Greenhouse IT Manager Elena Ackley wants women in tech to take up more space

Elena Ackley portrait 1

5 mins, 46 secs read time

Greenhouse is committed to building a culture of belonging. Yes, we create tools that help promote fair and equitable hiring, but it goes beyond that. We’re also dedicated to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our company. This includes focusing on potential and transferable skills and giving current employees opportunities to learn and grow in their roles.

Just ask Greenhouse IT Manager Elena Ackley. During her time at Greenhouse, Elena has developed her technical skills and confidence, progressing from an IT Engineer to an IT Manager. Now that she’s a people leader, Elena feels it’s critical to pay it forward by creating a supportive environment for everyone on her team. We caught up with her to hear about her challenges, triumphs and words of advice as a woman in a typically male-dominated field.

Greenhouse: Can you share an overview of your career so far?

Elena: I’ve always been interested in overcoming technical challenges and connecting with people, and you can see both of those threads throughout my career. I worked at an Apple store from 2008 until 2015, where I learned all sorts of customer service skills and eventually began working at the Genius Bar. I worked pretty much every technical support role that was available at the time. That’s where I learned a ton about troubleshooting hardware and software issues. After Apple, I joined the women’s media company POPSUGAR from 2015 to 2020. I started as a Desktop Technician and eventually became an IT Manager. Then POPSUGAR got acquired, which is what prompted me to start looking for a new job.

Greenhouse: How did you find out about Greenhouse and what was your application experience like?

Elena: I was already aware of Greenhouse because my previous company used Greenhouse Onboarding to manage new hires. Greenhouse appealed to me because I knew it was a tech company and after five years of working in women’s media, I was ready to take on some new technical challenges – and Greenhouse definitely provided that!

The interview process was very smooth and well thought out. I applied on a Friday and then on Monday morning, I got an email inviting me for an interview. The recruiter was really easy to talk to and very clear about what the next steps were.

I’ve interviewed at other companies where things were all over the place and it felt like it was not a good sign, but at Greenhouse everything was very intentional and respectful.

Greenhouse: What has your experience been like as a woman in tech, specifically in a male-dominated field?

Elena: I had one previous job in particular that was customer-facing. I was much younger and more naive at the time, so I didn’t always understand why somebody was talking to me in a certain way. And since many of those customers would only talk to me for ten minutes and never see me again, they felt it gave them license to behave disrespectfully.

There was one time I was trying to help a customer and he interrupted our conversation to ask my male coworker if someone else was available to help him. My coworker looked at the customer, looked at me, looked around at our coworkers and said, “She trained every single one of us.” After that, the customer was very quiet!

This kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve had many situations where I needed to get a manager to literally repeat the words that I had just said to get them heard. I’m acutely aware of what’s happening when someone isn’t listening to me because I’m a woman. I’ve learned to not take it personally, let it run its course and just continue doing what I need to do, but it does get really frustrating. It’s an added mental load to convince the other person to listen to what you’re saying. Plus, it’s a wasted 15 minutes or however long it takes. It never completely goes away, but there has been some progress.

Greenhouse: Can you share some of your experiences as a woman at Greenhouse?

Elena: One of the most positive experiences I’ve had at Greenhouse is through our engineering mentorship program. This is a purely volunteer program that pairs more experienced engineers with junior ones internally at Greenhouse.

When I first started here, I was struggling with imposter syndrome. I had to keep reminding myself that Greenhouse is much more technical than my previous company, so there are a lot more systems to learn. I wanted to build a foundation of coding and programming, but I knew that I would need to be truly vulnerable in order to feel comfortable and connected with my mentor. I asked my manager if I could be paired with a female mentor, and he honored that request.

I’ve now been working with the same mentor every week for two and a half years. We have our anniversary marked in our calendars!

If it wasn’t for that mentorship, I don’t think I would have gotten this far. I can tell her I have no idea what something means and she’s really good at explaining it in a way that’s not just regurgitating all the terminology. I’m really grateful to Greenhouse for being able to pair me with someone like that.

Greenhouse: What’s your favorite part about working at Greenhouse?

Elena: Everybody is so open and easy to talk to. It’s nice knowing that everyone is on the same wavelength. I’ve never worked with so many people who are all about propping each other up, being there for one another and celebrating each other’s achievements.

And now that I’m a manager, I’m really happy to be a part of that and to foster that environment, too. I’ve told my manager and direct reports that I want to make sure that our team is a place where everyone feels comfortable and no one feels left out.

Greenhouse: Do you have any advice for other women who want to pursue a career in IT or tech?

Elena: Take up as much space as possible. It’s okay to not know something – it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. You are valuable.

I don’t think as a woman you should change your behavior to mimic that of a man. I don’t subscribe to the whole “don’t use as many exclamation points in your email” philosophy. When you follow that advice, you’re basically just perpetuating the perceived male behaviors. It’s okay to present as or be a feminine person. You don’t have to change that.

It’s so important to have people you can trust and confide in. Find those people and, once you do, don’t let go!

Are you excited about helping us change the way the world hires? Check out our careers page to learn more.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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