October SimuWIT Spotlight
Since beginning the employee resource group (ERG), SimuWIT back in May of 2021, the group has had the opportunity to speak to many influential and inspiring women in the technology space. October is Women in Sales Month– a time where we can draw more attention to the underrepresentation of women in STEM. According to the article Celebrating Women in Sales by Koutney Kirton, while numbers of women in technology have grown in recent years, women still only represent 25% of the overall technology workforce. SimuWIT’s mission is to inspire, empower, and promote women to stand-up and stand-out within this incredible industry. For October’s spotlight, we spoke to a woman in technology and sales- Fran Bolanis, a Regional Sales Director at Ansys.
Tell me about you, who is Fran Bolanis? I am a busy, working mother of 3 boys – ages 14, 11, and 9. In my day to day, I wear many hats like, collaborator, negotiator, therapist, cook, cleaner, and Fruber that’s Fran, Uber driver for my kids. I thrive in a fast-paced, high-energy, competitive environment and have never really liked to relax.
Can you describe your current position within Ansys? I am a Regional Sales Director with Ansys for the central portion of North America. My team includes a mix of direct and indirect sales professionals. Currently, I work with about 10 channel partners and about 35 sales professionals from Illinois through Quebec and everywhere in between. We work together to help our customers build transformative products more reliably and efficiently.
What would you say is the most challenging part of being promoted in a male-dominated industry? I’m happy to say, I haven’t viewed my gender as a barrier to promotion. My colleagues and company make me feel heard. I have had strong career role models and mentors, both male and female. Ansys has some very strong female executives and leadership and they have always been accessible to me. When I first started with Ansys, 7 years ago, I was a Territory Sales Representative, and our CFO, Maria Shields, called me into her office to talk with me about my career aspirations and simply get to know me. I have always remembered and carried that with me. It always amazed me that she took 30 minutes out of her day to do that. Those are the small details that you don’t forget.
How do you manage being a Mom/Wife/Director? By enjoying the ride and having a good support system. We all have many different roles in our lives, you might as well have fun doing it. I’ve found that having everything on one calendar helps me understand what each day looks like. I schedule time to catch up on high-priority items and set reminders for myself both personally and professionally. I think there is something to be said for ruthless prioritization; the most precious thing we have is our time and we should spend it wisely. I do my best to remain focused on wherever I am, as an example, when I am helping with 3rd-grade math, I give it 100% or when I am traveling for work, I remain focused on meeting productivity rather than micromanaging my family from afar (my husband appreciates that part). Additionally, find what works for you and your family and be willing to be agile in your planning. Just because you have been doing something one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. I am always looking to get better continuous improvement and refinement.
What advice would you give to women trying to break into engineering and technology fields? Be authentic, ask questions confidently and listen to the answers, and don’t try to be too perfect. When I first started in my career, I was trying to be overly polished. Not listening enough and focused on what I wanted to say rather than solving my customers’ problems. Always remember that people like working with people, especially people who are authentic and who they can trust. There’s an old stereotype that while I don’t find true along gender lines does offer wisdom: some listen and immediately fix a problem and others listen to understand the problem. Life, relationships, solutions are a process and there is a time to do but there is also a time just to listen.
A few other pieces of advice I’ve been taught:
– Push yourself outside of your comfort zone to grow. Change means growth.
– Focus on your team’s success rather than your own
– Take care of yourself.
-Find ways to manage stress, for me that’s exercise, spending time outdoors, and podcasts/books
– Be consistent and transparent
SimuWIT’s mission is to inspire, empower, and promote women to stand up and stand out in this incredible industry. We choose to take the lead and be an example, we strive to make an impact, we aspire to be a voice to influence and enable women everywhere.