Women make up roughly 37.9 percent of Maryland’s technology workforce, according to data from the state’s Department of Commerce. Educators and experts attribute the disparity to as far back as middle school, when many young girls lose interest in science and math. You’ll learn more about the reasons for this drop off on page 14. In this issue of Path to Excellence, you’ll meet several of the women who are leading the state’s tech industry. They are leading some of the state’s most innovative companies as they improve cybersecurity, health care and help to grow the next generation of female leadership in the tech industry.
Anne A. Balduzzi | SameGrain Inc.
As an early pioneer of the Internet, Anne A. Balduzzi has more than 30 years of online expertise.
She was hired for an early version of AOL before joining Apple Inc. as a product manager. And, that was all in her 20s.
She helped launch instant messaging and worked on the first interactive computer game.
“Being on the ground floor of all of that was an amazing experience,” she said.
When the Internet really took off, she started her own consulting business, helping to launch international data centers and more.
She later began mentoring technology start-ups at The Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore.
That gave Balduzzi the courage to start her own company, SameGrain Inc.
However, the idea is one that she first had in the flip-phone era.
How often do people who should meet, not meet?
Balduzzi was sitting next to another woman on a flight — both busily working on their laptops.
At the end of the flight when it was time to turn off electronic devices, she and the other woman began talking and realized they were from the same high school and actually knew each other.
“That frustration stuck with me,” Balduzzi said.
In 2011, she started SameGrain, a “privacy first” social platform that empowers people to discover in-depth multi-level connections beyond dating. The company’s online and mobile apps enable people to locate and connect with others that share similar backgrounds, interests, beliefs, health issues, professions and more; whether they are around the corner or around the globe.
SameGrain’s proprietary matching algorithm and patent pending technology elevate social discovery and help people match with others that share multiple common threads, thereby enabling more meaningful connections.
Shirley Collier | Quotient Inc.
Shirley Collier, president of Quotient Inc. is a serial technology entrepreneur and senior IT executive with more than 25 years of experience.
Quotient is a woman-owned small business that provides web based information technology solutions to federal agencies to help them fulfill their public service missions.
She started her career in Louisiana after college as a buyer for the state. The commodity was computers.
“I discovered that I loved it,” she said.
She became a programmer and jokes that she was one of the programmers that created the Y2K problem that could have disrupted computer operations around the world in 2000.
In the late 1980s, she moved to Maryland, where she started four technology businesses over 15 years.
About a decade ago, Collier began consolidating and selling those businesses. She then started some “fun projects,” including a nonprofit organization and a computer research company that did laser communications research for the U.S. Navy.
“I call them my hobby companies,” she said.
She joined Quotient as its president in May after serving as a strategic consultant and advisor to the founders for two years.
Throughout her career, Collier has been devoted to advancing women in the technology field.
She was an innovator 20 years ago, when she partnered with the Howard County Public School System to launch Computer Mania Day — a one-day festival intended to excite middle-school girls about technology.
The program was a success and data show that the percentage of high-school girls in elective IT classes in the county rose from 20 percent to 50 percent.
“I remember when we first started the program in 1995, many of the college professors said they noticed that boys don’t want to have girls as lab partners,” Collier said. “It plays into the stereotype that girls can’t do technology, and it’s just not true.”
In addition to working to engage more women and girls in technology, Collier also has worked to demonstrate the value of technology, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
“If we empower girls and women to pursue nontraditional careers like in STEM, the economic returns are substantial,” she said. “And, if girls do not embrace technology now, in 20 years they will be unemployable.”
This is not a feminist cause. This is really a cause for our economy as a whole and our global competitiveness as a nation,” she said.
Zuly Gonzalez | Light Point Security
Zuly Gonzalez is the co-founder and CEO of Light Point Security, based in Catonsville.
She co-founded the firm to solve the biggest program in cybersecurity today: web-based malware.
Gonzalez has more than 10 years of experience in the U.S. federal government working to secure national security information systems.
Gonzalez, who was born in Puerto Rico, and her co-founder both left the NSA to start the firm.
“We have a security product that protects organizations from computer viruses spread through web browsers,” she said.
The firm launched in 2012, and by mid-2013, she said, they had a beta version with paying customers.
“When we first started,” she said. “It was very hard. We were kind of isolated. We had no idea all of the resources that were available to us in Maryland.”
They joined bwtech@UMBC, a cyber incubator right off the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and gained the tools they needed to successfully run the business.
Gonzalez says that while starting a business is a lot of hard work, women can make it easier by not overthinking things.
“If it’s something you want to do, and you’re passionate about it, just do it,” she said. “Don’t wait too long.”
Vicki Gumtow | CyberPoint
Vicki Gumtow and her husband started CyberPoint, a cybersecurity firm, out of their condo in Baltimore.
They now have a location on the waterfront in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
After taking some time off from work to raise her daughters, Gumtow said the time was right to start the firm in 2009.
And, she and her husband saw a need to provide cybersecurity services and solutions for domestic and international clients.
Gumtow, a native of Puerto Rico, said she had an early interest in engineering in high school and later studied electrical engineering in college, earning a master’s in computer science.
From there, she began working in the commercial airline industry. She later worked at a federal contracting company.
