Kelly Stickel, founder and CEO of Remodista and Women Influence Chicago, is a fantastic example of #WomeninTech. Recently, I sat down with Kelly to chat about herself, her work, and her advice for young girls interested in a career in technology.
- How did Kelly get her start?
Kelly graduated from The University Missouri of St Louis, and after three years working on a cruise line “cruising and sailing around the world,” Kelly docked and became a staffing recruiter. After a year, a technology company, Ciber Technologies, recruited the recruiter. She moved over to technology because it was always changing, and in turn, more complex and interesting to recruit for.
Through a variety of opportunities, Kelly landed in Chicago working for Accenture recruiting for CIO executives and SAP consultants for ERP implementations.
Accenture asked Kelly to move into a Client Service Manager, but she left to join Acquity Group working with the executive team to centralize and map out the subcontracting and then vendor relations. (Acquity Group was later acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2013.)
Eventually Kelly moved into alliance partnerships with innovative technology companies like ExactTarget and Lithium. Because Acquity Group was an entrepreneurial-focused company, Kelly was able to create all four of her roles during her seven-and-a-half year tenure. Her later roles opened the opportunity to be involved in client sales and channel business development. This ended up being Kelly’s favorite role in the business – creating new solutions.
It was during her time at Acquity Group that CEO Chris Dalton let her start her own organization focused on educating brands on retail disruption, while cultivating women leaders. While developing conferences and content, Kelly noticed not many women were being represented on stage. These early observations evolved into a company and off she went.
Kelly founded Remodista in June of 2010, a “social think tank examining disruption in global retail and fintech.” At launch, she made three bets with herself, “’Technology would break, women leaders would matter, and we would go global.’ When all these three things would happen, there would be huge disruption in the market. Here we are, the market currently disrupting.”
After Accenture acquired Acquity Group in 2013, Kelly focused her attention to building Remodista full time. Since, then, she launched the Women2Watch in Retail Disruption program, which recently expanded into Australia. Kelly also launched the Retail Look Book which is an analyst perspective on disruption and innovation in retail.
Later this year, Kelly will launch her community in a paid subscription model with global membership, which will open up membership opportunities in Europe and South America. Aligned with 13 global conference partnerships, the Women2Watch program will be speaking around the world.
In 2016, Kelly won the “Women of Influence” award from the Chicago Business Journals. The award acknowledges women who spend time innovating in their career while mentoring and supporting other women in the professional field. For Kelly, this award was special because it wasn’t just about being a good business leader, it reinforced that she was building something cool and different while also caring about empowering others. It was at this time she realized the Chicago community was ready for an organization that focused on celebrating women of leadership in Chicago, and that the community wanted to influence the conferences, awards, and nominations already in the market.
Kelly uses the same principles as her for-profit business; using purpose to attract others who believe what we believe.
“We have many niche women’s groups and they are looking for an opportunity to come together. Women in enterprise, start-up and not-for-profit could come together under an umbrella and help each other get to the very top.”
- What does Kelly hope to accomplish?
With Remodista, her hope is to “disrupt the research industry.” She has identified ways to create on-demand problem solving. “We continually shape content to be true through collaboration and cultivating leadership.” By taking a simple approach at Remodista, the organization is developing research on future trends in retail – focusing on tactics that really haven’t been tested before.
Women of Influence in Chicago is not just another women’s networking group. Her hopes are to bring everyone together, “using purpose to attract others and believe what we believe.”
- What can young girls do now to prepare for a job in technology?
Kelly encourages young girls to seek out STEM or STEAM programs to get introduced to the world of technology and capture the current trends and platforms. These answer student questions like, “What kind of job can I get by studying math or science?”
She also advises to keep an open mind. “We have a picture of the coder with his headset on, but If you think about it there are a lot of exciting jobs that begin with an understanding of science, technology or math. For example a makeup chemist, uses science to create all sorts of new innovations around product development. These programs help show the cool creative options students might not be aware of.”
Reading and education is also crucial. “We are not inspired daily.” When thinking about your career, remember to be constantly reading and educating yourself every day. Kelly adds, “When you click into something that inspires you, it’s like a wind in your back, you have to be the mover of your career. Don’t wait to be inspired. Find inspiration.”
- What different perspective do women bring to the technology field?
“Women in general use a lot more words, we tend to have more questions and drive things down to resolution. Women tend to synthesize more often; more ideas drive more solutions. The key is to open the door for women, and for those women to open the door for anyone else who doesn’t have a voice. We have the empathy to realize the line is longer than us. It’s our obligation really.”
- Fun fact and advice
Did you know that 85% of global buyers are women? And if they don’t have the power to buy, they likely have the power to veto the purchase.
Kelly’s advice is to “work hard now, or work hard later.” She encourages young women to “create as detailed of an end result of where you want to go and don’t control how you get there. You don’t always know where the next opportunity will come from…”