A recent report stated: in the top 10 tech companies (Google, Facebook, etc) women make up about 35% – 48% of the work force. BUT it’s what women are doing in these companies that’s interesting. According to this report, women are working, in some cases almost 2 to 1, in leadership positions.
Countless women contributed to this statistic and one is right here in Amador Co and I got to ask her, “How did you DO that?!”
Local entrepreneur Sharon Long was not only at “ground zero” of the tech boom, her career path practically traces its history.
Born in SF, Sharon’s family moved to Santa Clara valley and by the time she was eleven, she was at the center of the valley’s original major industry: Sharon harvested apricots. Paid by the tray, she did 5 trays a day, leading to work at a grocery store and eventually into retail.
Sharon’s father was a southerner and her mother from Wisconsin, so there was always a little conflict in the house, and the adoption of a younger sister seemed to add to it. Sharon took on the challenge of all that and firmly believes it’s where she got her strength, saying she learned how to “position myself to get done what I wanted to get done”.
Though shy, developing this strong ability to plan and organize led to active and visible roles of leadership throughout high school – and beyond!
Married at the beginning of women’s movement, Sharon broke from tradition by working, a move her equally enlightened husband supported. She worked at Penny’s, but after doing yet again another inventory in those days, BY HAND – NOT COMPUTERIZED – she heard about a new industry. It was “highly technical” and things moved fast – this industry needed people!
Sharon was hired by a company that manufactured something called a semi conductor. Working in personnel, Sharon had an inspiring mentor who urged, particularly women, to aim for higher positions, get degrees; which they would eventually all need – because that company laid off everyone off BUT Sharon and one other person.
Sharon was handed the company’s newsletter. She promoted fund raisers, drove internal communication, and celebrated company achievements. All of which continually reminded Sharon; this was a new and wild industry allowing and making way for opportunity, which Sharon planned to grab.
Having no degree, she was still determined to take on anything. But how? Sharon began to observe and emulate. Then, taking stock of ALL she had done and HOW she had done it, she made a plan: “I’ll just do it that way again!” She also learned something about herself college can’t teach – that she can master just about anything in 3 months.
There were hiccups. The move to a company that manufactured disc drives – was not perfect. She was fired by a guy who later bemoaned her firing whining,
“I didn’t realize how much she did around here!”
These fast growing companies generated so much money so quickly, that Sharon eventually found herself in charge of one company’s finances, with no actual experience. Facing it like all her challenges, head on and with a plan, she replaced a cumbersome 16 step process with a simpler streamlined version. She organized an entire department and in doing so, gained a reputation as a solid and trusted problem solver.
Then Sharon returned to a company that was now a new start – up and here’s happened: The SALES DEPT could get products TO businesses but the TECH division went TO the business to do the set up. Now, the MARKETING DEPT wanted the TECH people, when they were THERE, to SELL! But THAT didn’t work! They were TECH people! They wanted to wire and go!
So Sharon made a plan. The Development Dept showed her everything the company had, then the magic happened when she put everyone together in what she called “labs”. There the developers would demonstrate everything the products did, getting the installers very excited! Now armed with the right tech info about the products they installed, they talked about them, pushed them! Sharon created the perfect selling machine!
Once in charge of that company’s North American division, Sharon really began to get the most out of people. She mastered what she describes as her most valuable skill. Sharon says, with elegant simplicity,
“I learned to match people with the right job”.
But the overwhelming nature of life in the bay area was becoming painfully clear to both Sharon and her husband. So in 2000, they tagged along one weekend with some friends who were checking out Castle Oaks. Sharon and her husband figured the time was right and THEY bought a house on the spot!
Sharon was eventually hired at Golden 1 Credit Union and getting to know the community, she took off in a new and meaningful direction. Performing broad and effective work in public service, Sharon forged an opportunity to again employ the skill of which she is most proud.
Sharon says, together, people can do ANYTHING! Spot a person’s strength – and encourage them to use it and, according to Sharon, “People will soar”. Which is why Sharon is frequently found at the heart of successfully mounted projects, fund raisers and events making sure the right person has the right job. Sharon’s way of giving back – happily apply all her finely honed skills.
Sharon never formally taught (she be good at!) but she urges all young people to access what they need and take advantage of any and all opportunities. She points out
“I started as a clerk, ended up as a director”.
Her story was amazing! I told her, “YOU should write a book!”
She very graciously said, “It was the times! The tech industry was perfect for women. It was new and needed people. There were great opportunities”.
But I think it’s much more.
From the infancy of semi conductor to the present day sales model, which matches people with product, to everything in between Sharon Long was a participant in some of the most important milestones of this industry.
She said “I did go from a manual typewriter to an electric typewriter to word processor to a PC. I guess I was part of a natural progression”
I’ll say she was…!
…and THAT’S how Sharon Long did it…