ID : 10110
Name: Isabella Sansone
Location: Boston, USA
Domain: Product Marketing, Project Management
Job Profile: Product Marketer – IBM Power,
Marketing Committee Chair – Blended Pledge, Board Member – Nichols College
The inspiring Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
The tech industry is slowly seeing a rise in women who have been empowered to ask for their rights and equality of opportunities in a heavily male-dominated space. These women are slowly changing the tech landscape by breaking stereotypes one day at a time.
So, here’s introducing the dynamic Isabella Richard née Sansone, a product marketer of IBM, who is a part of the change in the industry and has been an avid mentor to many women looking to transition into tech or are in STEM. She has been using her experiences and her skills to support and empower more women to take up leadership roles within the tech domain.
Early Beginnings in Massachusetts
Isabella grew up in the town of Whitman in Massachusetts, south of Boston.
‘I was an only child, and my mom was the family’s breadwinner. She had worked for a telecommunications company. I have always looked up to her as a role model.,’ she reveals.
The common notions of gender roles had slipped through her early childhood as she grew up in a progressive household, shielding her from the stereotypes around her.
‘It wasn’t until college that I was aware of the gender stereotypes that existed, as my mom worked in a professional setting. My dad was the one who took on more of the household responsibilities. He was the one who would get me on and off the school bus.,’ she recollects.
She remembers how her interests varied from wanting to become a teacher to having a keen interest in business studies in high school, where she had taken a marketing course.
On how she decided on her career path, she explains, ‘I think that’s when I decided that I would take up marketing and business and become like my mom.’
But she confesses how the path wasn’t always without some hurdles.
‘Throughout my early years, I wasn’t always the best student. I tried really hard, but school was difficult for me. I did feel different from the other kids. I was finding my individuality, and it was lonely in some sense. I did struggle in my own way.,’ she explains.
Then, she met Stephen Gustin, a guidance counselor at her middle school, who would profoundly influence her.
‘He really embraced my individuality and supported me for being myself. He would remind me of how I would get through it all. It was really helpful for me.’, she recollects.
Those words of encouragement helped her find her way, and she knew she wanted to do well and get to college.
She remembers, ‘Through high school, I worked a lot and was trying to save money to buy a car. Then by junior high, I wanted to turn things around and get better to apply to college.’
By the time she was a senior, she had chosen to attend a business school called Nichols College in Massachusetts.
‘That’s where I truly began transforming into the professional, I am today. During my time at Nichol’s, many people were impactful on my life. I have been fortunate to work in two Fortune 100 companies. I might not come from the Ivy League colleges in Boston, but something that differentiates me is that I work very hard.’, she reveals.
She credits her work ethic to being raised in a family that values hard work and perseverance.
‘My first job was at 13 at a day-care center owned by a family friend. I have never been afraid to work hard and put in the extra effort. It has helped me become who I am today.’, she explains.
Tryst with technology
Her first introduction to technology came with her search for an internship in a tech company.
‘When I was a junior in college, I was looking for an internship at a big tech company. I was always interested in learning how things work, like how we use applications like Instagram or Facebook. I applied to EMC right before Dell acquired it. I connected with an alumnus from Nichols college who put in my resume.’, she remembers.
The 10-week long internship called the undergraduate marketing development program had the offer to turn it into a full-time two-year position after graduation was a chance for her to break into the industry.
‘I remember the interviewer telling me how Nichols College wasn’t a part of the selected colleges they hire from. My enthusiasm convinced her to give me the opportunity. Fast forward to me starting the internship; the caveat of the program was that you didn’t know what your role would be. I was thrown right into Dell Technologies and EMC’s product marketing and storage and data protection departments.’, she explains.
That internship exposed her to the world of data centers and showed her how important security has become in our daily lives.
She describes, ‘I was hungry to learn more. And learning all these technologies that make life easier for end users like us was inspiring.‘
Tech is a tool that can give us the most valuable asset…time. It helps to save people time and give back more hours that they can spend with their families or doing something they love.’
As a product manager, the functionality of tech inspires her, and the difference that technology can make in the world has been a motivating factor for her career.
‘I remember my six-grade teacher who used to say how it doesn’t matter where you come from, but it matters where you are going. People come from all different backgrounds and experiences; it’s important not to get lost in comparing yourself to others.’, she advises.
One of her most challenging experiences has been working for Dell Technologies straight out of her college internship.
‘I joined the company right after my internship. And in one of the surveys, I had asked them to take me out of my comfort zone as it was the theme of my commencement speech at Nichol’s college. So, I got what I asked for. I got into an operations team where I was doing spreadsheets and reporting, which was challenging.,’ she recollects.
That experience was one of the steep learning curves in her career path.
‘I remember surviving through that phase by being open about myself and communicating how I tried hard to do whatever it took to complete my tasks. There were many nights in that role where I was in the office way past when everyone went home, and I also lost both my grandparents. So, it was a challenging year.’, she reflects.
Being a firm believer in the light at the end of the tunnel, she describes how she didn’t lose sight of the future in those tough moments and wanted to make sure that she at least tried before giving up.
‘But that role propelled me to carve a career path as a program manager at Dell and helped me further my prospects in product marketing through a network security company. And that’s how I eventually landed at IBM. We can all learn lessons from our tough times.’, she confesses.
Another of her passions is Yoga, and she has recently been certified as a Yoga instructor.
