87. Audrey Russo- President and CEO, PGH Tech Council

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“In this role I feel as though I am serving a very large and impactful vision. We have seen the transformation of Pittsburgh and our organization has had a pivotal role in accelerating this growth.”


Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.


No day is the same which makes my role interesting, dynamic, nimble and compelling. My day includes working with the team and our wide array of members. Our mission is to ensure that Southwest PA is the best place for tech and innovation to grow. We provide leadership in public policy, business development, talent and visibility. . Right now we are in the midst of relocating our offices and there are many decisions which are required to ensure a smooth transition – which is exciting and sometimes tedious. There are days which include public speaking, writing, team meetings, member meetings, recording radio and strategic partnership planning.


How do you stay passionate in your career?


In this role I feel as though I am serving a very large and impactful vision. We have seen the transformation of Pittsburgh and our organization has had a pivotal role in accelerating this growth. We work with companies of all shapes and sizes across every sector. The variety of our regional portfolio is exciting in and of itself.


Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?


I have had a very non traditional path into tech. After a masters degree in policy at Syracuse University Maxwell School, I got involved in consulting and tech, starting in customer support and help desk, then business and application support and then moving into global ERP implementation. Also working at MAYA Design, I had an incredible opportunity to participate in a consulting practice which focused on innovation design.


Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?


My outlook, SMS, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Camera, Kindle, Amazon Music and gmail. And I am very thankful Go Mobile Pgh (the parking app). I keep alerts for Smell Pgh, my Ring and of course I cannot live without my FitBit App, my banking app, Dark Sky, Amazon, WhatsApp, Uber and Uber Eats and my Scrabble app.


It’s common knowledge that women often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?


I have mostly worked in more male dominated environments. I have experienced a fair share of sexism over the years. Even early in my career, sexual harassment. But I am a relationship person, not afraid of conflict and have learned that establishing work relationships grounded in meaningful collaborations has served me well. I also have been in leadership roles for a long time (over 25 years) so I have been able to set the cultural agenda for those I get an opportunity to lead.


What’s your favorite thing about being a woman in tech?


I don’t think its about being a woman, I think it’s that we are living in rapidly changing times, faster than ever before in human history. There are so many opportunities for people to build upon their ideas and drive more of how people want to live and work, not just work. This allows the potential for more flexibility to accommodate everyone, if you are fortunate enough to work in innovation sectors of businesses. This should allow more opportunities for women.


How have you given back to the WIT community?


I volunteer, mentor, advise and connect women who are not just building amazing companies but also those women who work in corporations in tech as they navigate their careers. This is inherent in all that I do both at work and outside of work.


What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?


DO IT! There are many ways to develop skills and you do not have to be a master in .Net or DevOps. You can learn to manage projects. Learn project management skills. Also develop financial skills. Understand budgets, revenue and performance.


Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year.


My team at the Tech Council!!! They are kicking it out of the ball park and are really able to understand and translate the value of what we do and are not afraid to take a stand. We just released our newest Tech Map and WOW is it amazing (this maps out the tech companies in our region — this year we riffed on a music theme…)


Favorite quote:


“Be interesting but more important, be INTERESTED.”