Interview with Lauri Bingham of T-Mobile
Lauri Bingham, director of technology PMO at T-Mobile, is an upbeat and hardworking woman. Her positivity is infectious, and the work she does to inspire other women is life-changing. She shares her passion for her career with us.
Brooke Lazar (BL): What made you choose a career in technology?
Lauri Bingham (LB): It was by happenstance. My high school didn't have AP math classes, so when students excelled in math, like I did, they skipped a grade.
By my senior year, I had taken the offered math classes. Another local high school offered advanced math classes, but my family didn't have a car to get me there. My options then were either not to take a math class or to take a new basic programming class my school offered. I took the programming class, and I loved it.
Eventually, I attended Washington State University where I pursued accounting. I noticed most of the electives I chose were technology-related because programming came easily to me. When I spoke with my advisor, I decided to double major in accounting and computer science.
After college, I did financial reporting within Boeing's Defense and Space Group.
BL: What does an average day look like for you?
LB: My team is spread across the country, so my day begins with Skype meetings. My office is at headquarters in Bellevue, Washington because I bridge our virtual PMs (project managers) with our on-site executives.
Our PMs call in with project updates; I keep track of the body language in the room, and I deliver that information back to the PM. For example, I relay what is happening in the room when the PM is on slide seven of their presentation.
Part of my day also consists of learning as much technology as quickly as possible because technology constantly changes.
BL: What do you enjoy most about your career?
LB: I love the people. I enjoy putting people on assignments and projects that they're excited about. Their growth and excitement permeate the organization, and when I see that, I know I've had a successful day.
BL: You lead a Women in Technology Initiative at T-Mobile. Can you discuss that?
LB: When I started my position four years ago, one of my peers, Katie, asked if I was interested in being a leader for the company's Women in Technology Initiative. Katie felt the gap in supporting women in the company.
We brought 18 like-minded people together for lunch, and the initiative grew from there. We now have 16 national meeting locations with five or six meetings a year. We create the content based on the feedback we get from surveys after each meeting. We provide lunch, content, and a place for departments (both men and women) across the organization to network. Each meeting series now has about 400 attendees.
Another way we train employees is by sending them to women in tech conferences. Not only do they network within T-Mobile, but they also get great information through the conference.
We also partner with the Boys and Girls Club to hold STEM events where kids can learn more and build their excitement for careers in the STEM field. From this collaboration sparked bring your kids to work day where employees' kids are also exposed to STEM careers.
Everything we do is a labor of love. These are side-gigs; not our full-time jobs.
BL: What obstacles have you overcome as a woman in tech?
LB: Some companies that I've worked for were more challenging than others. I worked in manufacturing for most of my career, which is male-dominated. I had to find whom I wanted to be as a leader, not mimic the men around me. It takes practice to achieve that.
BL: What advice do you have for other women pursuing a career in technology?
LB: Find your way of leading. Women bring a different and valuable perspective to the table, and we don't have to behave like men to be leaders. Don't become someone that you're not because people aren't going to follow an inauthentic leader.
BL: Over the course of your career, how have you seen opportunities for women in STEM expand or shrink, and why?
LB: I didn't know that the tech industry was so male-dominated. I didn't go through college thinking it would be a tough road. It was to my advantage to be innocent. Over the past few decades, a cloud developed over technology that convinces women it will be hard to overcome obstacles in a male-dominated field. We try to dispel those thoughts through our STEM events and WiT Community Meetings.
Many companies try to make technology careers better and easier for women. It's unfortunate that there have been crooked leaders along the way. That's what inspires other women and me to band together to make it better for the coming generations. It's logical to be positive rather than spend time stressed about the horror stories.
Brooke Lazar is WITI's content manager and digital editor. She has a BA in professional and technical writing from Youngstown State University.