‘Outside of my day-to-day tech job, I teach Yoga on Tuesdays. It is living the essence of the magnitude of our lives. The ability to get up every day and make a difference is what motivates me.’, she vocalizes.
The gift of giving back
The multifaceted tech manager has devoted much of her time and resources to encouraging women in STEM and technology to give them the confidence to start their careers in the industry.
‘I have been connecting with a lot of women in STEM or even mothers looking to transition into tech, and it has been amazing to be able to have the ability to empower people. We all have the power to make a difference, no matter how big or small. I am truly motivated by the magnitude of difference we can make through tech.,‘ she explains passionately.
Time is an essence that technology has returned to us through our ability to automate tasks using the various technological tools we have available today. She narrates how all aspects of life, including healthcare and education, are being transformed as we speak.
‘Tech will continue to evolve and has given people so much freedom. Especially in marketing, we can understand what drives people better through all the data we have and make better products that fit their needs. ‘, she asserts.
Marketing came naturally to Isabella. She reveals how her fascination with people and their purchasing decisions piqued her interest to delve further into the topic.
‘I always wondered how people remain loyal to certain brands and how that journey happened. I have always been a storyteller, and as a marketer, I have to match brands to consumers to help solve their problems. I want businesses to be more scalable and reliable. Storytelling is marketing and pairs that with my interest in tech, and that’s why I do what I do.,’ she discloses.
Being able to tell the story of how products solve real-life problems and improve consumers’ lives keeps her going on the job.
‘One of my mentors, Amahl Williams, was someone who really pushed me in my journey. Being a woman in tech, it’s easy to have that imposter syndrome. He gave me a lot of wisdom to overcome the hurdles since my first internship straight out of college. I am so grateful for it.’, she reveals.
She is now a mentor to students at Nichols’ college through their board of advisors’ organization, and it is her way of giving back to the community by helping students in this pivotal time of their careers.
She divulges, ‘I feel blessed to be able to give back, and the industry is so large. There is a spot for each unique skill set out there. I remember there were 375 applicants for the internship, and I was one of seven students picked with a 2.5 GPA. I had beat out many applicants from Ivy League schools. That was a shining moment for me. ‘
Another career high was getting an offer from IBM while working at a network security company where she had found a niche of her own.
‘I was a little hesitant to get out of my comfort zone as I had a great boss and team, but my decision to join IBM has been the best one I have made. I took that leap of faith and enabled a co-worker in my old company to advance in her career. We are just one step away from our destiny. Sometimes, we may be in the way of others getting their perfect spot. So, this experience was definitely a shining moment for me.,’ she explains joyfully.
The Path Ahead
One of the most influential people in her life has been the CMO of Dell, Allison Dew, who has inspired her in the industry.
‘She is one of the women that I truly admire. She is real and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. I met her twice while I was at Dell. I do look up to her as a leader especially being able to stand up for her truth. That’s who I look up to as a role model.’, she confesses.
Seeing more women in leadership roles is something she looks forward to in the future.
‘It has to start from the bottom. When girls are young, in middle school or high school, that is when they need to realize there are more options out there in terms of careers. I want to inspire women and help them find their confidence. Whether it’s to ask for a raise or for that extra project, women are so humble in putting themselves out there. I would love to change that and see more women in leadership positions.’, she explains enthusiastically.
She has come a long way from growing up in Whitney to finding her place in the tech industry.
In her blissful early years, she narrates, ‘My mom and I would play school, and I would be the teacher, and she would be the student. I would take it so seriously. So, every Saturday was filled with so much fun at home. Teaching is definitely a passion, and maybe someday when I retire, I can go to a college and teach.’
Her first internship was an unpaid role at a content agency that has become a SAAS platform called nDash.
‘I had a co-worker Stephanie who took me under her wings. I wrote blogs and handled a lot of social media. That’s when I realized that writing was my strength. I am really grateful for that opportunity. I tell all the kids I mentor that you cannot put a price on the internship experience. Even if you don’t get paid, it’s worth it to do it.,’ she reveals.
The best advice she gives for anyone looking to break into the industry is to give your best shot in whatever you do.
‘You have to learn to smile through the hurdles. You cannot go wrong with effort. People cannot get upset at you as long as you try your hardest.,’ she advises.
On being asked what the factors she looks for in a product are, she explains, ‘There are two things that matter – one is what problem it solves, and the other is the user-friendliness. If these things align, then you have a great product.’
The curiosity to ask ‘why’ is something she wishes that people never lose in their lives.
‘Whether one is doing content creation or marketing strategy, one has to understand the ‘why‘ and the ‘so what.’ It’s important to preserve that curiosity. ‘, she acknowledges.
Having a solid support system of mentors and co-workers who have enabled her to reach for her dreams, she has been passionately giving back to the community. Whether it’s mentoring young girls in tech or volunteering for the Texas food bank, she has been giving back in her own unique way.
Isabella represents the changing face of the tech industry, where women in leadership positions move forward with their sheer grit and determination to better themselves. She has shown us that the path may not always be smooth sailing, but the destination depends on perseverance.
As a dynamic techie had once told us, ‘As nothing grows out of your comfort zone, if you are feeling uncomfortable, then you are growing. Sometimes discomfort is okay; a challenge is okay. It only propels you forward. There is power in positive thinking.’
The courage to get out of our comfort zone into the unknown is what makes all the difference as we continue to close the gender gap in the industry.
These women are slowly changing the tech world and bringing in the much-needed diverse set of mentors to change the world around us.
One day at a time…
Connect with us on
Connect with Isabella on