Sasha: Welcome to our Women in Tech Leadership Series. I’m Sasha Casas here with Julie Cullivan, our SVP of Business Operations and CIO.
Julie has made a stellar reputation in the industry for being smart, savvy, and a strong communicator and leader. Spoiler alert – she’s also a woman. We wanted to take a few minutes to pick her brain on how she got to be where she is today, and any tips or advice she might have for other aspiring leaders.
First can you break down what it is that you do here at ForeScout?
Julie: Yes, so from a business operations perspective, I’m driving all the highly cross-functional initiatives and programs that the company is trying to work on. As the CIO, my responsibility is to drive the strategy from a technology perspective and clearly those highly transformational programs often have a technology-enabling component to them.
Sasha: Did you always know you wanted to be a Chief Information officer? What was the career path that got you here today?
Julie: I was presented an opportunity. My initial thought was, “Gosh, I’m not the right person for this role!” But the more I thought about it and what the important drivers were for the role, I realized, “hey, why not give it a shot?” It boiled down to worst case scenario – “If I’m not good at it, I’ll go back and do something that I’m really great at.” And thus far, I’ve really enjoyed it and here I am in my second CIO role.
Sasha: You’re an embodiment of the saying “If someone offers you a job, but you don’t know how to do it, you sign up and figure it as you go.”
What’s become the favorite part of your job?
Julie: What I enjoy most about both the business operations and CIO role is that it’s really about engaging across the entire organization to drive change. I have an opportunity to really look at things from a “what’s most important to the company perspective”, and then turn that into a set of programs and projects that help enable that.
Sasha: As an executive, what advice would you give to other leaders and managers?
Julie: The one advice I really give folks is – focus on your strengths and also to be an authentic leader. Teams and individuals respond when they know you’re being honest and transparent and real. And that includes having difficult conversations as well.
Sasha: You have a strong presence in the Girls in Tech community and recently spoke one of their events in San Francisco. As a wife, a mother of two, and an executive, what advice would you give to other women in tech?
Julie: The short talk I did at Girls in Tech was very much around “Mother’s Guilt”. The reality is, there actually is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything’s a constant balance and my advice to them was to learn to say no. When you’re juggling so many things, you have to know what to say no to, at a given time. And you can always say no in a way where it almost sounds like you’re saying yes. But you just need to be willing to say, “I can’t sign up for this.” It boils down to being willing to do that, which is hard – we all want to do everything.
This “Mother’s Guilt” that I referred to- I spent a lot of time thinking I was ruining my kids because in my role I travel and put a lot of energy into my job. But when you realize they are extremely resilient, and you know what to prioritize, and the reality is half the time that you’re feeling guilty there is no reason to be feeling that way.
Last but not least, it’s really being proactive about your own time. Booking that time you need, whether it be personally or professionally, to get the things done that are important to you. We often allow other people to own our calendars and taking control of it yourself is important.