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These articles were prepared for the July 18, 2001 edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Women in IT Careers: No Barbies Here
At the first meeting of Women in Technology, a New
Technology Council group,
"Let’s just look around the room for one moment. Is there a geek
in the room? A nerd?" The audience, technology professionals one
and all, had to agree with Fatcheric, president of Relational Options,
an IT solutions company based in Florham Park, that, indeed, it was
a pretty normal looking crowd. "These were attractive women,"
Fatcheric says. "There were no pocket protectors in sight."
Fatcheric moderates a discussion of "Balancing the Running of
a Company with Juggling Personal Responsibilities,"at the second
meeting of the group on Thursday, July 19, at 8:30 a.m. at the offices
of Relational Options in Florham Park. The free meeting is open to
women who head up technology companies. Call 856-787-9700.
A strong advocate for getting women into technology careers, Fatcheric
says the industry has to fight the perception that the successful
IT professional is a loner who thrives on writing code in a corner.
"Customer retention is the critical piece of the business
she says, and superior communication skill is the way to achieve it.
"I believe women are innately better communicators," says
Fatcheric. Maybe it’s because women’s brains are hard-wired for the
multi-tasking that is motherhood, she muses. Whatever the reason,
the industry needs the skill that women bring, but it is not getting
it. "Women occupy less than 10 percent of the IT arena," she
says. What’s worse, that percentage is shrinking. "In the last
five to seven years, there has been a decline," she says.
a good old boy network. Women are entering their child bearing years
and need time off, but their bosses don’t want to make the adjustment.
They’d rather hire a man."
The Women in Technology group will strive to attract more women to
IT careers, and to create an environment in which they will want to
remain. In a field where recruiting personnel — of either gender
— is still a challenge, despite the demise of the dot-coms that
soaked up so much talent, Fatcheric says the obstacles to attracting
women start early.
"In elementary school girls are channeled away from science and
technology," she says. "And look at the video games! Are they
made for girls? No. And if they are, it’s Barbie," she says, her
voice dripping with disdain. "It’s glitzy, sexy, not
The Women in Technology group will look to the women who have been
successful. It will examine, Fatcheric says, how they did it, and
will look into how all women in technology careers can make their
The story of how Fatcheric herself did it is in many ways typical
of the zig-zag course women tend to travel in lives that weave work
and family together. She met her husband,
and co-founder of her company, in high school in 1966. Raised in
New York State, she attended William Smith, where she majored in
and education with the plan of becoming a teacher. "That’s what
you did," she says. "You went became a teacher, had children,
and had the summers off."
The plan didn’t work quite that way. She left school to marry Jerry,
who had majored in library science at nearby Hobart College. The
had two children, a son who is now 30 and a daughter, 26. As they
moved around following Jerry’s work, she cared for the children, took
courses wherever she could, and worked too. Many of her jobs involved
sales, often of electronics. By the mid-’80s, she observed that
processing is going like crazy." Working, at that point, in
in the dying machine tool engineering field, she taught herself about
the data processing industry, and became a recruiter, and then a
By the late-’80s, her husband, who had parlayed a job using
systems to organize abstracts into a IT career, was growing unhappy
with his work for Oracle. "Why don’t we start our own consulting
firm?" she asked him. His reply: "Are you crazy?"
She convinced him that if it didn’t work out, they could both go back
to their former professions. "What’s the worst that would
she asked. Agreeing that they most probably would not starve if the
enterprise tanked, he agreed, and they co-founded Relational Options
in 1988. The company’s services include systems planning, application
definition, development of custom software applications, training
and education, and computer time-sharing. She handles strategy,
marketing, personnel, and sales. He is in charge of the technical
While building the business, Fatcheric completed her college degree,
graduating from Caldwell College with a psychology degree on the day
that her son turned 21.
