As vice president of IDC's Intelligence Process Automation Market Research and Advisory Services, Maureen focuses on the portfolio of technologies that improve and automate processes. She is particularly interested in cloud-native and event-driven architectures, AI-embedded software products, event stream processing, predictive analytics, robotic process automation, digital assistants, and API management. From her first tech role as a programmer for the University of Michigan to now, Maureen has been captivated by how technology shapes our world – an ideal background for the RPA and automation insights and intelligence she shares with today’s global leaders.
Why did you choose RPA/Intelligent Automation as your career path?
At IDC, a technology market research and advisory firm, I’m an industry analyst who researches automation software and RPA is an important category of automation. So in some ways it was a natural progression. I work on RPA market research and help my advisory clients with automation planning, short-listing RPA/AI vendors and keeping track of changes across the market. The first study I published on what is now known as robotic process automation (RPA was in 2007). So much has changed since then while at the same time the initial motivations for adoption are still true today. The rapid change of RPA and its myriad use cases tick all my career wish-list boxes.
What enabled your success in this field?
As an analyst researching this market, I am not in RPA professionally on a day-to-day basis. But I do spend time building bots across the different RPA products to learn what the software can do now and to keep up with where it’s headed. To succeed in the RPA field, it’s important to maintain a forward-looking perspective and be prepared for what comes next.
How do you see the market developing in the next few years?
I see enterprises deploying much greater use of process discovery, much more development automation, more human-in-the-loop features, and more autoML (automated machine learning) capabilities.
What do you love about your job?
I have a pretty great job. I love the opportunity to work with vendors to learn more about their business and products, compare capabilities across vendors, and share the results in publications and in discussions with clients. It’s a continual process of learning and discovery.
What is your biggest professional challenge?
What I appreciate about my job is also my most significant challenge – keeping up with the rapid pace of technology change. I find that duality keeps every day interesting. I’m constantly talking to vendors about how solutions and technologies are evolving so I can advise clients with the most up-to-date information.
How has being a woman impacted your professional journey?
I was 19 when I got my first full-time job as a coder. It was common to work with other women building applications. That was a long time ago. For some reason, development has twisted into something that is dominated by men and, while getting much better, there are times when this culture of gender-based superiority can be annoying. That said, at this stage in my career and in my particular job, being a woman doesn’t help or hurt. Working with clients and vendors is pretty gender-neutral in most cases.
What is your advice for young women who are interested in or entering the RPA space?
If you’re already in RPA, understanding the business nuances of RPA is critical, especially: 1. becoming skilled at building a business case for automation 2. understanding KPIs and 3. keeping an eye on other technologies that will improve process performance that can be used to enhance RPA.
For women considering entering the space, RPA is a crossover technology where women can develop skills in RPA and an understanding of the business that they are mutually reinforcing. This creates the new type of worker who has talent on the tech side and on the business side. These are the future leaders in business, the women who will have the skills and the mindset to really move the needle and affect change in our industry and beyond.
How can we inspire women to pursue tech careers and in RPA specifically?
We must show that women can be paid well, treated with respect in their jobs, and advance their careers in multiple directions based on their skills, skill development and interests. If we can do that, everything else will follow naturally.
Technology is still male-dominated. Since RPA is fairly new, do you see it differently or evolving more quickly to include more women?
You can be a great RPA developer with a business background, especially if you are a logical thinker and comfortable with technology. Computer science majors are not required, especially at the expense of good domain expertise on the business side. Whether entering the workforce or looking for a better career path, there’s no reason not to carve out time in RPA. Tools used to build software robots open up the world of automation to motivated non-developers. Most RPA vendors also offer free community editions as well as online training. There is really nothing inhibiting anyone, or any woman, interested in RPA from getting started.
Only 5% of today’s tech leadership positions are held by women. How do you think more women in leadership roles will change the tech landscape?
Just setting the example is key. More women in leadership positions will make it easier for others to understand that there is a path for women to become tech leaders.
You can also join the international Women in RPA initiative. We’re showcasing women leaders in all aspects of RPA. Please get in touch with me so we can share your story.