Brilliant Women in Technology: Meet Renee Schmidt

Hi CuteGeeks! Earlier this week I attended an event sponsored by WITI (Women In Technology International). The event was about positive psychology, hosted by Reuters. I am an avid fan of motivation theories/'self-help'-like topics and as I patiently waited to personally meet Louis Alloro (the presenter), I realized I had so much in common with the lovely lady in front of me - Renee Schmidt. She's a techie, entrepreneur, etc. is a Techie, Entrepreneur, and Cloud Computing Expert as well as Co-Founder of Madison Technology, a NYC-based Cloud Hosting and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider.

The rest is history...Renee and I spoke for a bit, our excitement increased, our enthusiasm began oozing, and the power in networking, and specifically, women networking became apparent. Too often women compete with each other for no reason. Instead of welcoming each other, or helping and supporting each other, we get catty, kind if itchy (oops, I forgot the B) and there is no need for that. Networking is extraordinary, and meeting like-minded people, who have similar passions as you is so fulfilling. WITI brought us together, and I am using to introduce you all to our latest brilliant woman in technology. Like, she recognized there was a gap in technology, the way women were addressed, or included in some of its happenings and decided to create a website ( & also her own company) on - she's great!

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

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Aside from my being super energetic and pretty ambitious from an early age (I graduated from High School in 3 years instead of 4), I would say my upbringing was pretty conventional in every sense. I attended public school, my family is middle class. At the age of 20 I finished Baruch College with a degree in Real Estate Finance. I had every intention of making a career for myself in real estate and by the time I was nearing my graduation date, I had already started my first job in real estate banking (it was an interesting time to get into real estate; the market was just beginning its ascent). During my 5 year banking stint, I worked on billions of dollars of rather awesome and high-profile transactions. The hours were difficult but the experience was phenomenal. -How did you get started in technology, or at your current position?

“Why would you transition from Real Estate to Technology?” I get that a lot. It’s seems crazy, but it’s not. Technology has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve been fascinated with the Internet since its inception, having had at least one computer in my home as far back as I can remember. My older brother Alex has been in the technology business since computers hit the mainstream, over 15 years ago and I’m certain that had a lot to do with it. When Alex expressed over lunch one day that we should start an IT company, I knew instantly there was a synergy between us. My Park Avenue business savvy combined with his unparalleled IT expertise – it seemed like the perfect match. It took a lot of thought and time before I’d be all hands on deck, but fast forward 1.5 years and I am so glad I did it! Ironically enough, while in college, I spent 2 years working for an IT company. I never expected to make a career out of it, but looking back, it seems everything fell into place quite perfectly. Without first having the corporate experience (and the know how to do business with institutional clients), there’s no way I would have had the skill set to get Madison Technology to where it is today.

-Was it tougher because you are a woman?

Life is all about perspective. Reality is shaped by our state of consciousness at any given moment. Therefore, a challenge can be an opportunity if you view it as such. Has life been tougher for me because I’m a woman? Maybe. But you know what; I’ve never considered my challenges as anything but opportunities for growth!

-If there was such a thing as reincarnation, would you come back as a man or woman-holding all other things equal…?

All things equal, I’d reincarnate just the same. There’s nothing more fascinating than being the female energy in a masculine industry. By the sheer nature of being different, you have the opportunity to stand-out, reinvent the rules, make an impact and make a difference.

-Describe a "normal" day in your life.

