Brilliant Women in Technology Lauren Harich

IMG_7016I met Lauren Harich at an HP calculator event, an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 12c calculator.

While the 12c calculator may not seem HIGH TECH it is the longest selling calculator and rumor has it that the competition coughTexas Instrumentscough even uses it to verify that their calculators are giving the right answer. 

Click read more to read out interview with the lovely and ever so talented Lauren Harich!

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

While I was in college at the University of California, San Diego, my friend and I started a business running educational chess programs at elementary schools in Southern California. After about five years, I went back to school at the University of San Diego to get an MBA. Within a few months I landed in the calculator business at Hewlett-Packard to round out my career as a professional nerd. Marketing calculators to high school students seemed like a logical progression from marketing chess classes for elementary students.

-Describe how you got to where you are? (How did you get started in technology, or at your current position?)

The combination of an MBA program and my background in entrepreneurship propelled me into my current career. More importantly, my background was in educational services. I am not a tech guru by any means, but I understand the intimidation many people feel when they look at a chess board for the first time or purchase their first specialized calculator for a finance or math course they don’t understand. Mastering technology is a lot like mastering chess. For beginners, we break it down into simple steps so it’s easy to master the basics and build confidence. The rest comes in time.

-Was it tougher because you were a woman?

Absolutely not! I’ve had the great fortune of working with a number of driven, successful women. While some of the guys in my MBA program were angling to find the right good ol’ boys club, the women ran circles around them, taking over student leadership positions, landing stellar internships, and in some cases even getting married and having children at the same time. As a woman, you have to be able to juggle a lot of balls and work flexibility into your career plans if you want to have a family. I think that’s what makes us dynamic and resourceful.

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

I don’t think I can really answer this question until after I’ve experience child birth. Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to be a man. I have an alpha personality, which looks good on a man. But as a woman, I’ve had to tone that down a bit. I think people see an alpha male as a boss and an alpha female as bossy. However, while an alpha male might go through life pounding his fists and ruling with intimidation, a smart alpha female learns how to work effectively with others to gain their buy-in and achieve results. That’s my theory, anyhow, so I’d like to come back as a man to see if it’s true.

-Describe a "normal" day in your life.

I don’t think there is a normal day in my job. Every day is something different. One week I’ll be writing a marketing plan, and the next I’m investigating new media advertising opportunities, copy-writing, or running a booth at a tradeshow.

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

Mobile apps are the most exciting thing for me today. We’ve created mobile apps for some of our most popular calculators, but with this new technology, you have to ask, what more can I do with an app that I can’t do with hardware? That question gives us the opportunity to get creative.

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

I was only 20 when my friend and I started Master Minds together, so at first I felt that I was too young to make decisions and manage employees. Building confidence was my biggest struggle, and it’s absolutely necessary to succeed in business. You have to have an unwavering faith that in the end, you will prevail. (I got that last line from Good to Great, but I’m pretty sure it’s paraphrased).

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

In general, I think my gender is a great asset. I work in a very egalitarian environment, so I have never felt discouraged from being myself in my work environment. At times, I’ve dealt with people outside my company who have revealed ulterior motives and put me in an uncomfortable position. In those cases, it’s important to have the wherewithal to recognize bad intentions early and remove yourself from a negative situation.

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

Be assertive. Ask questions. Offer to take on projects. Enthusiasm is contagious, and if you’re excited about the industry, people will recognize that you’re the right person to have on the bus.

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

My smart phone and my HP 17bII+ financial calculator. My 17bII+ got me through 3 statistics courses and an MBA emphasis in finance. If feel like we are war buddies.

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

Always run 100 mph toward your goal. It’s okay if you stop to change direction, but pursue every goal with fierce determination.

-And lastly, what drives you?

My parents had high hopes for me when I was a kid. I want to make them proud, and I want to be an example for my own children some day.

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