Women in IT Awards USA winner: Ronni Eloff, For Alliances

Ronni Eloff is an advocate and technology leader with 30 years of experience in software engineering. She seeks to create opportunities through technology for women to increase their competitive edge in today’s business world.

Most recently, she served for more than four years as Evangelist/Advocate and Director of Social Marketing and Media with Women in Technology International. Inspired by the entrepreneurs she met there, she has launched For Alliances, a clearinghouse to create collaboration and build alliances across women’s organisations around the world. For Alliances seeks to raise awareness of the services, opportunities, events and awards available to recognise women’s accomplishments in business and technology.

Can you provide some leadership advice for those looking to advance their careers?

YOU ARE A LEADER, no matter what level you are at or what people think. Leaders are here to inspire, to challenge ways of thinking, to motivate, unblock, facilitate, encourage and most of all to provide insight.

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It’s not about telling someone what to do. It’s not about a title. It’s not even about management. It’s about being mindful that you work with other human beings who care and who are compassionate. You instill into everyone that each human being is unique, one of a kind, has something to contribute and is valued.

Who have you looked to for inspiration, within the technology industry or more broadly?

Technology-wise, my geeky friends who do all sorts of astounding applications, tools and Internet-of-Things-related tech. I tend to follow them and look for new and exciting tech to play with. For advocacy, it’s how strong the person’s convictions are and what the impact is. I’ve always been inspired by Gloria Steinem of course, but there are others who have helped me rethink advocacy and what it means to me; Michelle Obama, Oprah, Brené Brown, Laci Green, J.J. DiGeronimo, Julie Kantor, Adiba Barney, Joanne Moretti, Peggy Kilburn, Poornima Vijayashanker, Karen Catlin, Bob Burg, Will Marré and Dale Vaughn.

Ronnie Eloff, founder and CEO of For Alliances, won the Advocate of the Year award at the inaugural Women in IT Awards USA
Ronnie Eloff, founder and CEO of For Alliances, won the Advocate of the Year award at the inaugural Women in IT Awards USA

What was the best piece of advice given to you?

It is never just about you. Make it something greater than you. It took me more than 30 years to finally understand it completely, but it was and still is the best advice. Always make it something greater than yourself. (And my favorite Star Trek quote: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”) It is not meant to put others before you. It is meant to always think about how and what you do to be something greater than yourself.

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Have you had to overcome any career challenges?

I am always overcoming career challenges. One of the nicest parts about being an advocate is that there is no set form or specific activities with rules and regulations about how they are to be executed. Each day brings a different challenge to review and potentially solve. However, there has been what I call career-affecting challenges, such as learning how to ‘manage perceptions’ and what that really means and the impact it has when you understand it.

What does your typical day look like?

I work out of my home office, which enables me to create my own schedule. Mornings are my quiet thinking time. I spend it meditating, planning and reading up on a subject that I’m either working on or want to learn more about. I also do my social media work and collect women-centric news articles and organisations to contact. Afternoons are my scheduled time for phone calls. I make 4 to 6 calls a day to reach out to other organisations, to women and men doing outstanding things within the diversity and inclusion space who might offer opportunities for partnering or contract work.

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In the evenings I spend some time with my bead or paper craft and/or art journal and then it’s my quiet time with my husband and our cats. But there are four things I feel I must do daily as an advocate: expand my network by five new folks who are doing exceptional work in diversity and inclusion, find 10 new organisations to add to my database so I can start collaborating with them, introduce at least three folks from my network to each other for more collaboration and post an affirmation of some kind to help others.

Who were the individuals who served as mentors and role models for you and how did your relationships with them help your own professional development?

Joanne Moretti is a very successful and powerful marketing and sales leader and I am still wrapping my head around the fact she’s one of my mentors. I am so blessed with her guidance, strength and courage to try new things. Through her I found the courage to step up my advocacy, to really let it become my guiding light. Now she’s helping me as an advisor as I forge forward.

Peggy Kilburn is another mentor and I am especially honored for her guidance in event management, procurement of speakers, programming and honoring women and their success. She has been in the trenches with me as a guide and a navigator and has helped me understand you need to have fun with what you do.

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Manuela Pauer really helped get me out of the rut I was in and started me moving down my path of advocacy. She guided me from being unhappy and unfulfilled to finding my passion. Her wisdom, empathy and always knowing what to say at the right time are among the reasons I so enjoy working with her.

Not a lot of people click immediately with me as ‘peers’ with whom I can brainstorm, dive deep and get into the technology and strategy of new ideas and innovations. Amanda Coolong is one of those people. Without her, I don’t think I would have made the bold move of taking my advocacy globally, or have the vision I do now of reaching more women (and men) to really change the mindset of how and why we do business.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.

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