LEAP Ahead: UCI Holds Its First Leadership Program for Women in IT

Photo showing women in IT

By Kristen McIntyre. UCI’s first leadership certificate program for women in technology has officially completed its inaugural spring cohort. Named LEAP, the program stands for leadership, equality, allies & presence, and is designed for those in information technology and STEM roles seeking to advance their careers through leadership, influence, communication and confidence. The cohort, which included 39 participants from 10 different schools, departments and offices across UCI and UCI Health, was a great representation of the diversity of women within information technology across UCI today. 

Early feedback from participants has been incredibly positive, with many emphasizing the program’s highly interactive nature as one of the highlights. Lakshmi Arunachalam, Business Systems Analyst for UCI Libraries said, “The LEAP program gave me the opportunity to reflect on challenges that women leaders are facing and how you can apply tools and skills to improve your leadership abilities. This program is truly a transformative experience. The sessions are fun and interesting. The faculty, coaches & panelists were highly engaging, motivating and inspiring. I feel empowered and more confident in myself as a leader. I am grateful to be part of the inaugural class.”

The idea to create a novel program focused on women in IT was born when two women from UCI’s Office of Information Technology happened to both enroll in a general leadership program together. Shohreh Bozorgmehri, divisional director of Student and Academic Services, met Stacey Rose, supervisor of the Network Projects and Infrastructure Engineers, during a breakout session; when Stacy pitched the idea, they decided to work together to make it a reality. 

Bozorgmehri, who is no stranger to advocating for women in the workplace, is the founder of UCI’s advocacy group, Women in Tech. She has consistently made mentoring and creating opportunities for women in IT one of her top priorities. When asked about her dedication to the cause, Bozorgmehri said, “It is vitally important to have a safe space for women to discuss, collaborate, reflect on situations, and network together to not only further develop their leadership style, but to help transform the organization into a truly inclusive workplace.”

Hosted by UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business, the second session is currently open for enrollment and scheduled to begin September 23, 2022. This session is sponsored by IT executives: Kian Colestock, associate vice chancellor and chief information officer; Tom Andriola, vice chancellor of Information, Technology and Data, and Scott Joslyn, chief information officer, UCI Health. Their commitment and funding enable all UCI women in technology to participate in this program.

Additional Testimonials

Barbara Inderwiesche, CRA director, Electronic Research Administration: “It was compelling to hear each one’s stories and experiences of what brought them to this place in their career and the advice they have for today’s women leaders in IT. It was hearing from these recognizable individuals from our own organization that really hit home for me. We all have a story and a voice and can learn to be confident in sharing it and inspiring others around us.”

Carolina Manel Romero, senior application developer, School of Biological Sciences: “Janet gave us concepts and guided discussions that gave me a clear direction and understanding of what it means to be an effective leader. Enriching interpersonal relationships, fostering trust and empowering was at the core of the whole program. The way the material was blended and incorporated with practical exercises made for effective and impactful learning. I would definitely recommend the course to anyone who is looking to improve their leadership skills and wants a path to continue learning and evolving as a person.”

Julie Youm, associate dean, Education Compliance and Quality, UCI School of Medicine: “I have participated in leadership trainings that had a broader target audience, but not one focused on gender equity. The opportunity to participate in a leadership program that advocates for women in technology is rare and often resource prohibitive, due to travel and registration costs. The amazing commitment and support for the LEAP program by UCI’s IT leadership allows the women in technology at UCI to take advantage of an experience at their own institution with limited financial burden. More importantly, a program based at UCI allowed the networking and connection-making on campus that will help to sustain the positive momentum of the many lessons we learned to effect change in our local culture. On the last day of the program, I was moved as I heard every one of my fellow participants share the actions they will take as they graduated from LEAP, and I have no doubt that each will make an impact at UCI as a result. I am appreciative and honored to have joined this inaugural cohort and look forward to the continued growth of this community!”

Kristin McIntyre
Kristen McIntyre is communications specialist, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Information, Technology & Data, Office of Information Technology, UC Irvine.

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