Perhaps because of her own varied background, Fatcheric says women
who would do well to look into IT jobs are career changers, perhaps
"moms getting back into the job market." Key requirements,
in her view, are superior communication skills, an ability to relate
well to other people, and aptitude. "The aptitude part is really
the ability to think logically," she says. In IT consulting, the
most important thing is to understand what the client needs. "You
talk to the user," she says. "You say, `What do you want it
to do? How do you want it to look,’ and then you repeat back to them.
`You want it to do this. You want it to look like that.’"
This back-and-forth is where women shine, says Fatcheric, and why
more of them should jump into IT. Asked about the percentage of her
own company’s roster that is female, she says, "It’s a sad number.
It’s abysmal." Maybe 20 percent of her employees, tops, are women.
The problem is twofold: The company does not get a great many
from women, and many of the women it hires and trains leave to go
to work for clients. "It’s good news, bad news," she says.
On the one hand, she is glad her company has trained so many women
so well that "the Merrill Lynches of the world" are eager
to hire them, but she does wish they would stay. "Shoot,"
she says of the defections, "that’s not how we planned it."
As far as juggling stewardship of a company with a personal life,
the topic of the second Women in Technology meeting, Fatcheric
"It’s not something I do real well. I’m sort of married to my
business." When you’re a Type A personality, she says, you give
150 percent to whatever you do. Nevertheless, she does have some tips.
doesn’t just go home, and let the time away from work fill up any
which way. Rather, she has developed interests that absorb her. She
works in her garden and makes pottery. It’s important to choose
that push aside all thought of work. "You have to be totally
she says. "For my husband, it’s racing cars. That’s something
where you really have to think about what you’re doing." For an
attorney she hired, a career switcher who is new to IT, it’s workouts
at the gym and coaching junior football.
stuff and let other people do it," she says. If you have a finance
manager, by all means let her manage the finances. Go to meetings,
stay on top of the numbers in a general way, but do not try to
Without this philosophy, Fatcheric says her business would not work.
She sees to the company functions that are her responsibility, and
leaves the rest to her husband. Both are careful not to "cross
her husband and business partner during the work day, but does bounce
ideas off him at home. It doesn’t have to be a relative, but it is
important to find someone who is willing to listen to work problems
and brainstorm solutions.
"Mentoring is so important," says Fatcheric. And so is
from high-profile women. One of the women she looks up to? "Ivana
Trump," she says. "There is a woman who has been
she says. "She’s a survivor. It got ugly there for a while, but
she managed to keep it together."
The telecommunications industry may be in disfavor on
Wall Street, but telecom start-ups are flourishing here.
of the law firm Hale and Dorr on College Road, will moderate a panel
for the New Jersey Technology Council entitled "Telecom Start-Ups:
Stories from the Front Line," on Thursday, July 19, at 4 p.m.
at the Princeton University School of Engineering. Cost: $40. Call
The CEO of Summit-based Teltier Technologies,
will speak. The panel also includes
Fast Optical Systems, a Princeton University spinoff that has been
funded by Harmonic Research and has an additional office in Manhattan.
The third panelist is
Lightwave, a Sarnoff spinoff (U.S. 1, May 9).
"Market conditions for startups have changed rather dramatically
in the last year and a half," says Nolting. "It will be
to hear how companies with very interesting technologies are
to raise money and forge ahead."
An alumnus of Columbia University (Class of 1976) and New York
Nolting has been involved in the technology industry since 1982 when
he was an inhouse attorney at Applied Data Research in Princeton.
When ADR was bought by Computer Associates in 1988 he worked at Unisys
Corporation and in Woodbridge at RAM Mobile Data (now Cingular
before joining Buchanan Ingersoll on College Road. He was one of the
Buchanan Ingersoll attorneys who went to Hale & Dorr. Among his
are a Hackensack-based wireless telecommunications company, GoAmerica
Inc., and Enerwise Global Technologies Inc., an energy management
service firm in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Nolting likes to quote one of New Jersey’s own, Thomas Alva Edison,
on the definition of genius: "Hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and
common sense." That summarizes where entrepreneurs need to be
in the current market, says Nolting. "It is easy to be successful
when everyone is successful, but it takes hard work and perseverance
when things are less favorable."
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