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Freddie Mac

Freddie Mac: Advancing Women Leaders in Cybersecurity

Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Freddie Mac. Go to Freddie Mac's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

Chief of Staff and Senior Director Michelle Bennett is focused on connecting and advancing women in technology, information security, risk and related fields. In this article, Michelle shares the importance of sisterhood in building the next generation of women leaders.

Five years ago, Michelle recognized a gap in the support system for existing and rising women leaders in her sector. "We have women working in tech and various programs across Freddie Mac. We've begun to form certain synergies—but without an umbrella to really unite us." So, she spearheaded a partnership with the Executive Women's Forum (EWF) to not only bring these women together but to provide learning and networking opportunities with thought leaders from around the world.

Forming trusted relationships

When Michelle started her career at Freddie Mac 28 years ago, the landscape for women in tech and risk looked very different. "It used to be less common to see women leaders in security and privacy fields," she says. "It's essential that we take our seat at the table now and bring other women along with us. Women uplifting other women—there is a real need for that in this space." For Michelle, the relationships she developed over the years with her women colleagues can be described as nothing less than a sisterhood. "Women who saw potential in me that I hadn't known was there were building my confidence, pushing me to the next level in my career." Through her own experience, she could see that there was a growing need to provide mentorship for women, specifically in technology fields.

Developing future leaders

Each year since 2015, Michelle has taken the lead of managing a cohort of 20 women to participate in EWF and bringing messages of empowerment back to the Freddie Mac. The partnership with EWF, sponsored by the Office of Inclusive Engagement, provides unique opportunities for members to network and develop leadership skills with specific risk and compliance focus in the information and technology risk space. "Listening to women across the globe describe the challenges they have overcome to be where they are is incredibly powerful and being able to share the softer side of these experiences with one another is invaluable," said Michelle. "These are senior women I know I can call on; I feel honored to be a part of this." Through the benefits of the EWF partnership, members have had the opportunity to participate in several career-building events and programs, including the EWF National Conference, networking dinners, regional meetings with keynote speakers and panelists, peer mentoring, webinar series and more.

Building a network

Promoting the development of women leaders is a priority within Freddie Mac and the primary mission of the Women's Interactive Network (WIN) BRG. In October, the EWF cohort and WIN partnered together to share resources, grow the community of women leaders and strengthen their overall impact within the company. "Other women brought me out of my comfort zone," recalls Michelle. "I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for them."
popular

How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.

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Relativity

How Relativity’s Monika Wąż Conquered Fear to Find Her Dream Career

There's a phrase in her native Polish that Monika Wąż reminds herself of each day: "If you don't learn, you're just going backward."

The Associate Product Manager at legal and compliance technology company Relativity says she would believe in a growth-centered approach to work even if she wasn't in the tech field, but that it's especially important because she is.

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Autodesk, Inc.

How Embracing What She Doesn’t Know Led Autodesk’s Arezoo Riahi to a Fulfilling Career in DEI

Arezoo Riahi isn't a big fan of the "fake it till you make it" approach. She'd rather ask for the help she needs and learn from it.

Autodesk's Director of Diversity and Belonging joined the design software company from the nonprofit world after a long career in connecting people from different cultures. While her work had been deeply rooted in DEI values, there were certain parts of the strategy-building aspects to her new role that she wasn't sure about.

"If you know it, show up like you know it. If you don't know it, you shouldn't fake it. And Autodesk didn't shame me for not knowing everything. They helped me, and the entire team, by providing the resources that we needed, bringing in outside expertise to help teach us when we were in new territory," says Arezoo, who has been at Autodesk for three years now, during which she's been promoted twice into her current role.

We sat down with Arezoo to hear more about her path into DEI work, what she thinks the future of that work must include, and what advice she has for women looking to build fulfilling careers, from knowing what you don't know and beyond.

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Videos

Behind-the-Scenes: Sales Interview Process at LogMeIn

Get an inside look at the interview process for sales roles at LogMeIn, one of the largest SaaS companies providing remote work technology, from Michael Gagnon, Senior Manager of Corporate Account Executive Sales.

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Procore Technologies Inc

How Being an Open Member of the LGBTQIA+ Community Has Helped Procore’s Alex Zinik Overcome Imposter Syndrome at Work

Alex Zinik wasn't surprised that she started her career in education—she decided she would become a teacher when she was just in third grade.

She was surprised while working as a paraeducator in the school system and preparing to become a special education teacher, she discovered that it didn't feel quite right. "I didn't know if that's what I really wanted to do," she recalls.

So a friend suggested she take a job during her off summers at construction software company Procore. She thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out this new challenge, and if she needed to, she could go back to the school district once the summer was over.

"Five summers later, I'm still here!" she says, smiling. "And I see myself here for many more years. I just fell in love with the company, the culture, and with the career growth opportunities I was presented with."

As part of our Pride month celebrations, Alex, currently the Senior Executive Assistant to the CEO at Procore, sat down with us to share how a common fear—the fear of being found out—underlay the imposter syndrome she felt when pivoting to an industry in which she lacked experience, and the anxiety she often felt before coming out to her friends and family about her sexuality.

Read on for her insight on overcoming negative thought patterns, being yourself, and paying it forward.

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