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Creating a Work/Life Balance as a Female Tech Executive

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In celebration of Women’s History Month, March 2016, we sat down with Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Santex, Annett Koegler. Growing up in Communist East Germany, eventually pursuing a career and starting a company in the United States, and raising a family across multiple continents, Annett’s life has been far from basic. Here she shares with us her perspective on being a female executive in the tech industry and balancing its demands with family life.

Jennifer Eckley:  To start, please tell us a bit about your story about how you first became interested in technology.

Annett Koegler: Back home in Germany, I was studying International Business Management in a 4-year program, part of which involved traveling to work for a company. I was excited when they gave me an internship at a bank in Sacramento, California. Little did I know that this company didn’t have experience hiring interns! I arrived, and the manager told me, “Well, we got a beautiful corner office for you, and we have this software that we purchased and we don’t know what to do with it. Maybe you can figure it out!” Armed with a massive manual for this mapping software that tracked data from customers,  I started reading through… and I liked it! The information just clicked naturally with me. Within two weeks I’d figured the software out, I manipulated it with census data for forecasting the future customer growth. They actually opened branches there based on my predictions. I was so excited that I went back to Germany and found someone who could teach me how to code.

I returned to the U.S. and started working at a web development company. With my business partner Juan [Santiago, CEO of Santex] we opened Santex shortly thereafter. Initially he was running an import export company and I branched off developing websites and e-commerce. The web development part of Santex took off and the rest is history.

JE: What challenges have you faced transitioning from software developer to owner of a company?

AK: The challenges have been almost constant from the beginning. Everything I’ve done for Santex is from ground zero, up, and I’ve learned a lot on the way. Through the years you wear many hats and you adapt with the demand of the industry. The transition happened very natural.

JE: I remember you telling me when I first entered the company that stress can be a good thing, and that you do some of your best work under stress. Can you expand upon that point?

AK: When you stand in front of something and you don’t know where it’ll take you, the uncertainty and time pressure, that’s a stressful situation… but that’s where creativity comes in. I truly love challenges. Stress can be good because it pushes you beyond your comfort zone. If, however stress is hurting you, then it is time to make changes.

JE: Have you noticed any challenges particularly related to gender?

AK: I don’t know that any of them have been specifically because I’m a woman. For me, I don’t think it’s been any real advantage or disadvantage. When meeting with clients, I’ve never felt that I haven’t been taken seriously simply because of my gender. In the early years of the company, I noticed a certain respect was automatically given because I knew about technology, which impressed people.

JE: In working across countries and cultures, have you noticed different ways in which female executives are treated?

AK: There is a difference most definitely. I feel the most equally treated in Lima and Cordoba for who I am and what I do. In the U.S., I’ve observed other women executives needing to be a bit more aggressive to get noticed or treated as equals to their male counterparts.

JE: Have you ever had issues sharing ownership of the company with a male executive?

IMG_2635-2_FotorAK: I think the key is finding a person who is compatible with who you are and what you do, regardless the gender.

JE: Was balancing motherhood with a growing career a challenge?

AK: No. My kids came to the office from day one…haha. The key is maintaining a healthy balance. I’ve had the flexibility to dedicate time to both my kids and work, which has worked out really well.

JE: You have both a young son and daughter. What have you told them about pursuing their dreams and/or owning a business?

AK: My kids are free spirits and I encourage them to follow their dreams. I don’t pressure them into any direction.  The pressure will come soon enough in adulthood. I want them to travel, discover their talents and be inspired and humbled by the people they meet along the way. If one day they are as happy with their life choices as I am, then I consider I did a decent job as a mother.