm exclusively concentrates on intellectual property, putting Pittsburgh at the epicenter of this dynamic field. Meder finds herself working with technology companies from all over the world and Pittsburgh to secure their intellectual property. Meder handles cases involving a variety of technologies and industries, from nanotechnology and optics to polymer chemistry and plant life.
Meder is encouraged by Pittsburgh’s growing technology and entrepreneurial communities and their resulting activity.
“There are lots of great minds here. I see them coming together, especially at the industry and academic level,” she says. “I’m seeing entrepreneurship being encouraged. It’s picking up speed.”
Hailing from New York State, Meder has truly grown her career and family in Pittsburgh. “I really like Pittsburgh. It’s got all of the assets of the other major cities. It’s been a great place to settle,” she says.
Putting Research on Ice
Pittsburgh needs more technologists like Dr. Priya Narasimhan. If you take 10 minutes to talk to her about technology, you’ll understand why – her energy level is through the roof and she is genuinely passionate about innovation.
Narasimhan, an Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Director of the CyLab Mobility Research Center at Carnegie Mellon University, recently teamed up with some of her students to create the “YinzCam” for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The YinzCam is a totally free widget that can be accessed by fans using their mobile phones exclusively at Mellon Arena during Penguins’ home games. The technology delivers live, high definition video of the game from various unique angles along with automatic instant replays straight to each fan’s wi-fi-enabled phone or iPod Touch.
“Originally, we created the YinzCam for people with nosebleed seats so that they could watch the game close up even though they were far away,” Narasimhan explained. “Now, because of the growing popularity of YinzCam, we’ve expanded its capacity to support as many fans as possible.”
There are several cameras at various locations around the arena to capture different views and follow certain players such as the goalie cam, the penalty box cam and the Malkin cam.
“The Penguins were truly instrumental in developing the YinzCam,” Narasimhan continued. “It takes true vision to anticipate and define what ‘cutting edge’ means in terms of professional sports – no other team, or industry for that matter, has ever used a technology like the YinzCam. Hockey fans in Pittsburgh are truly fortunate to have an organization that values and promotes technology like the Penguins. Our partnership with them is an unprecedented collaboration.”
On top of Narasimhan’s work with the Penguins, the best part of her everyday job is the students she works with.
“Apart from the untiring support of my family, without a doubt, the secret to my success is my students,” she said. “They are way more intelligent than me and they know it. It is a privilege to be around people who feel that nothing is impossible. No matter how hard the problem is, they never say ‘it can’t be done.’ It’s just a question of how many all-nighters it will take to solve the problem. I love that. It makes me believe that nothing is impossible if you just try.”
A Techie by Accident
Ellen Wieckowski is an accidental techie. When she entered the workforce, a career in accounting was in her future until she nabbed a programming job, thanks to an aptitude test. Although Wieckowski’s foray into technology wasn’t planned, she couldn’t be happier with the results.
“I accidentally got started in technology because of an aptitude test,” Wieckowski, the Chief Information Officer at Robert Morris University, said. “I was an accounting major in college but ended up taking a job as a programmer and I loved it. I am a very competitive person, and with technology I realized that I could compete with anybody – I liked that.”
Recently, Wieckowski got involved with the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s newest peer network, PghTech Women (see below) to connect and form a community with women in technology-based careers around Pittsburgh. Wieckowski said that one of the network’s main goals will be to encourage high school-age and college-age women to choose technology-based career paths.
“I feel that encouraging women early on to choose careers in technology is very important,” Wieckowski said. “By nature, women are very team oriented. When you combine that characteristic with technology-based skills, it is a perfect combination in my mind.
“With the PghTech Women Network™, we want to make it much less intimidating for women to consider a tech-based career,” she continued. “We feel that it is important to change the prevalent mindset at the high school level that technology careers are not for women. Attracting smart women at an early age is the first step in changing the assumption that technology careers are only for men.”
As a C-level woman in technology, Wieckowski has firsthand experience with the lack of female candidates in the technology industry.
“When I look at candidate pools, I am very disappointed by the lack of women applicants,” she asserted. “I know from experience that there are lots of women in technology in my generation, but we are severely lacking women at the entry level.
“Although the PghTech Women Network is still in the formative stage, there are some really great events and speakers in the works,” Wieckowski continued. “We realize that women entering tech fields are in need of some mentoring and guidance. Through the network we will provide those essential relationships.”