Women in Leadership: 5 Questions With Julie Reed

Women in Leadership: 5 Questions With Julie Reed

When 15,000+ employees had to move to remote work in one week, Reed, VP of infrastructure at The Hartford, proved that anything is possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic created countless challenges for companies, including how to shift employees from office-based positions to working remotely, almost overnight. Julie Reed, Vice President of Infrastructure Management, was one of the leaders that spearheaded the efforts at The Hartford. Within a week, her team migrated an entire workforce to remote setups, providing them with equipment and technical guidance, and even helping them pack monitors, routers and docking stations into their vehicles.

Today, Reed has her eyes on the post-pandemic future of work and creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

1. What is your role with The Hartford?

From an area of ownership and accountability, I have a space in Infrastructure Services called Collaboration technology which many people know to be tools such as Microsoft Teams and Microsoft M365.
I also have ownership for end-user technology, which is your laptops, monitors, the technology that you're using every day, so you can log into our systems and be effective.
We support the technology with day-to-day support, but also strategically: what's the next version of things and does it meet our company’s future needs, [do we have enough] skilled and training employees, do people know how to use it, and then the support, making sure [systems are] working on a day-to-day basis.

2. How did you come to this position?

Out of school, my first job was in Infrastructure, before they even called it Infrastructure. But I have been in various roles in my 30+ years of working. I've been on the Applications side of Information Technology, performed an IT consulting role with outsourcing vendor strategies and led an IT Project Management Office, but have moved back into the Infrastructure space once again.
I was [on the business side] for two years when I worked for another company. I think every person in IT at some point should work in the business for a segment of time, even if they're techies by nature and by heart. It really is important to be close to your business and learn it.

3. How have you seen the industry change and where do you think IT needs to go in terms of inclusivity?

My first leadership role was at 25 years old. I managed an IT Helpdesk, and for years, I became used to working in an environment in which I was the only female leader sitting around a table. You had to learn how to fit in, not in a negative way, you just had to learn how to maneuver in that environment to be successful. There were times when you had to adjust your style, so that you connected with your peers and proved yourself to Senior Leader, which for me was usually all male leaders. I was fortunate that I had a senior leaders who were very supportive, and were good about being very honest, coaching and mentoring along the way.
I do realize that [not everyone has had a similar] journey and opportunity. What I'm so excited about is that technology has changed a lot and diversity in the workforce has become a strong and meaningful focus for many companies. At The Hartford, we've been improving our results with women in technology, and now starting to focus on other diversity areas, which is outstanding. One thing I've learned is that diversity of thought is so, so important to drive your business and realize outstanding outcomes. There's no way you're going to get that unless you have [a diverse group of people] sitting around a table.

4. What does the industry need to do to ensure that women are not being left behind because of the pandemic?

What we have to continue to focus on is giving the right working arrangement so women can be successful, whether they're mothers or whatever they're juggling in their personal life. I do think remote work is a very important thing that will attract women. And not just remote work, but flexible work.
We're trying to transition as leaders to become outcome-focused. It's not about you being online for nine hours during a day and how many meetings you are participating in. It's about outcomes and delivering strong business value to the organization. We should focus on outcomes and effectiveness of the outcomes.

5. We want to talk about what inspires you as a business leader. Lightning round!

What are your go-to podcasts? I really like TED Talks. A recent TED Talk I listened to was 3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Everything You Do by Stacey Abrams. The three questions are: What Do I Want? Why Do I Want It? and How Do I Get It?
What books or other media have influenced your career? I spend a lot of time reading autobiographies. The most recent was Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama. What I took away from the book was how he leveraged insights from his family, which had tremendous diversity and challenges, and how he established a strategy to guide his life, values and ultimately, his leadership style.
What are you reading right now? I am reading Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioners Study Guide by Sybex since I am studying for a certification exam in May.
Are there any organizations or causes with which you're involved? I am involved in Best Buddies. My children were part of that organization in school and I became active in the program. I am also active with the United Way. They did so much for my family when two of my relatives battled cancer. Giving back to them and expressing my appreciation is so important to me.
Can you tell us about any professional mentors you've had and/or people who inspire you? My current mentor is a small business owner. He has grown his successful business over a period of 30 years and I just started a small business myself, CharmsBeDazzle.com. I meet with my mentor monthly and the topics range depending on what I am seeking to expand my knowledge in for my business. Last month our topic was around connecting with customers and journey mapping.
Casey Morris
Casey Morris
Casey Morris is a journalist specializing in personal and corporate finance, AI, automation and blockchain.