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WITI Women | Janne Ackerman

WITI Women Survey Questions and Responses:

1. What was your first job in technology?
I was as a computer programmer for a food processing company. I maintained several large computer models that balanced quality, cost, and ingredient availability for weekly production of sausage, hot dogs, salami, and other processed meats. I learned a lot about weekly deadlines, maintaining poorly written code, and the food processing industry. I also learned what it was like to get laid off which happened to me after one year on the job.

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
Richard Tobaben was my most significant mentor. When I began looking within the company for a career change, he believed I could easily make the transition and connected me with the right group. Most people I interviewed with looked at my current assignment (software quality assurance) and assumed that few of my skills would transfer to software development. Therefore, I wouldn't be able to compete successfully against someone who had been doing software development for several years. The offers I got from them were well below my capability level to say the least. Rich's guidance and friendship made the right change happen and allowed me to prove that they were so wrong.

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
My greatest challenge was getting my pilot's license. I flew in a small plane when I was a teenager and loved it! When I decided to follow my husband's lead and get a pilot's license, I was over 30, married with two kids, and fully aware that I was mortal. I approached each lesson and flight with sweaty palms. I continued in spite of my trepidation and the personal payoff was huge. I have rarely felt as elated as I did when I soloed. I learned to force myself outside my comfort zone. Most limits I've encountered have been self-imposed. The strategy I used then - keep the goal in focus and push outside my comfort zone - is the same strategy I use on a day-to-day basis to be successful.

Janne Ackerman answers these questions:
1. What was your first job in technology?
2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
6. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?

On the lighter side:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
3. If you couldn't do what you are doing now, what profession would you choose?
4. What is your definition of success?

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