Faculty/Staff Current Students

The ‘inspiration’ behind the innovation

After graduating from business school, Lynne Wilson took a solitary desk job, but quickly learned that she would rather collaborate with her colleagues than work alone.


By: news@Northeastern

September 19, 2013

From left to right: Michele Flynn, Amy O’Connor, Lauren States, and Lynne Wilson. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

After grad­u­ating from busi­ness school, Lynne Wilson took a soli­tary desk job, but quickly learned that she would rather col­lab­o­rate with her col­leagues than work alone. “I found I had a knack for thinking about things a little dif­fer­ently and real­ized I had all these ideas about how to trans­form a busi­ness,” said Wilson, now the CEO of 3DVIA, Das­sault Sys­tèmes’ brand for inter­ac­tive 3-​​D content.

On Tuesday evening in the Alumni Center, Wilson shared her career story with more than 80 North­eastern stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff, as well as pro­fes­sionals from area hos­pi­tals and orga­ni­za­tions ranging from Akamai Tech­nolo­gies to the Boston Ballet. The event was the second in the Women Who Inspire speaker series, a North­eastern ini­tia­tive designed to pro­mote the advance­ment of women in sci­ence, sus­tain­ability, engi­neering, and technology.

Wilson was joined by three other dis­tin­guished female leaders at the fore­front of 3-​​D imaging, big data, and cloud com­puting: Mod­er­ator Michele Flynn, chairman and chief strategy officer of Hiperos; Amy O’Connor, a big data evan­ge­list for Cloudera and a grad­uate of Northeastern’s exec­u­tive MBA pro­gram in the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness; and Lauren States, the vice pres­i­dent of strategy and trans­for­ma­tion for IBM and the chair of the Board of Vis­i­tors for the school of business.

The 90-​​minute dis­cus­sion ranged from the effect of glob­al­iza­tion to the impor­tance of men­tor­ship. Diane MacGillivray, senior vice pres­i­dent of uni­ver­sity advance­ment, opened the con­ver­sa­tion by praising the pan­elists and their accom­plish­ments. “What you will hear will help shape your own edu­ca­tion, whether you are new to the North­eastern com­mu­nity or have been here for a while,” she told the stu­dents in atten­dance. “You can learn a lot from these women.”

She was right. In the middle of the dis­cus­sion, a first-​​year busi­ness stu­dent received advice from the pan­elists on breaking into the male-​​dominated busi­ness world.

“Think about what makes you unique,” sug­gested O’Connor, who con­siders her­self a “geek in high heels.” “Try to figure out what drives the busi­ness you’re working for,” added Wilson, “and then do an impor­tant job really well.”

Career suc­cess, the pan­elists agreed, depends, in part, on finding a mentor. This is espe­cially true in light of recent studies. According to a report in the Har­vard Busi­ness Review, some 52 per­cent of women in sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering, or math leave their job as a result of poor man­age­ment, an unclear career path, or a lack of role models.

“Keep your mind and ears open and learn things from people all around you,” O’Connor said of finding a mentor. Flynn, for her part, urged stu­dents and pro­fes­sionals alike to keep in touch with pro­fes­sors, man­agers, and col­leagues through social media plat­forms. “You have the oppor­tu­nity and ability to stay con­nected so much more now than ever before,” she explained.

Fol­lowing the dis­cus­sion, pan­elists fielded a range of ques­tions from audi­ence mem­bers. Another first-​​year busi­ness stu­dent asked the experts to pre­dict what emerging mar­kets other than Brazil, Russia, India, or China would achieve the most suc­cess in the next few years.

States selected Africa, “because it’s building its core infra­struc­ture with the latest tech­nolo­gies and making a lot of use of cloud computing.”

An IBM employee who fre­quently vol­un­teers at middle schools in Boston wanted to know how to interest more girls in engi­neering careers, many of whom, she said, con­sider the field to be “boring and ugly.”

“We need to get sto­ries out there that show­case women in tech­nology,” O’Connor said. “They need to see they can be suc­cessful in these fields.”