Catherine Neily, Solution Architect, On Technology and Connectedness
August 29, 2018
For Catherine Neily, being successful in the tech industry means staying on top of a building wave of ever-changing technology; and she loves the ride. A Long View veteran of 18 years, Catherine has watched the company evolve from having a handful of employees to being over 1,100 strong. And her career has evolved in tandem.
Starting as a systems consultant, then moving up to a senior consultant role, Catherine has spent the past two years working with clients and Long View’s sales team as a Solution Architect – the first woman at Long View to do so. Her approach to work and life show that technology is all about being connected.
On Work and Community
With 18 years under her belt at Long View, two children, and a myriad of community commitments, it’s clear that Catherine likes to be connected and involved.
“It’s been awesome,” she says of her role at Long View. “I love the team of architects that I work with here. It’s a very collaborative environment, and it makes the job fun and rewarding.” She speaks with equal enthusiasm about her relationships with clients and with Long View’s sales team, as well as the problem solving process she engages in with each.
Outside of work, Catherine seeks balance in family, sport and volunteering.
One of the initiatives that she and her family support is called Inn From the Cold — an organization that provides meals, shelter and schooling for homeless families. “It’s a great organization,” says Catherine, who along with her children, helps to serve meals there.
Community involvement is important to Catherine. “I volunteer at school, church, and Inn From the Cold,” she says. “And I try to stay active with volleyball, hiking, and playing sports with my kids. I really try to have that balance.”
On Being a Woman in Tech
“First of all, I’m passionate about technology,” Catherine enthuses. “I love the constant new challenges, as well as working with clients, and problem solving for them.”
Catherine has always had an aptitude for technology, but being a woman in a male-dominated field hasn’t always been easy. “Definitely being a woman in tech and becoming a Solution Architect is an achievement,” she explains. “It still is fairly male-dominated, although things are changing slowly and that’s great.”
One of the keys to Catherine’s success has been cultivating relationships with other women in the field who have become friends and mentors. It’s something that she likes to pay forward. “Most of all, I’d like to be a role model for other women who are starting out or are already working in tech,” she says. “I like to have coffee with people and talk about what it’s like to be a Solution Architect, and help other women who are wanting to come up through the technology path.”
Her motivation is to create a more well-worn path for women who want to follow in her footsteps. “I think that women can be very successful in tech, but there are still some unconscious biases out there,” she explains. “Hopefully those will be dispelled over time. We need to continue encouraging young women to enter tech and providing them with hands-on opportunities and mentorship.”
On Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve
Effective solution architecture requires a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the different technologies that exist and how they can be put to use for a client. Staying on top of the latest advancements is crucial, and Catherine’s experience and approach ensure that she does.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different clients in diverse industries and technologies, and that’s helped shape me as a person and helped hone my skills,” Catherine explains. But beyond the experience she has gained on the job, Catherine’s adaptability and love of learning are what help give her an edge. “A big part of my career is adapting to how things are changing,” she says. “I’m constantly having to learn new things — the curiosity to learn is hugely important.”
With such a steep and constant learning curve, Catherine does what she can to stay ahead, including attending in webinars, participating in ongoing training and certification processes, and going to industry conferences.
In addition to these efforts, Catherine takes seriously Long View’s internal learning strategy: “We have internal learning meetings, or sharing knowledge, where we get together as teams and share knowledge and talk about the projects we’re working on and things that we’re learning.”
On Growing Her Career
While keeping abreast of the latest technology is vital to Catherine’s career success, there are other skills she has honed in order to get ahead.
“You have to always work to rebrand yourself,” she explains. “Long View has a really good Career-Life planning process, and you’re constantly re-evaluating where you are going and what you are going to do to get there.”
For Catherine, this has meant honing her soft skills — she has joined Toastmasters to improve her public speaking skills — and seeking out mentorship. “I’ve worked with some great consultants and managers that I’ve considered mentors,” says Catherine. “Even seeing how they do their job — again, it’s about honing those skills, working on those things that I need to work on to elevate my career.”
Other qualities have helped Catherine to progress as well: her determination, and her grit. “I think that’s been a hallmark for me,” she says. “I don’t give up, and I persist in, first of all, finding the right solution for clients, but also in my own career; if I run into a road block, I try to overcome it in any way I can.”
This refusal to back down, along with being a good listener, and continually striving for excellence, are the characteristics Catherine credits for her success. But she also credits her family: “My family has been a huge support to me as a working mom.”
For other women looking to follow in her footsteps, Catherine recommends finding mentors and advocates. “And don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she advises. “Ask for feedback and turn your weaknesses into strengths. There’s always something we can work on.” And of course, laughter is key: “It’s really important to have a sense of humour, and laugh along the way.”
Although she’s reached a place in her career where she is able to mentor other women in tech, she isn’t finished evolving. “I’m always working towards something,” she says. “With the Digital Transformation, there are so many emerging technologies – those are things I’m focusing on right now.”