A conversation with Mary Davenport, President of TransTech IT Staffing, about her path from Microsoft to motherhood and later, entrepreneurship – and how NAWBO helps all of us find and share business wisdom.
How did you make your start in IT?
I spent three really exciting years with Microsoft’s consulting services in the 1990s, when the phone was ringing off the hook! So many major companies needed IT consulting support. I worked in a busy practice filled with smart, fun, energetic young people and learned a lot about temporary and permanent staffing for IT.
How did you come to own TransTech?
I left Microsoft when I started a family. Around the time our kids were entering school, my husband, Dave, was already working for TransTech. We learned the owners were planning to sell the company, possibly by splitting it up. He said, “You understand staffing, contracts and operations and I know sales. Let’s take it over!” We bought TransTech in 2002, and since it was right after the dot-com bust, everyone thought we were crazy getting into anything involving computers. But it was the right move.
Did you move into the top spot right away?
About a year after we took over, Dave and another senior manager left the company to start Mother Network Guardians and I became the top leader. Since Dave had been around for years, some of his colleagues still looked to him for guidance. Many saw me as a stay-at-home mom and a newcomer, but as they got to know me, we settled in.
Tell us about the company today.
TransTech’s sweet spot is IT staff augmentation for large and mid-sized organizations. Our consultants come in as temporary staff on large-scale IT projects and we also fill staffing gaps that are part of everyday operations. We see lots of temp-to-permanent hiring when clients want to retain the skills and knowledge our consultants have gained through a temp assignment.
We are a certified Women Business Enterprise with 23 inside staff and more than 100 consultants in the field. When I took the reins we were in a 2,000-square-foot space, but we work in a 10,000 square-foot office now and we have a great reputation throughout Chicago and the region.
IT is sometimes seen as being unwelcoming to women. What's your take on this?
I’ve heard those comments, and it’s definitely true that we don’t see a lot of female Chief Information Officers out there. At the same time, I have not run up against significant barriers as a woman, and I would say that our staff and consultants feel very welcomed by our client companies. I definitely support the move to help more girls learn to code and prepare for careers in STEM. We need to feed the pipeline of women leaders!
What lessons have you learned in IT that can benefit women in other fields?
How to hire and retain great people and build a positive workforce culture. When I get together with other NAWBO members, we talk about these issues a lot, because they’re universal to all fields and industries. Finance is another hot topic. Even though I’m not a business finance guru, I’ve been around awhile and I enjoy helping women who need a better banker or more access to capital.
How has your NAWBO membership benefited you?
I love talking with NAWBO members through the Executive Level Roundtable. I’ve gained so many helpful perspectives on the issues we’re all facing. Susan Dawson persuaded me to get involved by telling me, “You can ask the NAWBO network for help with virtually anything!” And I’ve found that to be very true. We can discuss the big picture and the smaller, more tactical questions. It’s a great way to exchange wisdom and support other women who are rising in their fields.