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“Words To The Wise” By Janet Schalk

“Words to the Wise” by Janet Schalk

Why did you choose technology as a career?
I have always enjoyed solving puzzles, and I’ve had incredible opportunities to do so by leveraging technology. And I’ve been able to collaborate with great people while doing so!

Since technology continues to evolve, at an ever-increasing pace, I am able to challenge myself in learning new things at every turn.
My various roles have also given me the chance to travel extensively, and to work with people around the globe. I’ve learned so much from these experiences!

What has changed in technology during your career?
Of course the specific technologies we use have changed tremendously; when I first started we could not have imagined the power we would some day have at our fingertips, with our smart phones being portals to the world in many ways.

More importantly, the types of challenges we tackle through technology have expanded dramatically. Today we manage our everyday lives through technology; for instance, technology has made shopping infinitely more convenient. You can make your selections at home, and either pick up the same day at a nearby store or wait a day or two for your essentials to be delivered to your doorstep.

On the other end of the spectrum, we leverage technology to solve world-changing problems – such as using artificial intelligence to dramatically improve physicians’ ability to diagnose cancer and other diseases early, which can literally save people’s lives.
In 2020, while we are all coping with the COVID-19 crisis, many of us are using video conference apps to work from home or connect with friends and family; students are continuing to learn on-line at home while schools closed, and numerous technologies make it easier to stay fit and keep us entertained.

What advice would you give a young woman considering a career in technology?
Take every opportunity to learn and grow. In addition to classes, seek out ways to get experience; participate in hackathons, find internships, create projects for yourself or with a group of friends. As you try new technologies, or solve different types of problems, your confidence will soar. While you are learning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process. Experimentation will yield great results over time, even if the first time you try something you miss the mark.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Find mentors; there are so many people out there who want you to succeed. If you get the chance, shadow someone to learn what a “day in the life” is like.

Any other suggestions?
Make it fun. When you are able to apply your technology talent to something you are passionate about, you will enjoy the work that much more.

Why is it important for young women to pursue careers in technology?
On a personal level, a career in technology will enable you to showcase your talents in so many different fields – science, fashion, e-commerce, medicine, construction, education, financial services, and many more. You will have the flexibility to work for a large company, a small company, or to start your own! I’ve spent most of my career in retail, and I’ve been able to build on my technology experience to contribute in a completely different industry, driving innovation in senior living.

On a global level, we need you! As our world’s challenges become more complicated, we desperately need innovation to improve people’s lives. Simply put, diverse teams build BETTER, more creative solutions. You have the technical aptitude and the boundless creativity to make this happen.

Janet Schalk
Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Direct Supply

Prior to joining Direct Supply, Janet worked primarily in the retail industry; she served as Chief Information Officer at Target Corporation, Kohl’s Corporation, and Hudson’s Bay Corporation. She has significant experience driving digital transformation initiatives. With a passion for developing talent, she has been instrumental in launching and expanding campus recruiting programs for technology teams. She is a past Board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Milwaukee, and of Second Harvest Heartland in Minnesota. She has served as a judge for a hackathon sponsored by Code Nation, a non-profit organization which provides high school students with opportunities to build technology skills. Janet holds a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Economics from Northwestern University, and an MBA with emphasis on Finance from the University of Chicago.

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