VP and CIO of Integer, Mary Holler, discusses her work in technology and in Buffalo
Mary Holler is the current Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Integer. She has experience in all aspects of IT, with a wide range of companies and positions along the span of her career. She has held her current position of VP and CIO for 6 years! I went over to the Integer Headquarters in Buffalo and sat down with Mary to discuss her position, her experiences in tech, and the Buffalo community:
How did you get started in technology?
“It started when I was in high school. One of my math teachers suggested that I take a computer class over the summer. Computers weren’t apart of our day to day lives at that time. There were no smart phones or personal computers. Taking the class was a big mystery to me, but I ended up really enjoying it. After that point I did not know what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to do something with computers.”
What is it about technology that keeps you interested?
“There are a few things. I really have a passion for learning and in this field, technology is constantly changing, evolving, and advancing. Because of this there is always something to learn, and I enjoy that part of the job. I like to figure out how to use technology to change or advance my company. Even though I have a very technical background, I think of myself as a business person. I just happen to have a skillset where I can leverage my technical skills to help the company be more successful. I think it is all of that learning and figuring out new challenges that keeps me interested.”
Biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
“My biggest challenge now is to help other business leaders understand how to leverage information or how to leverage a CIO. There was a time when IT was sort of that backroom department, and that has changed significantly over the years. A lot of times business people want tofigure out their strategies and plans and then come to us saying “we need this,” so the biggest challenge is getting into those discussions where we can help craft the direction as well.”
Any mistakes you have learned from in your career?
“I would say asking for help. I feel like I have learned that lesson along the way. We want to be successful and we want to be smart and know the answers, but you also have to be wise and recognize when you don’t know the answers. You need to be comfortable with asking for help. Someone around you will be willing to help you, it is just a matter of asking.”
Any book/blog/podcast that has helped you in your career?
“I am a reader, so I have lots of books and some of my most favorites I have given away. If the book is really good I love to share it and want other people to read it. One of my favorites is a classic Who Moved My Cheese and it is about how to adapt to organizational change. It is a short read that has really helped me in my career.”
Advice for someone starting out in technology?
“Of course, you have to have strong technical skills. I think it is also important to round out your other skill sets. Things like being able to work in a team, the ability to communicate, manage issues and conflicts, and more. The other thing I would encourage people to do is to take lateral moves. It is not always about upward advancement, and actually it is those lateral moves that make you more attractive for advancement. There are a lot of very different disciplines within a company and having knowledge in all of those fields helps one to be a better leader.”
Challenges you faced as a female in the tech world?
“There have been sometimes where I have been discouraged. I had to reassure myself that what I am doing and what I am saying is the right thing according to my own values. To me it is about maintaining my own integrity. Sometimes you do have to recognize when you don’t have the answers, and there are usually people around to help. I think it is extremely helpful to find someone in life that you can bounce your ideas off of. I think that is how I get through things, reaching out to a colleague and seeing that maybe there is a way that something could be done better. Just having that person or group of people can be really helpful.”
Thoughts on the Buffalo tech community?
‘I love that it is evolving, changing, and growing. I see a lot of new talent that is coming up. I think our challenge is to maintain the graduates from our local colleges and universities, and also get people to continue to come back. There are also a lot of exciting startups where people can get really great experience. Not all of them will be Apple one day, but there is something to be gained from each one. It is great to watch and be a part of it all.”
Any current projects you are working on?
“My most recent project was to lead the activities to close on a divestiture for Integer. This was not just an IT initiative, even though there was a lot of IT work in it. I like to think of myself as a business person with technical expertise. We recently sold a piece of our business and trying to untangle it from part of your company is a lot of work. There are a lot of different moving pieces involved with it. I had the opportunity to lead those activities and it was a blast. I learned a lot and it was highly successful.
Thank you to Mary for taking the time to share her passion and insight into her world! Have any questions or comments? Leave them below!