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WITI Women | Marianne Sarcone

WITI Women Survey Questions and Responses:

1. What was your first job in technology?

In my first job in technology, I was thrown into the fire - at my request! After spending thirteen years on the business and operations side of Merrill Lynch, I decided it was time to round out my career. I left a wonderful management position to become a junior programmer analyst. I bought and read every book you could find way back when to teach myself Cobol and JCL - after all I had a plan! Since I had a strong background in Name and Address processing from the front-end of our business to operations, I wanted to take that knowledge to the next level. I was very specific about what I wanted to learn in the technology organization. Luckily, I was able to do just that! I was placed on the Merrill Lynch Core Critical Path Batch Systems. That meant enhancing very old spaghetti-code programs with multiple linked called programs.

My first assignment was to make three major changes to the main program for the N&A system. Everyone was so nervous that SWAT was going to call that night with an Abend. I wasn't! Not only did I have a plan for my career, but I had work plans/schedules with real tasks and time frames built in especially for testing. I felt it was extremely important to start work and do all of the necessary planning, prototyping, documenting, coding, testing, etc.

To everyone's surprise, I never had a job Abend in production in three solid years of hands-on experience. After that time I started pursuing the management track again but on the systems side. In a very short period of time I became a senior systems manager for the firm's entire N&A and Document and Linkages systems area. It was a great job! For three and a half years, our team continued to deliver on all projects by working smart and being proactive. We lived process to the "T"!

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
I have had two formal mentors who have been extremely instrumental in my career by offering the lessons that they learned the hard way and sometimes allowing me to make my own mistakes to learn from as well. Sometimes it was a true set-up and I walked right into it. Believe me, it's probably best to learn that way.

However, my most significant mentors are my friends who are on the outside looking in. It's these people who are the most effective in giving you something that someone in your own environment usually misses. It's the practical, common sense advice that is so worthwhile.

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
During my twenty-four year tenure with Merrill Lynch, one of the challenges I faced very early in my career was the need to learn as much about the firm as possible. Not just my area of responsibility, but

  • what the firm is as a whole
  • the corporate culture
  • who's who
  • what are the policies and procedures
  • how many sectors and units exist within it
  • what goes on around you
  • who and what are your inter-dependencies

These are a few other challenges that came up over the years ...

  • Not knowing the right people or having the right people know who you are. In this case, networking became very important.

  • Setting goals and driving your own career destiny. To accomplish this I needed to ensure that management understood my career goals. This enabled them to coach and guide me in working towards them.

  • False perception. This is an challenge I hear about every day through the Women's Network. Being labeled as aggressive, emotional and sensitive as opposed to assertive, effective and passionate! In this case I insisted on developing a personal profile in which my manager, peers and subordinates answered a series of questions resulting in an analysis of how people perceived me.

  • Empowerment. Being given a position but not being empowered to make decisions based on your subject-area of expertise is a significant obstacle. In this case I recommend you gain the trust and respect of management to enable them to become more comfortable with you making decisions on their behalf.

Marianne Sarcone 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 strategies do you use to maintain balance in your life?
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?

On the lighter side:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
2. Define success in 10 words or less.
3. If you could only subscribe to 3 magazines, what would they be?
4. What was the last book you read?

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