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Kinetic Business Women In Tech’s Profile Of Melinda Russell

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

During March, we’re featuring women in tech who deliver broadband, entertainment and security services for consumers and small and midsize businesses across our 18-state footprint.

At Windstream, women are in the vanguard of a campaign to carry our high-speed Kinetic Internet to every American home and business. 

Our director of digital marketing, Melinda Russell, is a disruptor who has been influenced by the wisdom of female executives and authors Sheryl Sandberg and Amy Cuddy, both of whom write about leadership and behavioral cues.

Russell described her earliest experiences with technology.

I remember the very first Apple computer, an old, ugly console and a keyboard was all that it was. You’d spend about an hour typing in a series of numbers and letters and characters — little did I know that’s what we would call coding today — a long string of code for it to play ‘Happy Birthday’ back to me and would put up in the best Dos-format a birthday cake image. If you didn’t get it, you’d have to go back in and find where you made the mistake. Fun times.

You won’t grow unless you feel uncomfortable, challenged. As an adult now and looking back, I know, ‘Wow, that was a coding language.’ It required me to feel uncomfortable, but I was curious about computers and how they work.

As director of digital marketing, now, my job is leading campaigns across our web, email, search, and social channels.

Russell says being a woman and succeeding in a field like technology has meant reflecting on what choices she makes, even physical choices, in meetings and other critical settings.

I always think back to Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. I love [her book] Lean In. She says, ‘Sit at the table.’ Early on, she would enter the board room, and she would allow the men to sit at the larger table, and she’d grab one of the seats behind. She was told, ‘You're the COO. You need to sit at this table.’ Now, she would also emphasize, if you’re going to sit at the table, you need to speak at the table. For me, in my career, I’ve had to think, ‘It’s OK to sit at the table. You’ve been asked to this meeting.’ 

Another is Amy Cuddy. She talks about your presence and your body language. Her book, Presence, is about our body language and how we present ourselves. The combination of these two made me, as a female technology leader, aware not only of my intellectual presence but my physical presence as well. So if I’m going to sit at the table, what does my body language communicate?

Forbes listed less than 10 percent of females make up corporate leadership. That’s an unfortunate number. That makes me that much hungrier.

Women's History Month is a time to think of new ways we can continue to pioneer and pave the way. Here’s what we’ve accomplished, where we are now, and all the doors that we can open in the future. 

Check back soon for more Windstream women in technology, businessblog.windstream.com.