This is the first of a series of conversations with Utah women building disruptive technologies. I’m Kimberly Zhang, and this summer, I set out to speak to the women behind the business, research and ideas that are changing the world. They share their work, thoughts and advice. Note that the opinions expressed by interviewees do not necessarily represent those of GOED, but they do promise to be interesting.
I caught up with Catherine Wong, chief product officer at Domo, at the company’s multi-building offices in American Fork, Utah. We chatted about diversity initiatives, cloud technology and changing the world with data.
What brought you to Utah and why did you stay?
Brigham Young University actually brought me to Utah. I came here to study and graduated with a degree in computer science, which led to my first engineering job at Omniture. Though I’ve had opportunities outside of the state, what has really kept me in Utah is how much opportunity and growth there is here. Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture in 2009, and the fast growth that Domo is seeing today, are just a couple of examples of the possibilities in business and tech that Utah can offer.
What makes Utah’s tech scene so unique?
The speed of growth in Utah is really interesting. The term ‘Silicon Slopes,’ which we use in our own branding, is being used more and more. Global companies like Adobe continue to invest in Utah because of the talent pool. We benefit from some of the best business management programs and technical programs at our universities. All of which leads to enormous talent growth.
Why is diversity in STEM important?
One of the greatest things about our industry is the amount of creativity you get to exercise. Diversity allows you to bring perspectives from all different walks of life into your work, and those perspectives spark the creativity. I find that a variety of voices helps to build something that has universal and global appeal, particularly in STEM.
What has been your experience as a woman in STEM?
Truthfully, I’ve had a great experience. Part of it is that I’ve always tried to look for leaders and companies who value and are passionate about culture, teamwork and diversity. I’ve been selective and careful about where and who I work for, and that’s allowed me to work for the best in the industry.
In 2013, McKinsey described cloud technology, mobile and big data internet as “disruptive technology that will advance life, business and the global economy.” What is Domo’s role in the cutting-edge, disruptive tech scene, and how is that going to change in the next 30 years?
Leveraging cloud, web, mobile and social and data together can really impact the world in a positive way. If you fast forward thirty years from now, you can picture Domo as an operating system for your entire organization, allowing you to optimize every facet of your business, which will open up a world of possibility. It can change the world.
DHL Express, an international express mail service, is an example of how Domo is helping accomplish this vision today. One of the challenges DHL has to worry about is the transportation of vaccines. Some vaccines have to stay at a controlled temperature to maintain their efficacy, but oftentimes these vaccines need to be transported to parts of the world that don’t have a ton of infrastructure. DHL now uses Domo to track and monitor key factors like temperature to make sure that the vaccines don’t get too hot or cold and are delivered safely so that lives can be saved.
Can you tell me about your role as Chief Product Officer and what you are most proud of?
As head of product, I am responsible for engineering, user design, product management and quality. What that really means is seeing the product through from start to finish – from conception of the idea and identification of the customer problem, all the way to build, deployment and support.
What I’m most proud of? The launch of the Business Cloud at the most recent Domopalooza event was a big milestone for us. We have some of the best engineering and design teams in the industry and they did a phenomenal job. To watch all of their work come together as we launched a groundbreaking platform that really provides value for our customers was a big moment for us.
I understand at Domo that the “work hard, play hard” culture is taken really seriously. Can you tell me what your favorite traditions are and why Domo has invested so much in this culture?
We have tons of traditions. My favorite is Hack Night because it is an opportunity for anyone at the company to learn and create new solutions. At growing companies, it can be hard to find time to rub shoulders with everyone across different departments, but this event really allows people to intermingle in a fun environment.
A lot of the Domo culture comes from Josh James, our CEO. I think the importance of culture and taking care of your employees is one of the best lessons I’ve learned from him over the years we’ve worked together. One small example of this is our maternity benefit called HauteMama. It’s a $2,000 budget for expecting mothers to buy new maternity clothes, because that’s an extra expense women have during a pregnancy, and it’s for clothes they won’t be able to wear all the time.
What advice would you give to a young person today?
Pursue your passion and don’t worry so much about everything else. I think if you go in full force, it’s going to be great and you’re going to be very successful.