Kara Kapczynski Kara Kapczynski
Chief Technology Officer, Senior Vice President
Gen3 Partners

Kara Kapczynski is the chief technology officer, senior vice president, for Gen3 Partners. In her current position, Kapczynski works on the technical architectures that support a variety of businesses, manages a team of senior technical architects, and provides technology thought leadership for the firm.

Prior to Gen3 Partners, Kapczynski was vice president, chief technologist North America for Cambridge Technology Partners. Kapczynski was employed at CTP from 1997-1999, and during that time she established and grew a senior technology organization for the firm that was a multi-million dollar "architecture" practice.

Kapczynski herself works specifically on projects involving technology strategy and the implementation of emerging technologies. During the fall of 1999, she was the chief architect on the company's most sophisticated project - the design of a web-based infrastructure to support the deployment of any interactive application, approximately 120 Internet related "concepts," for one of the ten largest financial institutions in the world.

During 1999 she spoke at JavaOne (San Francisco, June) and at Women in Technology International (San Jose, June and Boston, September). This year, she spoke at Interactive Newspapers 2000 in February. She is also a technical contributor and technical book reviewer for Addison Wesley. Kapczynski and her team also author the monthly column, IT Architect, for the SunWorld publication.

Kapczynski has 15 years of experience in the computer industry. Previously, she was a director, Distributed Computing Consulting Services at the Gartner Group, a senior project manager and technical architect at MCI/SHL Systemhouse and a manager for the National Center for Technology Enablement at Ernst & Young. Also, she was involved with software development and systems management activities at IBM and Digital Equipment and did development at two start-up software/hardware companies in the 1980's.

Kapczynski received her bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her master's degree in business administration in a night time program from California State University, Northridge. She has also done graduate work at the Vrije University Brussel in Brussels, Belgium.

1. What was your first job in technology?
I worked for IBM on Market Street in San Francisco. It was my first paying technology job. It was tough working a 40 hour week, and still being a full-time computer science major at UC Berkeley, but I did it. I worked as a systems operator for the first few months, then I discovered a room of newer technologies for doing graphical work, so IBM changed my position to make me the graphics center coordinator and I wrote programs that were demonstrations for corporate clients that were looking at the technologies.

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
I wish that I had a significant mentor, but I really haven't. This is why I support the WITI program and try to be a good mentor to others that I work with in the technology industry.

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
One of my greatest challenges has been to progress in management at work while maintaining my technology architect skills and continuing to work on technology strategy. Everyone told me that it would be too difficult. Sometimes, people say that you "sell out" on technology if you take a role that involves management responsibility. I have tried to prove these people wrong. I maintain my technology skills by continuing to do Internet related work, by participating in technology conferences and other strategy forums, and by researching the work being done by software vendors and in universities. To me, the role of "CTO" makes what I do best a recognized career.

4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
My mother has been the most influential person in my life. She was the first one in an immigrant family to get a college degree, and her value system involves integrity, hard work, and education. She worked as a teacher part-time and full-time during my childhood. She taught office skills such as shorthand and typing, and I remember when she first starting learning BASIC programming in the 1980's because she recognized that computers were becoming more and more a part of office skills.

5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
My advice is as follows:

  • Consider doing a technical degree and an MBA while you are young, and have less responsibilities.
  • Ask your manager to develop a career plan with you and to identify the necessary next steps towards your progression.
  • Negotiate your compensation plan to ensure that you get paid the same that a man would make for doing the same job.

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?
The technologies that will have the most positive effect will be technologies that link everything together - whether that is geographies, disparate systems, home and office, data across the Internet, or otherwise. The technologies that scare me the most are data mining and profiling technologies and databases. This type of work and these technologies make me want to pay cash for everything I buy!

On a lighter note:

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

Stephen Hawking, the physicist, since he has proven the power of the mind.
My boyfriend, because I don't get to spend enough time with him!

2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
"The New New Thing" by Michael Lewis - this is a Silicon Valley classic. I also like "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing - it demonstrates what the human spirit is capable of.

3. If you couldn't do what you are doing now, what profession would you choose?
Someday I will retire from my current career, and at that time, I would like to work in a shelter for battered women, and teach them basic computer skills.

4. What is your definition of success?
Success means having a positive effect on people's lives through your interactions with them.

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