In honor of International Women’s Day, we thought it would be fun to ask our women leaders, from our CEO and CTO to directors and VP’s in our company, more about what has fueled and impacted their career journey leading them to their leadership roles here at 120Water.
The women below are an integral part of 120Water’s team, and we’re excited to celebrate them in addition to all the other amazing women at 120Water and in the industry at large.
Share a bit about your background and experience that has led you to your leadership role at 120Water today.
Megan Glover: Prior to founding 120Water, I had been a Sales and Marketing executive for various B2B enterprise SaaS companies in the Indianapolis tech ecosystem. Compendium (Oracle), Delivra (Emma), RICS/DyKnow, Lumavate, etc. My passion is building GTM functions and taking companies from 0 – 10s of millions of recurring revenue. In 2016, I found myself in a conversation with my mentor Chris Baggott (CoFounder ExactTarget) about the Flint, MI water crisis. He simply asked, “With two young kids at home, have you ever thought about testing your water?” The thought never crossed my mind pre-Flint. After that conversation, I started using my marketing brain to research what options were available, and there weren’t any consumer-friendly options for testing the tap. So…we created one. As we started to sell our kits to water utilities and school facilities, I noticed this incredible void of cloud-based software systems to manage all of the data being created on behalf of these testing programs. It was literally the most paper/excel shuffling I’d done in my career. So, leveraging my background in B2B SaaS, across a variety of industries, we prototyped a piece of software that was pre-purchased by the State of IN, which was really like a funding event that allowed 120Water to get started. I say all the time, I wouldn’t have been able to start 120Water without having a background in diverse cloud technologies and companies across all of the industries I served. Having knowledge of what is technologically possible in other industries and applying that to water has served us and more importantly, our customers, well.
Laura Breedlove: Building and scaling technologies has been core to my work experience. I am also passionate about helping people both as a customer but also in their technology careers. When you combine that I can build and scale technology that helps people (both customers and the public) as well as helping my team to develop technology skills to those ends – it’s a perfect fit for me.
Abby Warner: Over the years, I have learned that 4 things give me energy at work: leading others and helping them to recognize their strengths, figuring out how to make lives easier using technology through a great product, and engaging with customers and scaling a company. 120 gives me that opportunity to fill all of these buckets combined with the added benefit of knowing that we are doing great work toward public health.
Sarah Young: Supporting others in achieving their version of success has always been a passion for me, whether that be an individual, team, or business. I have spent my career helping mission-driven startup software companies scale, by growing revenue in individual contributor, and leadership roles. I started as an SDR, then took on various positions in sales, account management, sales & revenue operations leadership, with several software companies, which eventually led me to 120Water. I was incredibly excited about the prospect of scaling a sales department, alongside such a successful, female-led leadership team. I’d had the opportunity to work with several of these leaders at previous companies, so we had a high degree of trust already established.
Nicole MacLean: Before coming to 120Water, I spent most of my career in B2B tech here in Indy. Thanks to my first internship at ExactTarget, I fell in love with the SaaS business model and creating incredible experiences for prospects and customers. For the last five years, I was in HR tech learning about the drivers of employee engagement and the elements of great management. I’m excited to bring that knowledge to 120Water while diving deeper into the water industry.
Erica Walker: I grew up in a small, mostly farming community in Mid-Michigan with a little creek called the Tobacco River in our backyard and the largest freshwater source in the world hugging my state. It’s easy to editorialize your life or to make things seem linear, but I do think growing up in the shadow of the Great Lakes is part of my story. You see how water resources and commerce intersect and what outcomes and sometimes challenges this brings for communities sharing common resources. In college I studied environmental science and water policy and learned to analyze and interpret those first-hand experiences and more. Something about public policy drew me in and I jumped at any opportunity to work with local water utilities, state agencies and the federal government on public health and water issues. I always thought I would stay in the public sector and see myself wandering back into that space at some point in my career. 120Water drew me in immediately because of the people we serve and projects we work on. I felt I could make an incredible impact here, especially in helping communities find and reduce lead in drinking water, and this turned out to be more true than I imagined when Megan offered me a position here. Today, I am the Senior Director of Services and provide consulting support to our clients across 20 states on a wide variety of projects running from school and childcare sampling to state-wide Wastewater-Based Epidemiology initiatives. I am also the Director of the 120Water Policy Center, which channels the expertise of 5 colleagues on issues ranging from infrastructure financing to PFAS monitoring.
What are you most passionate about at 120Water?
Megan Glover: I am most passionate about being able to get up every day and work for a company that is delivering innovative solutions to the water sector that protect our public health. I really do feel that the work we are doing today at 120Water will have an impact on my children and generations to come, and that is incredibly important to me.
Nicole MacLean: I’ve come to learn that the water industry is often misunderstood and underappreciated. I love that at 120Water we are working to help make the lives of water professionals a little bit easier while protecting public health from lead in their water.
