Mother and daughter share generational perspectives on working in the chain – Strategy – Training and development

It’s safe to say that the Grothjan family is no stranger to the indirect side of the house. Donna Grothjan, Head of Global Channel for Aruba Networks, and her daughter, Katie Grothjan, Head of Digital Marketing for Ingram Micro US, are a dynamic pair.

Donna also spent her first 15 years in the workforce at Ingram and decided to be a channel “life forever.” It stands to reason that after hearing stories about emerging technologies and the rapidly changing world of computing, Katie decided to start her career in the channel as well.

Coming from two different generations, “Gen X” for Donna and “Gen Z” for Katie, women have very different experiences in computing – and that’s a good thing.

While a ‘women of the channel’ outing would have been a small group, or a ‘ladies night’ for Donna in her early days, Katie sees an IT world that values ​​equality and she doesn’t feel like the only woman. at the table.

Donna and Katie shared their experiences and perspectives as two-generation women in IT, their biggest barriers, and what they would like to see changed for an audience of female executives from vendor and supplier organizations. of solutions.

Here is a transcript of an interview with the Dynasty couple at a recent The Channel Company (parent company of CRN USA) event.

What have been the biggest hurdles since you started as a woman on the channel compared to now?

Donna: Some of them are still the same. We think about high tech, how fast the market moves and how many new businesses are growing every day – I think one of the things that still holds us back sometimes is this view of when opportunities arise , we always feel, if I can’t do this job 100%, then I can’t apply.

When you think about the explosion of technology, if we’re not really willing to…pursue something that maybe you’re 50% qualified, there’s a lot of others who are basically willing to step in and occupy these positions.

I think in general, from a woman-in-chain perspective, sometimes we’re not willing to take that opportunity where we should be, and we should be willing to take those risks. When you talk to your friends, you know so much about your work and [IT], and so it’s really just kind of chasing that opportunity and feeling like, “You know what? Why not?”

Katie: From my point of view, it is rather: “What obstacles? “I obviously know the stats, I know women face a lot of challenges in tech, but I was blessed to grow up with a strong leader as a mother who taught me that if you you’re asserting the same way a man might in business, then you’re not going to run into those challenges. If you find a seat at the table, if you ask for accountability after that and ask for that raise, you’re not going to run into those obstacles.

What are the positive changes you have seen for women in the channel since your beginnings until today?

Donna: I’ve been in the channel for [close to] 30 years and I think these are the women’s networking events where we have the opportunity to really learn from each other and learn things about ourselves. Thirty years ago, we called it a girls’ night out. We had drinks and conversations about work and supported each other.

I would say that from an industry perspective, I think what has changed is, number one, there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable – I think one of the most important is probably that you felt very early on that you couldn’t be vulnerable, that you had to be motivated, you had to be successful, and you couldn’t really rely on a network of individuals – let that network be a network of women or peers, or whoever you feel comfortable with, I think it’s different. And I think that feeling of vulnerability, of learning from each other, of sharing – I think that’s what’s different today that really supports the growth of the channel.

Katie: I feel like there is so much equality at work for me. Every woman I’ve met in tech and at Ingram Micro that I’ve met and worked with has been so supportive.

Do you feel like you have managed to balance work and private life?

Donna: I think a lot of us ask the question, ‘What is work/life balance?’ And I think to be honest for me, it’s always been, ‘I don’t have a work/life balance.’ I make a decision… at that moment, “I’m going to work, or today”, “I’m going to do something for myself, or do something for my children”.

For me personally, work/life balance has always been about choice. I think that’s one of the challenges and I will say a lot of the time there’s someone in the house who probably takes care of day-to-day business. My husband is a pilot. he travels, I travel. So for us, in terms of how we were successful with our kids when they were young and still to this day, is that we don’t have set rules at home. It’s not my job to do this or his job to do that. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, someone does the dishes. I think work/life balance comes from recognizing that you can’t do everything and making those choices. I would say that I have a balance, for the moment.

Katie: I know my mom was stressed from traveling for so much of my life, growing up, but honestly, I’m grateful to her because I think it had a huge influence on the independent person I’ve become. today. I think my brother and I have both developed strong-willed, problem-solving personalities.

I studied abroad in Madrid and the fact that my mother travels all the time made me want to be globally competent. So whenever you’re in a country where you don’t speak the same language as everyone else, and the menu is different, or you’ve never taken public transport before, I wanted to be that person who figured out which metro line to take. It’s just little things here and there that I’ve noticed in myself that probably stem from having such an independent woman as a mother, [which] definitely influenced me and my brother to both be independent people.

Do you have a mentor or mentors?

Donna: This is going to sound like a canned answer, but honestly, it’s not. First of all, yes, I have a lot of mentors from my current generation and some are older than me. For me personally, the way I’ve built my network is that I have a very reliable inner circle. I will call them all my mentors, [or] my entourage. And then, of course, you have a wider network, and the reason for that is that whenever I have a problem, a challenge, a new responsibility, whatever it is, I have the ability to call somebody one and say, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’ Or ‘I feel dumb today’ or ‘I was at that meeting and answered this question and now I feel really dumb’ Tell me what you think and let me know what you think .

Katie: Of course, my mother and the wonderful people she introduced me to [are mentors], but my group of friends influences me every day. They are all so different. You would think it takes similar people to have the same thought processes as you to get into these deep conversations, but they are actually very different and every time we go down the rabbit hole it’s always a very healthy and productive conversation. They continue to inspire me every day.

What is your advice for the next generation?

Donna: I would say that what I found different, especially being able to spend time with [Katie’s] friends and my son’s friends… [They are] I think that’s what I see in the millennials we hire, who work on our team, and who we interact with. What I would say is: how do you take that motivation and that audacity, and be able to turn it into an ability to influence? Because influencing is so important.

I think sometimes, because you haven’t had the opportunity to live decades and learn from that experience, there’s that level of boldness. But at the same time, how do you turn that into more influence? Because when you work for multiple companies, or the companies you work for like Hewlett Packard Enterprise – it’s a big company – have, at all times, two or three bosses, or you work in a mass cross-functional organization, [so] you have to influence.

In my day, I was so shy that I thought “Oh, the hierarchical structure is this”, and there were five levels above me, so I expected that if there were discussions in a room, the five levels above me would respond in this hierarchical structure, but it’s not really today. It’s so great to see how many millennials have an opinion and they’ve expressed it. But sometimes, to be honest, when they put it on, I’m kinda like, “Okay, I heard you, but I’m not sure you’re taking everything into perspective.” So [it’s about] make this [boldness] and make it more intellectual, instead of just making a statement.

Katie: My biggest piece of advice for Gen Xers working with Gen Z would be to take out the phrase, “This is how we’ve always done it.” There are a lot of companies with really established brands, goals and visions, and I would just suggest that you should always question that, even if they’ve been around for so long.

Maybe just an example is that company profiles on LinkedIn usually have very technical writing and a Gen Z might argue to bring a lot more personality into your company channel even though that’s scary but the no one on the other side is still human. So just be open to challenging these [historical] manners.

This article originally appeared on

Tanya J. Hill