Brilliant Women in Technology: Meet Ann Finnie

Ann Finnie at CESHi CuteGeeks! We are starting the new year off strong and hope you all are too! We want to introduce our first brilliant woman in technology – Ann Finnie. I met Ann Finnie through blogging, and since then she has truly become an inspiration. She is an amazing woman, who loves her job and her passion can be seen in everything that she does. She is the Worldwide Public Relations Manager for Consumer PCs and Office of the CTO, in the Personal Systems Group, for HP – and we are honored to have her featured as one of our Brilliant Women in Technology! Check out her interview!

-Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in the heart of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale, CA. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak actually went to my high school, although they’re a bit older than me so I didn’t know them at that time. In fact, we’ve had several successful graduates from my high school (Homestead High School in Cupertino). Danny Gordon (think Gordon-Biersch beer) was in the marching band at the same time as me. He played the trombone and I played the trumpet.

I attended De Anza College and I graduated from the school of business at San Jose State.
-How did you get started in technology, or at your current position?

I grew up around technology. Not only because of where I lived but also because my dad was a software engineer. Before I was born, when my dad was in the Air Force he was sent to Philadelphia to work with Grace Hopper (the mother of COBOL) and while he was working with her he wrote the first compiler for the electronic computer in 1951 on the Univac 1, serial number 1. Two of my sisters followed in his footsteps and became software engineers…and one of them married a software engineer. Technology had me surrounded!

I started working as a temporary employee at HP twenty years ago, in March of 1989. I had just spent about five months touring Europe with my best friend and it was time to get back to work, so I went to a temp agency and they placed me at HP as an administrative assistant. I got lucky and the department I was working for hired me as a permanent full-time employee in May of that year.

Several years later I happened to be sitting next to a PR manager and he was staffing up his team, so I asked him if there was room for me – and that’s how I began my career in Public Relations.

-Describe a "normal" day in your life.

The thing about PR is that there’s never a dull moment and things can change pretty quickly. Even the best laid plans can be disrupted depending on what’s being reported in the news. But a “normal” work day would be sprinkled with meetings like strategy and planning for PR announcements, initiatives, and events; press briefings, responding to press inquiries, and weekly meetings such as my manager’s staff meeting and my own staff meetings. And all the while, I’m trying to tweet, update my Facebook status, and keep up with technology news. I do my fair share of business travel, and much of my time is spent on the phone and on my HP notebook!

-What's your favorite aspect of working in technology?

My favorite thing is how quickly things change, and I love knowing about all the cool products and technologies before they hit the market. I also like the surprises we discover in the way people use technology. Take the HP TouchSmart PC, for example. We wanted to make a PC that was simple and fun to use, and we were so successful that we’ve discovered that it’s making a significant difference in the lives of children with special needs. Check out these heartwarming video clips and you’ll get the idea of why I love technology and what I do:

http://www.nba.com/heat/video/2009/03/25/wade_stolzenberg_feature_heatv.heat/index.html

http://boss.streamos.com/wmedia/nba/footage/dwade_and_mikey.asx

-What have been some of your challenges you faced, and how did you tackle or overcome them?

I think one of my biggest challenges in the beginning of my career was that I never had any formal training in PR (I studied the human resources discipline in college). When I joined the PR team I had really good instincts, but I’ve also been lucky enough to work with some great managers and colleagues along the way who have been priceless to me in learning the trade.

To overcome challenges I think that you have to be willing to take risks and try new ways of reaching your target audience. I’m very fortunate to be in high-tech PR because I get exposed to new tools pretty early on in the development phase. It’s fun to test these things out, but there can be associated costs that don’t always give the best return on your investment. Live and learn, right? Most of the time I get lucky!

-Have you ever felt like you needed to hide your femininity or that fact that you were a female?

Never.

-What advice do you have for females interested in getting into your field?

If you’re a college student, definitely get a summer internship in PR as early as possible to get exposure to the PR practice and see if it’s the right career for you. And if you’re trying to break into the field I think the best place to start is a PR agency. You can get a ton of exposure to different types of PR at an agency (including technology PR) and you can learn from the ground up. From there you can decide if you love working on a variety of accounts or if you want to move over to the corporate world.

-What's one gadget you can't live without?

I’ve lived without computers, cell phones, voicemail and answering machines (see how quickly technology changes?!), but I would have to say that my notebook is the most important gadget and something I don’t want to live without. It’s my encyclopedia, it’s my rolodex, it’s what I use to stay connected to the world and my friends, it’s a source of entertainment, and it’s my life. As we say at HP, the computer is personal again – and it truly is for me!

-Do you have a personal 'mantra' or certain words you live by?

I have a couple of favorites…

You don’t get if you don’t ask. (I’m not sure who said that but for me there’s no risk in asking!)

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. – Paul McCartney

-And lastly, what drives you?

What drives me: making connections, networking, introducing people to other people to help them connect their dots, and just helping people. I hope to always be doing something that matters.

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