Laserfiche was founded by Nien-Ling Wacker, a woman who began her career building custom solutions out of her home in the 1970s. She grew her business into the world’s leading ECM software company, which works to enable the digital workplace of the future. Today, she is recognized as a visionary leader and a pioneer in her field.
This March, the U.S. will celebrate Women’s History Month. To celebrate, Laserfiche will highlight some of the employees that have been inspired by Nien-Ling’s legacy.
Melissa Henley is the Director of Marketing Communications at Laserfiche and has been with the company for 11 years. In her role, Melissa oversees brand management and corporate marketing communications initiatives. Read on to learn more about what inspired Melissa to work in the tech industry.
1. How did you become interested in a career in technology? Have you always worked in tech, or did you transfer from another industry?
I have always been interested in technology. My family’s first computer was a Commodore 64, and when I left for college, my dad and I built an Intel 386 computer together in the garage! It’s sad to think that my iPhone has more computing power than that computer, which ran Windows back when it actually had “windows.”
I moved to technology from the finance industry, where I worked in marketing compliance. I remember being so excited the day of my interview at Laserfiche because it was a Friday and everyone was wearing jeans! It was a big change from wearing a suit every day. I accepted the job that afternoon and started the next Monday, and I haven’t looked back.
Eleven years later, I continue to be inspired by our mission to help the world work smarter. Our work changes the lives of people all around the world. From helping to feed the hungry to keeping communities safe, Laserfiche helps people focus on the work that matters so they can drive the change they want to see in the world. How can you not be excited by that?
2. During your time at Laserfiche, what are some of the projects or achievements of which you are most proud?
There are so many to choose from, but I have to say emceeing the general sessions at our Empower keynote. I have struggled with stage fright my entire life and have worked hard to overcome it and become a strong presenter. To be able to stand confidently on stage in front of 3,000 people is a huge achievement for me! It makes me realize that you can accomplish anything you want if you work hard enough at it.
Even though this isn’t really my project or achievement, I have to give a special recognition to my team, who made an amazing 90s-themed video for my nine-year work anniversary. Sometimes when you work in management, you feel like your work isn’t always appreciated. Much of it is behind the scenes or “tough love.” To have my team pull this together in their spare time just to celebrate me is the most amazing gift I’ve ever received. Watching that video has pulled me through many a rough day!
3. What advice would you give to other women who are interested in joining the tech industry? What about if they have no experience or formal education in technology?
If you’re interested in technology, don’t let lack of experience hold you back! Great software comes from a diversity in perspectives because users have a diversity of perspectives. The reality is that when we lack voices from diverse backgrounds, we risk missing solutions or entire markets. A diverse team ensures a different way of thinking about problems, which can lead the group to completely new solutions.
I have no formal education in technology. In fact, I majored in political science and women’s studies. Instead of being a liability, I found that my liberal arts background actually helps me with the critical thinking required to answer the big questions we deal with on a daily basis. I would encourage any woman interested in a career in technology not to ignore the liberal arts. Besides developing critical thinking skills, training in the liberal arts helps you develop writing and presentation skills that will serve you well as you progress in your career.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, credits her degree in philosophy and medieval history in helping her become the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company. “If you go into a setting and everybody thinks alike, it’s easy,” she has said. “But you will probably get the wrong answer.”
4. What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Laserfiche founder Nien-Ling Wacker once told me that when she had the original idea for our company—to create software people love to use—everyone she pitched the idea to said it was stupid. They told her that she would never realize her vision because people didn’t love technology and that they used it because they had to. She told me that their reaction made her more determined to see her vision through.
What I learned from Nien-Ling is that you have to have faith in your ideas. Yes, you have to be open to feedback and guidance, but you also have to trust yourself. Even if you are just starting out, you know more than you think you do!
5. If you could spend a day with any woman in history, who would it be and why?
I would love to spend the day with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I wrote my thesis on her majority opinion in the U.S. v. Virginia case because I was so inspired by how she broke ground for women in the legal field—as a law student, as a professor, as a lawyer for the ACLU and, of course, as a Supreme Court justice.
As I’ve progressed in my career, I continue to be inspired by how she built a partnership with her late husband Marty, balanced work and family, and overcame cancer twice. One of my favorite pieces of management advice actually comes from her—or to be more accurate, her mother-in-law:
“In every good marriage,” she counseled, “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.” I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.
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Read the entire Women in Tech series:
Helping the World Work Smarter via Marketing
Embracing the Hustle of the Tech Industry