It is always exciting to hear how our consultants spend their personal time outside of work, so when we heard that Alli Onni spends her time giving back to the tech community through her involvement with Women Leading Technology, we knew we wanted to learn more! We sat down with Alli Onni, an SAP Organization Change Management Leader at LSI an Invenio Company, to discuss what she is doing to cultivate diversity, inclusivity, and equity awareness in the technology industry. As an Executive Board member of Women Leading Technology, she also shares her insight as to how mentorship and leadership play a role in these efforts.
Alli’s Tech Career
Alli Onni first immersed herself in technology while she studied communications at a technical university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She pursued managing consulting early on in her career, and now, she describes herself as a “bridge” that “helps people working in technology to solve problems.” Fittingly, her decision to join Invenio-LSI was inspired by a relevant adage of CEO Steve Roach: “We’re a people organization that happens to do technology.”
In recent years, Alli has channeled her commitment to leadership development and personal growth through Women Leading Technology, a professional non-profit technology sorority. Kelly Flowers, CEO and Founder of Women Leading Technology, met Alli online, and brought her on as Managing Director to help the organization expand. Alli describes of the organization, “It’s both a human and technological platform that helps women to experience STEAAM” (Science, Technology, Arts, Architecture, and Mathematics).
What’s in Store for Women Leading Technology
Due to COVID-19, Women Leading Technology has opted for virtual events over the past year. Alli and her sisters have not only managed to continue to get their message across in the United States, but they have also expanded into Europe and Africa. Alli raves, “There is so much happening in emerging markets and technology is a huge piece of that, so we couldn’t think of a better place” to build the participation and membership of women. Through this expansion, Alli hopes to “provide a social and technical network” that allows people to decide how they want to impact and participate in their own communities. She adds, “We’re honored with the privilege of being invited into other people’s communities as they grow.”
Alli explains of expanding into new markets, “We all have the same issues. We talk about the digital divide. It shows up differently in Africa, and there are different tactics in how they’re dealing with that versus how it shows up in South Austin, Texas [where Alli lives]. But we are all still talking about the same issues related to technology access, and providing opportunity to young people.”
Alli recognizes that diverse conversations are “more difficult and it includes a lot more listening.” Yet, she appreciates the exposure to a new set of perspectives. She reflects, “It has really had such a powerful impact on my belief in diversity. And not just diversity as far as demographics but most essentially diversity in thought and experience.”
How to Foster Transparent Conversations in Today’s Work-From-Home Environment
As work environments change, “We are constantly learning and adjusting.” In a Women Leading Technology panel discussion hosted by The Fanny Dunagan Show, Alli asserts, “We’re at a critical point where we can really seize the opportunity, and start looking for new ways of working, new ways of collaborating.” We not only need to connect with people, but we also need to initiate two-way conversations. She also points out that the amount of time we schedule with one another “is one of the biggest indicators in a COVID environment of how invested we are in the relationship part of the discussion.”
According to Alli, the mission of Women Leading Technology “comes from such an organic place because it’s not about trying to change the world—although we like that idea a lot. It’s really about passing down and passing up the opportunities we’ve had in our careers.” Alli defines mentorship as “a relationship first and foremost” that is built upon a foundation of trust. She declares, “Mentoring needs to be personalized. Otherwise it’s training and education.”
Alli asserts that on top of personalization, the goal of mentors should be to “unleash human potential.” She advises leaders in the workplace to keep their employees’ dreams and aspirations in mind before every management meeting. They should ask themselves, “How does this work with my team? Who can help with this? How can I push people forward?”
Active leaders are those who “create a culture of accountability, trust and transparency.” Alli explains that cultures with these qualities create “a natural safety net that allows people to be more comfortable in having open conversations” and trying new things. In addition, environments like these are “attractive to more types of people.” Alli stresses, “We need to start building organizational cultures that really appreciate people with diverse experiences and backgrounds.”
To become a better and more inclusive leader, Alli suggests that as individuals, we should always give people the benefit of the doubt. She continues, “When we get upset, we can hold ourselves back from opportunities.” Similarly, she encourages collaborative answers. She shares, “As a leader, one of the greatest lessons that I learned is to ask people what the problem is. Don’t assume you know.” Alli concludes, “When I get additional input, I get to grow.”
Alli’s message of improvement is one that extends beyond leadership, as it relates to the overall missions of Women Leading Technology and LSI an Invenio Company. She remarks, “It’s not about what we’ve done wrong, it’s just what we get to do next.”
To learn more about Women Leading Technology visit https://www.womenleadingtechnology.org/