In Technology


Title: COO and General Manager

Company: Sippio

Age: 52 chronologically, with a 32 mindset

Education: Bachelor's degree from Ohio University, master's degree in international business from Auburn University

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Launch LKN (Lake Norman) Member, Hough High School STEM Mentor, Women in Cloud Member and Presenter, IAMCP Member and Presenter, UNC Chapel Hill – STEM, and North Carolina Women in Business and Entrepreneur

Achievements/Awards: Established the OC Leadership Circle for Accelerators to raise awareness of Microsoft Phone system and Operator Connect through quarterly education events available for customers, partners, and carriers

Dawn-Marie Elder

Cheek, Smile, Head, Lip, Eyebrow, Eye, Eyelash, Organ, Jaw, Sleeve

What led you to a career in technology?

I grew up with computers from an early age. My family had a PC in the early '80s — before anyone else I knew. I also had a very early version of a laptop in my dorm room in the late '80s, which was highly unusual at that time. My father’s idea of fun on a Friday night was "Hey girls, let’s learn Lotus." Both my sister and I pursued technology careers because of his influence.

My undergraduate degree is a bachelor’s of management information systems, which was a new program at the time I took it. I enjoyed learning the first iterations of Microsoft Office, MS-DOS, COBOL, Cognos, and database programs. My first position was offered during my senior year of college when I applied to a role at Victoria’s Secret. They hired me during the holiday break and then offered me a full-time position upon graduation because I knew how to program in the language they utilized.

What motivates you to go above and beyond in your current position?

Most of my career has been working within the channel ecosystem and managing people. When you are in these types of roles, you are working on behalf of others to enable their success. This typically starts with building trust and gaining buy-in. It’s very important to demonstrate consistency over the arc of a career. Nothing brings me more personal pride than seeing someone I worked with grow and develop in their career. I enjoy seeing LinkedIn posts of promotions and career changes from prior team mates.

What role does sustainability play in your life both personally and professionally?

As an animal and nature lover, I view life through a lens of sustainability. My family and I recycle; leverage public or shared transportation when available; cook healthy, nonprocessed meals; grow vegetables; and have planted a substantial garden around our home. If we can get somewhere by walking, they always choose that option first.

What is the most fascinating lesson you have learned while working with technology?

Like most things in life, it constantly evolves and changes! Sometimes very quickly — like social media — but, other times, very slowly — like traditional telephony systems.

What is unique about you personally?

While in Chicago, I regularly took improv and stand-up comedy classes and performed at Second City Theatre — the feeder school for most Saturday Night Live stars.

“It’s been proven that companies that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive are typically more successful financially because they are better equipped to respond to challenges, recruit top talent, and meet the needs of their customers and partners.”

What is unique about you professionally?

I've developed an ability to take complex technology and break it down into simple business explanations while demonstrating the underlying value proposition.

What is your most admirable quality?

I invest in others deeply — both professionally and personally.

Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion necessary for this industry?

These concepts are essential for building a fair and just society. Every industry should participate. It’s been proven that companies that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive are typically more successful financially because they are better equipped to respond to challenges, recruit top talent, and meet the needs of their customers and partners.

What aspect of the industry has the most potential for growth, and how can we accelerate that?

Cloud technology. I started selling cloud in 2008 while at Microsoft, and I'm amazed it isn’t more widely adopted.

Where does the industry need the most improvement, and what can we learn from the current shortcomings?

Ethics and accountability. Should you sell what you have or what they need? Should you call women "girls" in a meeting? Should you act unprofessional in a meeting because someone else is?

There was a story during the 2022 World Cup about Japanese fans cleaning up the stadium after the match concluded. People around the world were amazed at this behavior, which is telling about the fundamental shortcomings we have. How did anyone decide leaving their personal garbage in a stadium, thrown on a freeway, in a movie theater, or elsewhere was acceptable? How did anyone decide discrimination was justified and why? Why would someone deliberately set out to use their talents for fraudulent activities versus putting that same effort into creating something good?

When you imagine the future technology, what does it look like?

I'm betting on AI to improve the work experience by automating administrative activities, such as scheduling meetings, performing follow-ups, checking progress, producing spreadsheets, summarizing meetings and actions, drafting letters, building training documentation, and other key routine activities that are necessary.

What advice do you have for young girls who may be interested in a future career in technology?

I do a lot of mentoring for young, developing people. I advise all young people to learn about technology, take a coding class, and explore the various options available to them whether or not they want to be directly engaged in a technical role. Every technology company has marketing, sales, accounting, manufacturing, supply chain, and human resources departments, so it’s very likely the careers of tomorrow with interact with technology whether it’s directly or indirectly. Further, every non-technology company has technology because businesses and most jobs are dependent on technology to be productive, so regardless of the intended profession, it’s good to have basic skills.

Taking a basic coding class provides students the ability to learn processes, understand structure, and develop logical thinking skills. Whether they want to be a coder or not, I believe this should be a fundamental requirement of any curriculum or training.