In October I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Tracy Mayor, a Computerworld magazine features editor, about being a woman in technology at Xerox. The article came out this month “Women in IT: How deep is the bench? (Superstar women lead IT at some of the biggest global corporations, yet the path to the top isn’t clear for the next generation.)” You can read it online or read this scan of the printed magazine.
The article features a great interview with Sophie Vandebroek, CTO at Xerox who is leads the global research organization where I work. Here’s the text from my section:
Xerox’s Zahra Langford is one tech employee who enthusiastically embraces the concept of hybrid skill sets. Praised by Vandebroek (her boss’s boss) as “an amazing, amazing woman,” Langford started out as a theater major and then became interested in set design, which led her to Web design. She did OK for herself freelancing in Silicon Valley until the tech crash of 2002.
At that point, she went back to school “to try and get technical credentials for what I was kind of doing already,” she says. She earned an MSI in human-computer interaction from the University of Michigan in 2005 and went to work for Xerox, where she had interned. An interaction designer, she is in her third post at Xerox.
African-American and openly gay, Langford is a minority within a minority within a minority who on the face of it might seem an odd fit on Xerox’s Rochester, N.Y., campus. But the company’s range of affinity groups have made her and her partner feel welcome, she says — and they’ve helped her develop professionally.
“One thing the caucus groups do provide is a cross-company network,” Langford explains. “If you want to be a VP, you need exposure to different parts of the organization, and Xerox is so large, if you just hang out in your own department, you’re not going to move forward in a constructive way.”
Mentoring from women at the executive level — Vandebroek, in particular — makes a difference as well, Langford says. “I had access to Sophie even as an intern. She was very involved in connecting with people and asking them to consider Xerox for the long term. She helped me realize this place is pretty special.”