WITI Women

Bren Norris
Founder & President, Bren Norris Associates

After the 1987 stock market crash, Bren Norris had an opportunity to leave her position as a stockbroker with Paine Webber to pursue her lifelong passion of starting her own business. On the East Coast she had worked in the information systems industry with corporations such as Xerox and Pitney Bowes. Understanding the contract consulting industry and believing in the potential of technology, Norris decided to open an agency for technical professionals.

She named her company Bren Norris Associates. BNA provides a leaseback program where they payroll employees of major corporations and lease their services back to them. Her achievements in this industry took her into the international market arena providing support to her U.S. clients in their overseas offices. Norris provides these services from her virtual office where she is connected using the latest technologies which allow her to run her business 24 hours a day in many different countries around the globe.

On the personal side, Norris writes children's books and has a deep love for music. Her grand piano provides a balance in her daily schedule. She is also an accomplished public speaker. In 1995 she was an elected delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business and worked on issues and recommendations to congress related to intellectual property law.

Norris spoke most recently at the Governor's Conference for Women and at the 7th Annual Business Conference for the Asian Business Association. She can be contacted at [email protected].

1. What was your first job in technology?
My first job with machines and in the technology industry was in the late 1960's working in a binder. After that I sold word processing equipment, computers, software and then high-tech services.

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
The man who taught me this business in 1980 has been my most significant mentor. He has always been supportive, and excited about my achievements in the field of technology. He trained me in the business arena and how to deal with problems, negotiations and most of all, how to work as a woman in a man's industry.

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
Giving the business longevity has been my greatest challenge. There are always ups and downs in every cycle, especially working with people. My degree in psychology has been helpful to me in building relationships that have been critical to the success of my business. Other strategies I've used are to always work on developing myself and improving my business and contributing to society whenever possible.

4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
My father. He has shown tremendous courage and strength as he has gotten older and faced serious health conditions. He has faith beyond words and an incredible sense of unconditional love. My father has given me the strength to continue in the face of adversity and failure. He never said a cross word to me and all of his actions are based on love and respect for all human beings. Even in our fast paced society he never gets off the phone without saying "I love you." I wish I were more like him.

5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
Financially, set yourself up as a WBE certified as soon as possible, get credit lines from banks or the SBA or wherever available and strengthen those financial relationships. Get credit, keep great credit. Keep asking for more when you're financially stable to continue growing. Then when the economy takes a plunge, you have excess resources already in place for those times, and they will happen. Be prepared. Hire a mentor.

6. What strategies do you use to maintain balance in your life?
Thank you for asking. This is the very first year that I have been able to maintain a balance. After 10 workaholic years and no real social life I decided to take time for myself - my father's deteriorating health has made me realize a lot of things. I don't use a strategy as much as my understanding of my limitations in the workplace. I started golf lessons this year and love the game. I am at the range every morning by 8 a.m. to drive a bucket of balls. So even in relaxing, I am driven, but I laugh more and I am not attached as much to the outcomes as I used to be. It also helped quite a bit when we moved our offices from the financial district in 1998 to virtual offices and laptops.

7. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?
One that has not been discovered yet. With the ever changing Internet/Web and the way we communicate, it is too early to see what will happen in the next 20 years ... there are way too many good things coming that we have not been able to see ...

On a lighter note:

1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?

Ludwig von Beethoven and Mozart.

2. If you could only subscribe to 3 magazines, what would they be?
National Geographic Magazine, Architectural Digest and Martha Stewart Living.

3. What was the last book you read?
Bridget Jones Diary, Proud Spirit, Sacred Space, Way of the Shaman and now Rage for Fame

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