Sarah Young: I’m most passionate about the market 120Water services, and the role we play in helping modernize water compliance and public health programs. It’s energizing to wake up every day and feel like we are making a major difference in our current and future water quality. It helps that I get to work with a phenomenal team of impact-driven problem solvers, who know how to work hard, and have fun at the same time.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, what advice would you give to aspiring women leaders in tech that are unsure how to navigate the path?
Nicole MacLean: Don’t let your doubt or doubts from others prevent you from trying.
Megan Glover: Tech is so much more than coding. I joke all the time that I was asked to leave my college CS class, and yet, I’ve had a successful career in “tech”. So, I would say…familiarize yourself with all of the roles in tech – Sales, Marketing, CS, Development, Product, Project management. There is literally a role for everyone! Navigating the path to leadership can be tricky and there’s not an easy button for this answer. In fact, for most it takes a lot of hard work, strategy and mentorship. For me, I chose to continuously seek out challenging opportunities that furthered my expertise in my field. I knew I wanted to be on a CMO path and I knew what that looked like and tried to put myself in positions that would eventually lead to that. I had a mentor that I would continuously check-in with and make sure I was making the right moves, getting the right skills. At the end of the day though, YOU have to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your career and leadership path.
Erica Walker: Unlike Megan or Laura, I have not earned the tech leader or expert title, but I do consider myself a leader on certain policy or water quality issues like lead in schools and childcare facilities. And now that you know where I fall on the Dunning Kruger graph, I do think it’s incredibly important to stay curious and to build a network of other curious and collaborative people who care about the issues you care about in your professional life. As a woman, I also think it’s important to be aware of how you spend your energy, especially when it comes to the learned impulse to make men feel comfortable around your greatness. For more on this, please read this excellent article by Adam Grant (“Who won’t shut up in meetings? Men say it’s women. It’s not”). Here at 120Water, my male colleagues regularly celebrate and encourage my expression and respect my leadership position, but this has not always been my experience in other work settings and, even in this supportive environment, your social conditioning can get in your way. I encourage you to do everything in your power not to let it and talking openly about these issues with other women or male allies can be part of the cure.
What role has a mentor played in your career? What role have you played as a mentor in others’ careers? What would you tell someone that is looking to find the right mentor relationship for them?
Nicole MacLean: I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a mentor. Oftentimes we talk about mentorship like there’s a specific moment where the mentor and mentee relationship is forged. Instead, I think you’ll meet a variety of mentors in your life that can help teach and guide you. To me, the most important attribute of a good mentor is their willingness to challenge you. I’ve met many incredible people and many have helped challenge my way of thinking and grow as a person, even if I didn’t call them a mentor at the time. Build as many relationships as you can and when you can pay it back to others, be sure to give back the time.
Laura Breedlove: A mentor doesn’t have to be someone who has “more experience” than you. I have had multiple individuals share transparently their approaches to jobs which are on the surface very different than mine. But, what I have learned is their organizational approaches, their communication styles, how to get outside of a comfort zone. I have mentored individuals in the finance industry as well as sales and marketing. I typically take a similar approach to how others have coached & taught me by leading with listening, examples on how someone might approach a situation, alternative communication approaches.
Megan Glover: Based on previous answers you’ve probably gleaned the importance that mentorship has played in my career…it’s essential. I’ve not just had one mentor across my career. I’ve seemed to assemble a team of mentors and peers along the way that I feel comfortable reaching out to depending on the situation. In terms of finding the right mentor relationship…I’ve used the “do I like, do I respect, do I want to learn from, do I trust” approach to my mentorship circle. In my personal opinion, it’s hard to manufacture mentorship…we have leadership coaches for that.
What are ways that you feel 120Water provides an inclusive environment?
Abby Warner: We have a strong team who respects and supports each other. We have committees for people to contribute and we support initiatives that drive inclusivity and education.
Sarah Young: 120Water is the first company that I have worked for that has a predominantly female leadership team. This creates an environment, at least for me, where I feel very comfortable and included. Overall, the openness and transparency from leadership is refreshing, and facilitates inclusion by everyone feeling involved and understanding the state of the business. We have regular social events to facilitate interaction amongst teams, and foster a “pick up the phone” culture to keep lines of communication open across all levels and departments. Leaders focus on productivity and problem-solving in a way that makes space for individuals to share their opinions, and have open dialogue about the best path forward, especially when those opinions may be at odds. Leadership also makes a conscious effort to reach down for input from team members at every level.
Erica Walker: When it comes to gender-based diversity, 120Water walks the walk. Depending on how you do the math (and I just did on napkin), about 60% of our leadership team are women. So this is not preformative diversity…women have power in this company and share it with supportive male colleagues. I really feel we all lift each other up here. I also know that we are interested in taking an honest look at diversity in the company more broadly and formed a committee to start the conversation late last year. The work needs to continue.