Photo by Nikki Buchalski, CS&T at TIAA

TIAA: Women in IT — Lisa Weil: The Human Side of Tech

Written by Julian Cantella, CS&T Communications at TIAA

Lisa Weil has always loved solving puzzles. It didn’t take her long to discover that some of the most compelling puzzles have a human component.

The interest in technology came early: coding at 14, volunteer work building software for nonprofits in high school. At her first job, a purely technical role, she realized that staying close to the customer was equally important. That balance of hard skills and customer focus led Lisa to a dynamic career that included time at tech startups, Fidelity and her own consulting firm.

Now, as head of TIAA’s digital customer experience, Lisa’s focus on the customer has paid significant dividends.

“We live and breathe customer feedback,” she said. “As technology helps us obtain rich online feedback, we don’t let it replace live conversations with our clients.”

Under Lisa’s leadership, the quality and usage of TIAA’s digital channels has risen steadily. Consider these 2019 statistics:

  • Digital channels served more than 2.4 million clients
  • Digital interactions hit 90 percent of all customer interactions with TIAA
  • With an expanded voice of the customer program, TIAA listened and responded to 63,000 pieces of feedback from more than 30,000 customers

Throughout her career, Lisa has focused on working hard, building strong teams and driving positive change. She’s always viewed herself as an equal partner, listening and learning with self-awareness and not being afraid to act and challenge the status quo.Thriving as a woman in IT

“My first thought is never about my gender. When I walk through the door, I expect everyone’s perspectives to be heard – leading to creative solutions built together,” she said.

But as has been covered broadly in the media, women are significantly underrepresented in computing degrees and careers. For women who do hold technology roles, low representation can pose a variety of challenges, from unconscious bias to a lack of development opportunities.

Recently, Lisa has taken a more active role encouraging women in technology careers. In mentoring sessions and at conferences, Lisa has laid out three ways for women in technology to thrive:

​1) Know your customer – Understand how technology solves real-world problems, through direct customer interaction.

2) Create a safe environment – As a leader, cultivate cooperation and trust, inspiring team members to feel they can contribute something positive and be valued.

“One way I create a safe environment, I show vulnerability myself,” Lisa said. “We need to be authentic, share how we feel, and integrate personal values into our work. We need different perspectives to solve problems creatively.”

3) Seize opportunities – Don’t let fear get in your way, and seek “stretch” roles where you can learn and grow. Lisa believes we need to help women understand their worth and provide more opportunities for women to seize.

“When we coach women and give them a safe space to grow, they’re knocking it out of the park.”

Growing at TIAA

In her own career, Lisa’s learned some valuable lessons that she cultivates in her team at TIAA, regardless of gender. For one, you don’t need to have all the answers.

“Early in my career, saying ‘I don’t know’ wasn’t acceptable,” Lisa said. “Now, with the pace of change in technology, it’s impossible to think anyone would have all the answers. So embrace not knowing, seek to learn from different perspectives and move forward.”

One thing has been a constant throughout Lisa’s career: never forget the human piece of the puzzle.

“When team members trust each other, you don’t need as many meetings and status reports – things get done faster and everyone wins.”

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