Women in Tech: Christine Updegraff, Director, Hospitality Solutions, IBS Software, based in Connecticut, USA.
Tell us a bit about your role and what motivates you
I joined IBS Software seven years ago in an account management role within the Hospitality division, and I continue today to lead relationships with key global hotel accounts. My role is to analyse, discover and match the needs of e-commerce buyers and sellers of hotel products with IBS Software solutions. I also serve as a source of directional input to our product management team which is continually building our roadmap for the future.
What motivates me is visionary thinking: the next horizon, the twists and turns that keep us moving toward novel solutions. Not only do I enjoy new ways of looking at things and new ways of solving problems, but I also actually enjoy the fact that there are new problems to be solved. If there are people in the world who are change-resistant, I think that I am the opposite. I am stagnation-resistant.
What was your first experience with tech?
My father was a physicist and a university professor, specialized on the leading edge of computer science in the 1980s. We had a computer in our home when I was growing up, at a time when NOBODY had a computer in their home. I spent time as a child in the university environment, helping students compile their programs using punch cards. Now I'm giving away my age!
How did that lead you to this field?
I studied computer science as an undergraduate, but it was my part-time job with an airline, alongside my university studies that led to my career. I worked in customer service at the airport ticket counter and gates. I quickly mastered the computer system (a new thing at the time) and became the de facto trainer for the other employees. A series of moves led to my role with Apollo, which is now known as Travelport. I didn't start out with the intent to work in the travel or hospitality sector, but my career took on a life of its own.
Who are your female mentors who helped shape your career?
My academic advisor was a woman who balanced her work role as a professor with her family life (in my memories, she was serially pregnant throughout most of her lectures). She encouraged me to see no limits. In my early career, I was mentored by multiple women who educated me in the non-academic setting; it was on-the-job experience that rounded out the 'tech' side with soft skills. But one of the most encouraging women was Jan, the Chief Architect at Galileo, who continually offered her support and advice, which I gladly accepted and incorporated into my professional life.
What are some of the career challenges you've experienced as a woman?
In becoming a mother, I experienced post-partum issues - not depression so much, but the 'brain fog' that comes with sleeplessness and divided attention. My professional performance took a hit, as mothers in the US are expected to return to work full-time within six weeks. It was a difficult time.
What career advice would you give to the next generation of women entering the tech sector now?
Opportunities are unprecedented for women in tech. Enjoy those opportunities, be bold and confident in what you do, but resist the idea that being 'less feminine' might be required to get ahead. Be yourself and keep your eye on the ball. If you don't get a position or promotion that you want, don't assume it's because you're a woman. But if you see a pattern of unfairness, call it out and press for answers.
My next trip will be…
…a cruise with my beloved to the Greek islands, which also includes stops in Cyprus and Turkey. I am most looking forward to visiting classical history sites, places I have only read about in books. I also love learning about cultural traditions throughout the world, and sampling local cuisine.
I am currently reading…
"Clean, Green & Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins that Make You Fat" by Dr Walter Crinnion. No further explanation needed. 😊
My fitness goal is…
…To build up my flexibility and learn to do a backflip