International Women’s Day Spotlight: Sheilagh Morlan
On March 8th women around the world will be honored for International Women’s Day…but instead of a day, we’ve decided to highlight our women in tech all week long. Tune in each day to learn more about the SUSE women behind the magic!
Name: Sheilagh Morlan
Occupation: Engineering Manager
Q: Tell us a little about you.
A: I came to SUSE with the HPE Cloud acquisition. I’ve worked at Google, Widevine, Mammography Reporting System as well as being a landscaper, photographer, and stockroom senior assistant. I majored in history but realized early that jobs were limited so I started taking classes in computer science from the mathmatics department since Macalester College did not offer a degree in computer science when I was there. I grew up in northern Minnesota with a large extended family. I moved to Seattle on June 13, 1985 and have lived in this area ever since. In 1998 I was acquired by my first shiba inu who passed on in 2012, and am currently owned by another named Memegh. I like mysteries, science fiction and technology and like to camp and do historical recreation in my spare time. I also have a wood lathe and I like making pens and handles for things.
Q: Who is your biggest influence?
A: My Dad is my biggest influence. Although he passed away when I was 10, he set a powerful example of what a person can do when he quit his job at the pulp mill and went back to school to become a computer technician. His graduation photo hangs with my own certificates in my home office.
Q: Who are your ideal female icons?
A: My Mom is one. She was a strong woman who was the mover and shaker behind the family, and she raised me as a single parent. Hillary Clinton is another. She very methodically went about gathering the experience she would need to become a good president and took both her losses with dignity and poise. Rosalind Franklin is another. I’ve always been fascinated with DNA and I find Dr Franklin’s work inspiring.
Q: How you define women empowerment?
A: Women having the freedom to make choices about their bodies and their lives without societal interference.
Q: Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?
A: I do think it’s important. We get so busy in our lives that we sometimes forget how important it is to stop, breathe, and remember who we are and where we are. This is one day when we can focus on our connections with other women no matter what our occupations or circumstances are.
Q: What did you want to be growing up?
A: I wanted to write gothic romance novels. I haven’t quite given up the idea of writing – I’ll retire someday – but that probably won’t be the genre I pick.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
A: It’s okay to ask people to justify the things they want you to do and it’s okay to say no. And you’re going to be at this job longer than you think: put your money in the 401K.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important for young girls to consider roles in STEM?
A: It’s important because women have a different way of considering puzzles and problems. Without women in STEM, we are missing half the team, half the information. When you have a homegenous work force, it’s very easy for people to get into ruts in the way they think and consider problems. When you have both men and women working in an industry, they challenge each other’s culturally ingrained ways of thinking which leads to growth – personal, professional and industrial.
Q: What would you say are the main challenges facing women in IT presently and how do we overcome them?
A: Our main challenges are societal. Each of us should learn the arts of public speaking and being assertive. It’s very easy for a single woman in a room to be talked over and ignored. We need to learn ways to be professionally visible and then employ them and keep employing them until we are valued and respected.
Q: How do you relax after a stressful day?
A: I pet and play with the dog, cook a nice dinner and either read or watch netflix. Computer tinkering is saved for weekends.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your role and working at SUSE?
A: I like contributing to a worthwhile product and I am continually impressed by the quality of my coworkers. My current position gives me a lot of variety and the ability to travel.
Q: What advice would you give someone looking to start working in your sector?
A: Get social – find the meetup groups and technical associations in the area and start attending meetings. Take on roles within those groups. Take a deep dive into something that interests you technically and do presentations at these meetings. This will build your reputation industry-wide and these groups frequently hear about job openings very early in the posting cycle.