At CyberPoint, Gumtow says she works to ensure that her firm gives back to the community. She initiated CyberPoint’s corporate sponsorship of Baltimore’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. This was the company’s first community service initiative to educate children from low-income families in the city. In 2012 she established — and continues to actively foster — the vision for CyberPoint’s philanthropic mission to give children and young adults access to the educational opportunities and resources they need to lead a happy, healthy life, pursuing their dreams as they contribute to the community. She currently serves on the board of The Baltimore Community Foundation.
Julie Lenzer | U.S. Department of Commerce
Julie Lenzer considers herself a recovering entrepreneur and, at heart, a geek.
She founded and sold her own technology company before working with other businesses and entrepreneurs to help them navigate the waters of business success as executive director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
In May 2014 she was appointed as director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Economic Development Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Kirk was tapped to rebuild the office while also getting a $15-million grant program on the streets and building a national advisory council for the Secretary of Commerce.
Six months later, Kirk had built a team of six people, successfully launched the grant program, and announced the members of the advisory council, which includes such high-level leaders as the co-founder of AOL and the President of Clemson University.
“We are focused on helping communities build capacity to support innovation and entrepreneurship as way to create jobs,” she said. “For example, we fund incubators and accelerators in communities and universities to help them commercialize technology.”
Lenzer also is the founder and former CEO of the Path Forward Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit that helps women start and build growth-oriented businesses.
A mother of two daughters, she is the author of the “The ParentPreneur Edge, What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business.”
She serves on the board of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, helping the organization introduce girls to the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and understand that geek is chic.
Jennifer Meyer | Betamore
Jennifer Meyer is the CEO of Betamore, a Baltimore-based, award-winning co-working space, incubator and campus for technology and entrepreneurship.
Betamore was founded in 2012 by Greg Cangialosi, Sean Lane and Mike Brenner. Meyer joined as CEO in January at the same time it was transitioning to a nonprofit organization by merging with the former Greater Baltimore Technology Council. At that time, Betamore expanded its current offerings by fully subscribing its incubation and coworking space and expanding its educational training. In addition, Betamore launched an advisory board, community membership and BaltimoreTech.org.
“Given the mission of Betamore, it’s much more suited to be a nonprofit,” said Cangialosi, who is chairman of Betamore and also the CEO of MissionTix.
That mission includes making Baltimore a leading global entrepreneurship destination that aligns business, government, nonprofits and centers of education for entrepreneurs who drive creative communication. Since opening, Betamore has had more than 8,500 people worldwide attend its classes and events.
The organization has 30 companies operating on its campus and more than 100 affiliated companies, Meyer said. All of Betamore’s classes and workshops are open to the public. “We work tirelessly to support growing companies and individuals who are driving innovation and entrepreneurship in Baltimore,” she said.
Despite all of its success, Cangialosi said it still feels like the beginning for Betamore. “There is so much growth here in Baltimore and we are just getting started,” he said.
Paris Pittman | AOL
Paris Pittman was a technical recruiter at AOL for more than four years until becoming a program manager at the company’s Baltimore office four months ago.
However, Pittman says her interest in and knack for technology started at an early age. As a preteen, Pittman says she built her first computer and began going online.
She began doing recruiting work for General Electric after graduating college.
“That’s what really started out my career,” Pittman said.
She later began taking tech-focused classes and changed her career path.
“Women can change their careers relatively easily with the tech fields,” she said.
The position she is in now is the first that is not focused on recruitment. As program manager, Pittman is focused on building talent pipelines for AOL locations and brands nationwide.
“I feel like where I am now is kind of where I should be,” Pittman said. “The position I’m in now is really needed. I love the networking element.”
Pittman also has become a well-known leader in Maryland’s female technology community. She is launching the upcoming Baltimore Women in Technology website and organizes many local technology events, including the Baltimore Hackathon.
Robin Wiener | Get Real Health
Robin Wiener was working at a technology firm when the “dot com” world fell apart in 1999.
It was then that she and two of her co-workers decided to “take our own destinies in our hands” and started Get Real Health.
The award-winning global health information technology is a pioneer in providing an untethered PHR solution at a system-wide level to healthcare organizations, non-profits and governments around the world. Its flagship product — InstantPHR® — is a bidirectional data sharing patient engagement platform with tools that empower patients to be an active part of their care team
Wiener says that she and her business partners Mark Heaney and Jason Harmon started the company in 2001. They all had ties to people with chronic illness and they saw the need for technology to be able to help people better manage their condition.
Then, after Hurricane Katrina, they had an “aha” moment, recognizing that so many people would have similar issues because they were relocating or the records were destroyed.
“And we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we could actually build something that could help people?’ This was right after [Hurricane] Katrina, and we saw all these people coming out of New Orleans having lost everything. They were getting relocated to Houston, Dallas, and other places. They lost their doctors. They lost their hospitals. They lost their files,” Wiener said.
Why couldn’t all of that data sit someplace safe,” Wiener said. “Then, no matter where you are in the world, you can access it.”
That’s where Get Real Health comes in.
Then a few years ago, Wiener’s son Ben was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and ended up using the technology that the company developed to manage his condition.
“You’re able to see the information and do something with it,” she said. “I can get an alert on my phone about sugar levels for my son.”
Get Real Health now has customers throughout the U.S., as well as in Australia, Europe and Canada. Wiener says plans also are underway to expand into the Middle East.
She gives a lot of the credit to her supportive husband and incredible staff.
“I’m empowered by the people around me to be able to achieve some really fantastic things,” Wiener said. “It takes a team.”
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Path To Excellence: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Path to Excellence magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Path to Excellence.|