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Indy Women in Tech Championship Highlights Above-Par Tech Careers Available at IMS, Central Indiana Businesses

Tour-level professional golf returned to Brickyard Crossing Golf Course this week for the first time since 2000, as the Indy Women in Tech (IWiT) Championship presented by Guggenheim features 144 elite players from the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

But the tournament is doing more than entertaining regional golf fans and putting the unique, Pete Dye-designed course, featuring four holes inside the IMS oval and 14 outside the track, into a global spotlight.

Another important goal of the IWiT tournament is to shine a spotlight on women working in information technology and IT-related fields throughout Central Indiana and to try to attract more women to pursue the growing number of jobs in these fields in the region.

“We definitely need more diversity in IT,” said Rebecca Ruselink, chief information officer  for Hulman & Company, the parent company of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR. “I think that’s what this IWiT community outreach is all about.

“Their mission, from a community outreach perspective, is to try to unite the tech community here in town to not only brand Indianapolis as the tech hub of the Midwest but to inspire and empower women to pursue a career in technology. I think part of the problem is the awareness isn’t there.”

IMS hosted the inaugural IWiT Summit on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at the Brickyard Crossing Pavilion as a centerpiece of efforts to attract more women to career opportunities in tech in the region. A variety of keynote speakers talked to the group of invited executives from primarily Central Indiana companies ranging from high-tech startups to Fortune 500 corporations.

Keynote speakers included Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey, Bridgestone Motorsports Chief Engineer Cara Adams, Octiv Senior Vice President of Product and Engineering Rachel Clark, The Mom Project Founder and CEO Allison Robinson and Guggenheim Life and Annuity President and CEO Dan Towriss . 

The approximately 300 attendees at the IWiT Summit also participated in panel discussions designed to spawn more ideas on how to educate women about the growing need for their skills in tech careers. Participants also were encouraged to volunteer their time and expertise to serve as mentors for women who aspire to work in tech, ranging from elementary, middle school, high school and college students to moms who left jobs to raise families and want to return to the workforce.

Planning for the IWiT Summit started last winter. Many executives in the high-tech workforce in Central Indiana led the planning and execution, such as Ruselink, High Alpha Vice President of Talent M.T. Ray and former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who is a director with Indy Women in Tech, Inc . Other groups involved in IWiT Summit planning and execution included Octagon, TechPoint and the Indiana Sports Corp.

An IWiT Summit also is planned for the second and third years of the tournament, in 2018 and 2019, Ruselink said.

“We have a lot of ideas,” Ruselink said. “Let’s see what we can do in year one and see if we can get more traction in year two and year three. We want this conversation to be engaging. We want people to walk out of the summit with real action items.

“We have a lot of tech jobs that are going to continue to flow into our community, and we don’t have enough bodies to fill those jobs. So why not fill them with really smart women who don’t realize they have the skill set we absolutely need to fill them?”

Ruselink said one of the many benefits for IMS of hosting the IWiT Summit is continued exposure of tech-related jobs at IMS and its parent company, Hulman & Company. Ruselink joined Hulman & Company last September and also has two women on her IT staff at IMS, financial systems analyst/database developer Sherri Lester and computer technician Lisa Wyatt.

But one of the focuses of the IWiT Summit was to help women understand that nearly every job in this era uses technology even if it’s not based in the IT department, creating even more opportunities for those not specifically trained in computer technology. Ruselink pointed to IMS Social Media Strategist Kenzie Kittle and INDYCAR Engineering Lead Pit Tech Vikkie Louks as examples of women working in the IMS-INDYCAR organization whose non-IT roles revolve around technology every day.
 
“I think it’s helping people understand that a job in technology doesn’t have to be in an IT department,” Ruselink said “There are so many different aspects of technology represented in so many jobs.”

That’s especially true at IMS and INDYCAR. Both companies use IT standard to many businesses. But racing is unique because the evolution of technology is as fundamental to the motorsports industry as fuel and engines.

Ruselink learned that quickly when she joined Hulman & Company last fall. She forged a distinguished career in tech in a wide variety of industries, including software, consulting and the restaurant business, before coming to Hulman & Company.

“This job is no different than any other job I’ve had in terms of managing the IT footprint and what it takes to run a business with applications, infrastructure and desktop services,” Ruselink said. “What makes this place different is the technology that permeates from the racing industry itself. The cars all alone are rampant with technology. The data telemetry that goes into that, extending to the race control and data analysis aspects.

“There are so many neat aspects of this job that are related to that technology that you don’t have in other industries. Down the road there are all these other opportunities where IT can get involved and do some really, really cool things.”

Opportunities for women in tech are nurtured throughout Hulman & Company. It starts from the top, where Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Lucchese, Senior Vice President of Events Allison Melangton, Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Gretchen Snelling, Vice President of Human Resources Theresa Jasper and Ruselink are members of the executive team . Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark Miles also has promoted and pushed for greater diversity in the company.

“We have women in executive leadership positions, which only opens up the opportunity for more women to come in,” Ruselink said.

Hosting the Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim and the IWiT Summit this week at IMS also will open many eyes to the exciting tech-specific and tech-oriented careers available in the company.

“That’s absolutely inspiration for someone who works here,” Ruselink said. “I think the opportunities do exist.”

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