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From fine tuning LiveVox’s corporate IT operations to keeping large-scale projects on track across the entire organization, every aspect of LiveVox’s strategic data-driven innovation has been thoughtfully curated by Olga Lazareva, Senior Director, Shared Tech Services, and her team.
Olga and her team genuinely care about re-imagining business processes that showcase each team’s unique work and help customers get exactly what they need. Her team is tasked with enabling all of us at LiveVox to scale in support of the ambitious growth objectives set by senior leadership.
In addition to her over 25+ years of tech project management experience, Olga brings a dedication to diversity and inclusion to our company as Co-Chair of the LiveVox Women in Technology Committee. After sitting down with her, it’s clear that her values and expertise extend well beyond IT and not just to her team but to the entire LiveVox community.
Here are her thoughts on her remarkable career journey.
Why did you choose tech as a career?
I don’t think I have a straight answer! Perhaps I could step back and give you a little bit of a background?
I was born in Moscow, Russia. My mom was a math professor and my dad was a scientist with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, so I’ve always had a strong predisposition for STEM growing up in a household that prioritized education like that.
I recall that I wanted to learn English ever since I was a kid, not really sure why, perhaps I wanted to read O. Henry in the original language. So I used every opportunity I had, in school and outside, to take English as a second language.
While the ability to fluently speak another language was attractive, the number of schools I could apply to for a degree at the time was pretty limited, as were the professional paths. There were a lot more technical schools and programs to choose from. That, coupled with the fact that I saw my parents pretty content with their professional careers helped me make the decision to choose a STEM program.
What did your studies focus on in school?
Back in the late ‘80s, “computer science” education was not anything common, especially when you were talking about a degree. The university I attended offered a new Computer Science Co-Op program just a year before I enrolled. There was some buzz and excitement around it because while the school was pretty small (~2500 people) it was the only one that had a Co-Op program of that kind.
In the Co-Op program you would earn money working as part of your study and if your grades were good enough, you would also get a stipend from the company sponsoring the Co-Op program. It was quite a motivator for many of us!
The program provided a broad foundation in computer science and mathematics, engineering, and business management and was aimed to develop professionals who could apply the rigor of their technical education to diverse business problems and settings.
We were to become technically competent, broad-based engineering graduates through exposure to project management, the industrial and manufacturing processes and their improvements, production, and operations management, quality control, and statistics.
One of my very first real Co-Op work assignments had to do with the collection of data from a Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) machine on the factory floor of a truck manufacturing company. I delivered data so that programmers could adjust computer programs for improved accuracy so we could reduce the number of times the truck parts needed to be changed between production cycles.
Here are a few fun facts about Computer Science and Applied Engineering programs back in the day that you might be surprised to hear about:
- Java did not exist and neither did Python
- We were taught Fortran (Fortran IV and Fortran 77 to be exact), C and C++ were about to become popular but the only way to learn them was at work through trial and error – the school did not offer it yet
- Labs were actual labs and had text-based (green text) terminals that were connected to the mainframe
- I remember punch cards and floppy disks
- We did not have the luxury of looking stuff up on the web as it did not exist yet
- My graduation project was written in Paradox for DOS (DOS-based database of the late 80’s early 90’s).
How did you get started in tech?
As with most careers, I took a bit of a meandering road to get to where I am today. It did not happen right away. After moving to the US upon graduating, I started having some doubts about whether I was a good fit for the technology industry. The job market was pretty bad, and the little experience I had was not enough to break through.
I enrolled in the Electrical Engineering program at Georgia Tech but quit after a year of struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I then landed an interpreting position with a management training and consulting company that offered continuing education courses. It was in that position —outside of tech—that I discovered a new area of interest and felt like I was in my element.
Working as a business interpreter I realized that I had a knack for taking complex information, distilling it, and conveying it in ways that diverse sets of people could understand. The continuing education courses that the company offered exposed me to the management training that ultimately proved to pay the biggest benefit towards my future.
Working there gave me the ability to adjust my professional path to be more business-focused. I enrolled in the MBA program at Georgia State shortly after because I knew that’s where I could apply myself to have the most impact. Getting a business degree has given me a lot more confidence and complimented my technical background well.
What helped you most in growing your career?
In tech, you’ll hear a lot about the importance of having a “growth mindset”—a way of looking at your work or business strategies that leaves room for development based on continuous learning and input from others.
More specifically, the attributes that helped me grow, in no particular order, were:
- Surrounding myself with people that believed in me and my abilities.
- Learning early on to adapt. Situations change all the time, it is OK to be out of your comfort zone.
- Being open-minded and open to learning. Learning does not always have to occur in the classroom. It can simply be through listening to others or finding your “informal” mentors that don’t mind sharing their wisdom with you. It is about not being afraid to try new things.
- Looking for ways to add value no matter how small or big the job or interaction is.
- Connecting with people and developing relationships that last.
- Being professional. To me, it comes down to treating others with respect, the way I want to be treated:)
- Last but not least, it helps a great deal to like what you do. I provide services that ultimately help people and the company I work for. Seeing how my efforts translate into successes makes me feel accomplished.