Industry Voices: Laura Crumley on Being a Woman in Tech
The Software Report (TSR) recently announced the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS of 2021 and named Laura Crumley to the list of high-performing executives. Laura, who serves as senior vice president and chief financial officer, joined HID seven years ago to spearhead a large restructure. The list acknowledged Laura as a leader who translates strategy into action, delivering strong financial results and transforming the business during a period of high growth and substantial change — all outstanding achievements in their own right.
What the award didn’t tell you, and what I learned about Laura by way of this blog interview, is even more remarkable. Laura is warm, charismatic and very approachable. You get a real sense of the curiosity that drives her every day. Her journey is relatable for many still building their career. I asked Laura a few questions, and below she shares her story and advice.
Tell us a little more about your career path. How did you get started?
My career has taken me across a number of different industries from companies that were $5M to over $60B, but joining the technology field was not intentional. I had a manager that I worked for early in my career who had moved over to Intel. We got together for lunch, and I shared a little bit about how I was getting bored in my role at the time. The pace was slow and there wasn't much change.
As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.” Well, I got it! My first role in tech was with Intel and I've loved the technology field ever since. The pace is fast. You have to look at how you can consistently evolve, or the competition is going to pass you by. Andy Grove — who led Intel to become the largest chip maker in the world — wrote a book named Only the Paranoid Survive. The core of his philosophy is to embrace the opportunity to evolve during moments of massive change. That has stuck with me.
Most of all, I got the opportunity to work with some really amazing, wicked smart people! The kind of people who by just being around them inspires you to raise your game and be better.
What interested you in a career in finance?
I'm curious by nature, and so there were a lot of different things that interested me in college. In fact, it took me longer than four years to graduate. When the time finally came, I needed to pick something and I chose economics, which is very close to finance.
These are fields that revolve around analyzing situations or data, and then understanding the why behind the data. The numbers are the result of either assumptions made or something that's happened in the business. I loved being able to not only analyze the data or the situations, but also dig into it by asking questions — Why did it happen? What is the data telling us? What conclusions can we draw from that? The numbers are important, but it’s more about what’s underneath. I think that's what ultimately drew me to finance and has kept me there.
Who were some of your early mentors?
This is a hard question for me! There are people who can point to a specific person as a mentor. For me, it was several, really great people who mentored me in two ways — through specific situations or through career moves. Most of them were managers whom I had stayed in contact with over the years that I could reach out to for advice. For example, if I had a big presentation and really needed to influence the outcome, I would reach out to them for guidance based on their different strengths. Or if I was considering a job change, I would reach out for guidance.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I’ve gotten lots of advice over my career, but I think the best advice I've received and have followed is the idea that you don't have to be an expert in everything. It’s important to understand both what you know and what you don't know — to acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses — and then to bring in the people who have the expertise you don't. This is relevant in many ways, including solving a business problem or building a team.
What did you learn along the way that was important to your success?
I think the most important thing I learned is this: regardless of your role, you need to understand the business. For me, this has become foundational. I’ve worked in a variety of industries and a variety of roles. One of the first was as a project accountant working in the field where I was responsible for payroll, account reconciliations, etc. Being in the field allowed me to ask a lot of questions and be close to the business. No matter the size of the company, it’s been a very useful technique. Remember the 5 Why’s of problem solving, which is asking “why” five times. It’s a great way to increase your understanding of the organization’s operating model, competitive position and profit model and how your role relates.
What advice do you have for other women in technology fields who want to grow beyond their core skills to become leaders?
I have two pieces of advice for women, and really anyone, who want to grow their career in technology.
The first piece of advice is to not self-assess for a role and apply, apply, apply! A recent LinkedIn Gender Insights Report showed that after viewing a job description, women were 16 percent less likely than men to apply for the role. Furthermore, women apply to 20 percent fewer jobs than men. But when women do apply, women are 16 percent more likely to get the job they apply for, and that number goes up to 18 percent when applying for senior leadership roles. Don’t be shy about putting yourself out there and letting others know what your career aspirations are. You don’t have to check all the boxes in the description to be the right fit for the job. Put your name in the hat and let the process determine if you are qualified! This goes for special projects as well. Sometimes you have to take a chance to get in the game!
The second piece of advice is to observe people who are good at the skills you want to develop. I’m not just talking about hard skills. This goes for soft skills too, like being a better delegator or handling conflict more productively. Ask for a one-on-one with that person, grab a coffee or even a virtual coffee, so that you can understand how they developed that skill. It’s important to build a strong — and diverse — network of supporters, so don’t limit yourself. And you never know, you may find a great mentor in the process as well.
Want to join the team and work with amazing women in technology like her? Check out our careers page for exciting opportunities!
Kym Elizondo-Cowley is the Senior Manager of Content Strategy with HID Global who brings more than 20 years of experience in writing and content marketing to the security industry. Before joining HID Global in 2018, Kym served as a content strategist, blogger, writer and marketer for organizations in the B2B and B2C SaaS and technology sectors, including roles at Blucora and Microsoft. She is based in Austin, Texas.