SmarterCX.com is proud to highlight women in technology who are driving innovation, creating the next generation of customer experience, and inspiring future leaders. We’re kicking off the SmarterCX Women in Tech series with an interview with Vikki Kolbe, Senior Vice President of Industry Cloud at Oracle. In the interview, Vikki spoke with us about her indirect path to a successful career in technology, beginning as an English major who dreamed of becoming both a prosecutor and a dancer.
Vikki also shares her career advice in “5 Career Path Principles to Live By“.
Hear Vikki’s story and read the interview transcript below.
I’m Vikki Kolbe. I’m the Senior Vice President of Industry Cloud here at Oracle.
As Senior Vice President at Industry Cloud, we have a tremendous obligation to the industries we serve.
What I do and what my team of 700 to 800 incredible engineers and leaders do, is we run about 59 solutions, industry focused, delivering incredible business outcomes to the market, every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We don’t even take Christmas off.
Your journey … you think it’s going to be a very deliberate walk into technology. But I have to tell you, for me it was not. From when I could talk, all I wanted to do was be a prosecutor. My Uncle Justin was a very famous attorney in Boston. I was reading law books by the time I was seven.
The other love of my life was dance, so I studied ballet my entire life. So in my mind, I was going to be a prosecutor by day and a ballerina by night, as silly as that sounds, but when you’re eight, nine, 10, that’s what you think in life. Well, I did everything I could to get there. I didn’t want to get to law school at age 23, so I marched into the principal’s office in high school and said, “I need to graduate by the time I’m 16. How do I jam 4 years into three, into two?” He goes, “You need to double your course load and you need to go to summer school.” I’m like, “Okay.”
So, you know, I blasted through high school, got into college, went and studied abroad. Boston University, that’s all I wanted to go to, because that’s where Uncle Justin went.
And life happens. I was studying dance at the Boston School of Ballet, and I was on my way to law school, and I snapped my Achilles tendon. And I couldn’t dance anymore, I was in a cast for 12 weeks, my mom had to come live with me, and as luck would have it, I met my husband to-be. So I stayed, fell madly in love, in a year was married and two years, had my daughter, and I was forced to reevaluate what I was going to do. I had to get a job.
So, I literally walked into a bank, in Framingham, Massachusetts, and said, “I don’t know what I can do for you, but I have a paralegal degree.” And they said, “You know what? You can come help our mortgage origination program.” And within about two weeks of watching everybody type forms over and over again, I looked at the Vice President … it was this young pioneer … and I was like, “George, we could up our volume by 100% if we figured out how to stop retyping.” And he said, “Go out in the software world and figure it out.” And that was my entrance into technology.
I spent the first 20 years of my life, and we talked about this, doing, “Hey, can you take this job? I know you don’t know anything.” And it was typically because three or four other people tried it and they failed, or they hated it. So, to me, it’s … take the job that nobody wants. And then crush it.
I guess the other piece of advice is know your value. I also think people diminish their value. Male, female, you know, doesn’t matter. Just know your value. You come into the game with skills, with knowledge, with dedication, with focus. If you’re doing the job, you should get paid for that job. And just, you know, understand what your value is.
Check back for more with Vikki Kolbe and women in technology leaders at https://smartercx.com/womenintech/.
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This transcript may be edited for readability.