A small business owner wears many hats; I’m no exception. One of my key functions at Madison Technology is Business Development. I’m responsible for sourcing, managing and implementing new business opportunities as well as managing existing client relations. I spend a greater part of my day handling branding, marketing, advertising, and promotion planning. I have a few online marketing initiatives running at any given time, so I’m constantly fine tuning those on the fly. I recently started blogging via a newly launched site called SheBytes is a technology news blog written by a woman (me) for women. I write about the latest in gadgets, cool new websites, apps, social media and more. The blog was inspired by my assertion that women's publications disregard technology and technology publications disregard women –it’s my mission to change that! My hours are quite hectic and I often work late nights and weekends but I make sure to have an active life outside of work as well. I’m really big on leadership and empowering others. I think networking with business owners and women is important and I try to frequent as many networking events as possible. I find philanthropic efforts rewarding and I volunteer a considerable amount of my time and energy to a few. I also do my best to never decline a meeting; I love to help people and I think there is an opportunity to be found and something to be learned from each person you encounter. And of course, I make time for family and friends; as of late that means weddings, wedding, and more weddings. Everyone I know is getting married!

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

I love technology because it’s never static. The industry is always evolving! There’s always something newer, smarter, better –forget cutting edge, technology is bleeding edge! Switching gears quickly is my forte and technology appeals to that side of me; it forces me into remaining sharp! That’s also a main reasons why I love blogging; not only does it have me scour the internet for the latest gadgets, apps, and technology, it’s also an opportunity to describe what I learn and share that with others.

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

As a first time entrepreneur, my main challenge has been learning how to successfully run and market a business. My biggest take away is this: the defining factor to success is not resources, but rather resourcefulness. Be resourceful! Talk to people, try a few different strategies (don’t put all your eggs in one basket) but also hedge your bets. Much like people, each business is unique. Who knows what will work for your business, given your personal strengths? Figure it out. Try different things but take calculated risks (the kind that won’t bankrupt you if they fail). And don’t be afraid of failure. You’ll never succeed at anything if you’re too afraid to try. Give yourself room for mistakes but make sure you do your homework. Don’t walk into anything blindly. Due diligence is key!

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

To be honest, when I worked in banking, I felt like I did. I was junior and I wanted to be taken seriously for the merit of my work. Much like technology, real estate is a male dominated sphere, so I tried to play down my physical ‘assets’ rather than play them up. Now that I own my own business, I don’t feel as much pressure to conform to a standard. I quite enjoy being a woman in a male dominated industry; the paradox is liberating. Because I’m an entrepreneur, I don’t have to compare myself to colleagues. There’s no measuring stick, no performance review. My review comes at the end of the year when I check my books and calculate the bottom line.

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

Go for it! Women are unrepresented in technology: CNBC reported that in the U.S., only 3% of all new businesses are founded by women and only 1% are high tech firms! Some people see these statistics as a deterrent; I see them as an open opportunity.

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

My Verizon iPhone 4. I have it configured to ActiveSync with Microsoft Outlook 2010 (my corporate email system). My iPhone runs my life: contacts, calendars, email, etc. I also use it as a tether/hot spot for my iPad 2. I can’t be without it.

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

Wisdom is the ability to see the end at the beginning (i.e. what will the seed I plant today manifest into down the road?). If always ask myself this question before taking action; it helps me to make better choices.

-And lastly, what drives you?

I’m driven by a few things: 1. My commitment to integrity. Much like you wouldn’t drive over a bridge that lacks integrity (i.e, a bridge that is not whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, perfected), an individual or business without integrity will appear to others as inconsistent, unreliable or unpredictable. Why would someone want to work with an individual or company that is inconsistent, unreliable or unpredictable? They wouldn’t! Meaning: integrity is a necessary condition to maximum performance. 2. “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Never take no for an answer! Find another way but get up and keep it moving! 3. Our goals are not the goal –it’s really all about the journey. Life doesn't start at some future point in time when we have more money or a better job. It doesn’t start when we find the right partner or when we have kids --or even after we've solved all of our “problems.” Life is the right here and now. It is who we “be” every day and how we relate to the people around us as we face each new challenge. Make who you “be” about more than just you. Find the time to help others. If you do, then somehow, someway, something fortuitous will happen: you’ll get that extra lead, or that extra business. It may seem counterintuitive, but take care of others and the universe will find a way to take care of you.

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