Wendy Pfeiffer has had an impressive career leading technical functions for GoPro, Yahoo! and Cisco. Today she is the CIO of computer software company Nutanix and serves on the board of Girls In Tech.

Pfeiffer is a proud and loud proponent of women and a rightly self-declared badass. However when it comes to leading, the multi-faceted CIO told Girls in Tech she takes a rather unique approach.

“It’s leading with an iron fist in a velvet glove. And this is very unique to women, it’s something that is natural to women. It’s a unique advantage that we have as females, if we’re not afraid to show it,” said Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer is also adamant to make a difference between managing and leading but says empathy is always key. “Manage or lead? Those are two different skillsets. As for managing, I truly believe that the thing that drives me most is empathy. [My team’s] gain is my gain; their loss is my loss,” Pfeiffer explained.

As a leader, the CIO has her team’s best interest at heart. “I want to help them become masters of their own destiny. Tech people can struggle with how to manage business, social skills, humility; sometimes they are not as socially aware. I want them to become self-actualized in their roles,” she extrapolated.

She also believes she has an obligation to the younger generation. “A lot of women and girls of every age think they may want to be like me one day. With that comes a lot of responsibility,” she said.

However, Pfeiffer’s career path was not as direct as one would think. “In the beginning, my career wasn’t as straightforward as it might appear in retrospect. It took me over eight years to get a bachelor’s degree because I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do,” she told Usersnap.

In fact, the CIO stumbled into her current field. “Along the way, I started working for tech companies, and I learned a lot about what I wanted to do with my life,” she explained.

Once there, Pfeiffer paved her own way. “Throughout my career, I had to to make up my responsibilities on the go. These companies I joined were scaling exponentially, and there was no script or best practices on how to do things. When I was at Cisco, and we acquired StrataCom, I went from being responsible for a team of 12 people to being responsible for a team of around 400, all in one day.

“There wasn’t a degree program for what I was doing or any particular technical discipline. There weren’t even tried and true operational processes for things of that scale. Inventing myself has always been the hallmark of my career progression,” she said.

 

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