When Adele Glenn’s grade school teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she responded: “Astronaut!” But that was only because she didn’t know an Emerging Channels Innovation Architect position existed.
“This is my dream job,” said Glenn who serves as emerging channels innovation architect for San Antonio, Texas-based Credit Human, formerly known as San Antonio CU. “Every day is exciting and new.”
Entering the tech space in 1998, Glenn said some of her early experiences were less than ideal. During her first tech conference, for instance, she realized some of the challenges that go along with being a woman in the technology field.
“I had the experience of sitting on a round table discussion and a man asking me to get him a coffee, mistaking me for an administrative assistant. Until that moment I thought those kinds of things only happened in movies,” said Glenn. “I quickly learned to stand my ground in meetings and discussions and include and encourage other women to participate as well.”
While Glenn sees more women working for tech companies than ever before, the number of women in technical roles, she said, is still low. This isn’t because companies are discriminating on the basis of gender, she noted, but rather there aren’t enough women pursuing computer science degrees and careers.
“When I look at gender, I have been steadily in the minority all these years,” said Glenn. “But as a woman in technology I wanted my peers to treat me as an equal, and part of that was not playing into gender stereotypes and making sure that I was judged on the content of my work and not on other factors.”
The $2.9 billion credit union employs approximately 60 technology employees, and Glenn explained that figure also includes roles outside the “formal” IT department.
“We have individual contributor (non-manager) technical roles that facilitate business-to-IT translation of needs,” said Glenn. “These individual non-traditional IT roles are critical to the success of the business as role of tech and IT in the company is no longer seen as a separate group of people speaking a foreign language.”
The demographic makeup of Credit Human’s technology department is approximately 25 percent female and 75 percent male, she added.
“We have a split of about 15 percent millennials, 25 percent baby boomers and 60 percent gen Xers,” said Glenn. “I also firmly believe in – and classify myself into – the micro-generation known as the xennials. We had a few years in the analog world enough to identify it, but grew up in the dawn of technology and the internet. We got the best of both worlds.”
Bye bye, Bridezillas
After graduating high school at age 16, Glenn started her own event-planning company, which included weddings, catering, floral arranging and sewing dresses, among other related tasks. But many of her clients and partnering businesses also wanted websites, a skill she picked up in in the late 1990s when the Web was still new.
After a move to California, she became a member of CoastHills Federal Credit Union. Her career trajectory changed one day as she was depositing a check that required an override from the branch manager.
“The branch manager was having issues with her computer and email, and I offered to assist. She then asked me if I was interested in an opening they had in their computer department,” recalled Glenn. “They had recently converted to a new core system and were looking for someone who could run the data operations.”
Glenn said she took the job out of “curiosity” and preferred working with computers over “bridezillas.” She was also inspired by the credit union ethos: People helping people.
A quick learner, she was intrigued by “the open-source nature” of the core operation, which meant “anything” was possible.
“I consumed new programming languages as fast as I could get my hands on them, and started coding reports, programs and automations and even created an online alerts system in 1999 that was the first of its kind for our credit union,” said Glenn. “The credit union provided opportunities to network and learn from other developers at the time. I took advantage of the amazing network to improve my own skills and eventually share code and lessons learned with others in the hopes of improving the industry as a whole.”
Glenn stayed at CoastHills FCU for eight years as a lead programmer. Her mentor and champion was Diana Dykstra, who served as CEO from 2000 to 2014.
“Diana gave me a piece of advice that forever changed my outlook on my career, and the solutions I provided to my members and coworkers. She told me: ‘Don’t give people what they ask for, give them what they need’,” said Glenn. “This advice drove my inner curiosity and changed the way I gathered requirements.”
For nearly two decades now, Glenn has paid that advice forward to her coworkers and the young women she now mentors.
“When I see someone jumping into the solution space, I encourage them to take a step back and look at the overall system so that they can better identify the problem they’re trying to solve in the first place,” she said. “This reflection time is where the true innovations come from.”
When Glenn took the position of development lead at Credit Human in 2005 (when it was still known as San Antonio Credit Union), she started the job with a great deal of experience, but only a high school diploma. Enter her second mentor, COO Zandy Reinshagen, who helped Glenn realize the benefits of a formalized education.
“Since working for Zandy, I’ve completed two undergraduate degrees, green and black belts in Lean Six Sigma, multiple certifications, and most recently completed my MBA, Information Management, with distinction,” said Glenn. She received the latter degree from Grantham University, and studied Executive Education, Systems Dynamics, Management and Leadership at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management.
As Credit Human’s development lead, the credit union’s most senior developer, Glenn serves as IT project manager, help desk software administrator and also mentors four developers, four operators and two managers
Over the years, Glenn has led many tech initiatives, including a self-service kiosk solution that was deployed to the CU’s 17 branches. From aggregated data, 24 functions were added to the kiosks that were normally handled by a teller or representative. This solution was executed in under a year and has since been updated to include roughly 25 more transaction functions.
Within the emerging channels field, Glenn said she is interested in artificial intelligence, such as chatbots, data mining, underwriting and hybrid applications. Additionally, blockchain and mobile wallets are top of mind as are solutions for the underserved, such as payday loan alternatives, apps and technologies that “better” financial health.
While Glenn acknowledged that there are more men in tech than women, she is optimistic that with due diligence and encouragement the percentages will eventually become balanced.
“As the mother of two young girls, and active in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education community, I’d love to see more women entering the field,” said Glenn. “There’s a lot we can do to help facilitate the careers of young women and move them from the classroom to tech positions, and into technology leadership positions.”
More stories from CU Journal’s “Women in Tech” series are available here:
Women in tech: From Silicon Valley startups to CU boardrooms
Women in tech: How an outsider is helping credit unions evolve