This blog is part of our ongoing Women in Technology series.
Stacy Wilson is a legal technology and data analytics enthusiast! Over the past 14 years, Stacy has held positions of responsibility across every node of the EDRM including data governance, legal holds, collections, analytics, review, and trial work. Her current focus at Consilio is Project Management and Consulting. Stacy is a Portfolio Lead within Client Services, specifically our Financial Services Vertical, overseeing a team of Project Managers responsible for day-to-day eDiscovery matter management for banking clients, domestic and abroad. Stacy enjoys consulting clients in all areas of eDiscovery, as well as coaching those new to eDiscovery through mentoring and training initiatives. When she is not working, Stacy fosters rescue and stray dogs through to adoption, she is a big fan of her kids’ sports, music and acting endeavors, and she enjoys supporting a local, nationally placed high school mock trial team as an occasional guest competition judge.
How did you get into this industry?
By accident. I was in between college and returning to grad school thinking a year or so of work experience would make the most life and financial sense for me at that time. I landed in document review work because it gave me flexibility in my work hours and schedule. I was a new mom, my husband was deployed overseas with zero contact allowed due to nationwide heightened security, post 9/11. It just so happened the document review work gave me hands-on experience in several leading legal applications in a short period of time. As soon as I updated my resume 3 months later, I started being recruited by multiple large law firms that had a huge need for anyone that had even basic experience in these doc review applications. Once I learned my husband would remain deployed for an unforeseeable amount of time, my plans changed; I decided not to return to grad school at that time, and I accepted my first full-time job in the industry.
What were some pivotal moments in your career that helped to get you to where you are today?
I was in a long-term paralegal contract position at a top law firm. I thought big law was the life for me. When the contract ended, I took a permanent job at a much smaller law firm as a paralegal thinking the work would be similar. It turned out to be a very different job than I expected! I realized then that my prior employment was eDiscovery work, not traditional paralegal work. I stayed at the smaller firm for a while. I was candid with them and communicated that I planned on returning to grad school to pursue my Master’s in Advanced Decision Analytics. I let them know that I saw a future for myself in data science and legal technology. This firm gave me space to work a full-time job and go to school. They taught me I could ask for what I wanted and that employers exist who are willing to invest time and resources into people they knew would be gone in a couple of years. I had been in the legal industry for four years before I found this firm. It took me that long to figure out what I wanted to do in my future. They supported me with the knowledge they would not be keeping me. It shaped how I manage my team of Project Managers now. You must help people grow and develop even when you know they might outgrow you or the company along the way. But what that employee will give back during those times of growth will often be more than their share. When I started answering this question, I did not know how my answer would come through. It reminded me that I need to reach out to some prior colleagues turned friends and give them another big thank you.
Have you ever noticed a time in your career where your gender proved to differentiate you?
Yes, one experience immediately comes to mind when thinking about this. Early in my career, I went through a series of reproductive health issues that required documenting excused absences from work. A former employer shared related private information publicly with other employees without my knowledge or approval. I felt violated and realized I had no skill set to reply to or handle this type of sensitive situation. I immediately had to flip a switch and go into advocacy mode for myself. I am thankful for that happening many, many years ago. It threw me into having hard conversations with my employer. I learned to stand up for myself, developed my employee sense of right versus wrong, and learned about the expectations I inherently place on my employer to respond timely and appropriately. I now have very little hesitancy about speaking up and holding people accountable in a productive way.
What is your advice for someone working in a predominately male workplace?
Focus on yourself first, in all aspects of life. Don’t become a chameleon and feel forced to take on the energy in a room to fit in or get ahead. Long-term, learning who you are as an employee, your style, and your dedication to developing yourself will pay off. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself inwardly and how you talk about yourself externally. Your inner and outer voices should align. Give yourself credit internally and externally for the work you do. Don’t downplay it to yourself or others. If you see or hear someone else has accomplished something and you think or say, “Wow, that is great, what an accomplishment” make a conscious effort to think of your accomplishments in the same way. Invest time in learning conversation tactics, how to pivot, and how to think through how you might reply in certain situations where you might find yourself in the minority. Look for qualities you admire in your co-workers, clients, and mentors. Ask yourself how you can incorporate those qualities into your day-to-day and go for it!
What do you think companies could do to motivate more women to pursue careers in technology?
Diversity and inclusion efforts are important. Unconscious bias training is important. Mentoring opportunities are important. Clearly defined work and personal time will increasingly become more pivotal in a potential candidate’s job offer consideration. Companies investing in these types of efforts will become sought-after cultural environments for all employees. Let’s work to expand the career in tech conversations and job descriptions to encompass all the skill sets required. Tech industry jobs require more than a hard skill set to write code or be an admin of an application. All hard skill tech job candidates also need interpersonal, teaching, training, project, and/or people management skills. I feel we can improve our targeting of future tech industry workers if we approach the day-to-day job realities from a more holistic perspective that goes beyond learning a specific database or software. Hard skills are pivotal, but if a company is looking to grow and expand, incorporate these other areas into job descriptions. Talk about them during the interview process, weave them into onboarding, and challenge team members with a growth point that is outside their day-to-day task-driven work at least once a year. Work with your team members to develop skills other departments might need in the company’s future state so you can offer more lateral transitions within the same organization.