A few weeks ago, at 7:30am, almost 300 professionals converged on Buckhead’s Maggiano’s to enjoy a beautiful breakfast spread, network and listen to a panel discussion how innovation and technology have changed the face of retail and ecommerce.
Our own Digital Media Discipline Lead, Noah Omri Levin, joined two Home Depot Senior Managers of IT and Technology, Elizabeth Wolf and Sheetal Wrzesien on the panel. Penny Collins, First Data’s VP and Chief IT Control Officer, moderated and opened the discussion with the main theme of the morning asking Noah what challenges are happening in this space and how are retailers adjusting to change.
“Innovation and competition have increased customers’ transparency into how retailers work and have empowered them to demand smooth and seamless experiences” Noah mentioned.
Sheetal added, “With mobile technology, you can shop 24/7 and carry a store with you in your pocket.” highlighting the increased complexity in the channels customers can use to engage with retailers.
Discussing the ways in which Brands are addressing change and building frameworks for success, Elizabeth highlighted the importance of partnerships that Home Depot has made both in technology – with Fintech companies like First Data and support of Paypal and Apple Pay – but also on the people side where Home Depot has partnered with Georgia Tech to create Orangeworks, their student-powered innovation lab.
Elizabeth noted how the lab gives Home Depot “a pulse on the talent that’s out there” and that hackathons “encourage them to test new technology”.
“Trust, vulnerability and accountability” were the ingredients Noah noted that have driven innovation at Search Discovery. He focused on how finding the right people and giving them freedom both in time and in allowing them to take risks is required for real progress. Noah also mentioned how most of today’s innovation is “breaking down the component parts of existing systems, understanding them and finding ways to re-organize them to achieve greater business impact.”
The discussion continued exploring what challenges retailers are facing. The women from Home Depot mentioned how, as teams grow, people become distant and it’s hard to ensure members feel relevant and included.
Elizabeth stress a focus on “developing trust and not blaming if there is failure.”
“Technology is often well prepared for innovation but the people within an organization may not be.”
Noah continued, highlighting how Search Discovery is increasingly finding ourselves working with brands to align and integrate departments to better leverage data analytics to help make easier, faster, more accurate or more impactful business decisions across client organizations. “We often find retailers need to step back and focus on better data collection and governance to achieve their business objectives.”
Penny ended the panel asking some personal questions to the panelists including who has made the biggest impact on their careers and what advice they would give to their younger selves.
“Women don’t often speak as loudly and proudly as men” Sheetal said also mentioning the importance to “Slow down, you can’t do everything at once.”
Elizabeth highlighted a mentor who always pushed her to bring 3 solutions to every problem she brought to him, a tactic she encouraged the room to implement because it made her a better mentor and problem solver. “I would have encouraged myself to get out and network more” she noted adding that she would encourage her younger self to enjoy the journey of her career.
“Trust your intuition but also check yourself with thoughtful, emotionally intelligent mentors” was Noah’s advice to his younger self. He also highlighted the impact his father and wife have had to his career from their coaching training, opening his mind to how “Most people have the best intentions and many of our disagreements come from having different perspectives.”
It was an honor for WiT to include us as part of the event. See below for the bios of the panelists, or if you want to see what other events we are involved with and to connect, click here!
Penny Collins is Vice President, Chief Technology Control Officer for First Data Corporation. In this role, she oversees the companies’ Technology Controls Program coordinating with compliance, legal, security and technology proactively ensuring that IT Controls are effective within our operational and business processes, communicates technology standards and policies, and monitors the companies’ compliance to these standards and policies. Priority areas of focus include Regulatory Exams (FFIEC, OCC, PCI, SOC, State Examinations), Internal Audits, Client Audits, Risk Management, Risk & Control Self Assessments, Targeted Control Assessments, Investigations, Compliance Monitoring as well as other miscellaneous audit, risk and control activities across all technologies.
Penny also leads our Global Security and Controls PMO directly reporting into First Data’s President, Chief Control Officer and CISO. In this role, she is responsible for driving First Data’s top security programs globally. In addition, Penny leads globally our Disaster Recovery efforts for application development responsible for the roadmap development, implementation and maintenance of this program.
Penny has over a decade worth of experience leading global teams across the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia.
She serves as Atlanta Chapter Lead for First Data’s Women’s Leadership Council, leads the Women in Technology program for First Data, and drives various charities across Atlanta.
Sheetal has 20+ years of experience in Web and Mobile Technology, building diverse, top-performing teams that transform ideas into innovative cutting-edge omni-channel applications used by millions. She joined The Home Depot in 2012 to lead THD’s entry into Mobile Technology and helped to make Home Depot the industry leader in Mobile Commerce. Now Sheetal is leading the Technology for THD’s entry into the online Home Décor market with HD Home. Prior to joining THD, Sheetal led web and mobile development efforts at The Weather Channel and S1 Corporation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech.
Elizabeth “Eli” Wolf has been in Information Technology since 1988, when she graduated from Bowling Green State University with degrees in Management Information Systems and International Business and started working at The University of Georgia as an engineer (go Bulldogs!). She has been with The Home Depot for over 18 years, currently serving as a Software Engineering Senior Manager supporting Customer Loyalty. In addition to her current role, Elizabeth has also enjoyed various diverse positions throughout her THD career, including Lead Business Analyst and Sr. Product Manager within organizations such as EDI, Supply Chain, Fuel Store, Store Selling Systems and Finance. She is driven to help her balanced teams build high quality, reliable, modern software.
Noah’s agency side experience and award-winning career includes work for Gamestop, Atlanta Ballet, ADT Security, Michaels Arts & Crafts, Apartments.com, Apartment Finder, Chick-fil-A, and many more. With backgrounds in finance and a passion for technology, testing, and consumer behavior, Noah leads the Media Discipline at Search Discovery optimizing advertising performance across Paid Search, Display, Social & everything digital. He is a graduate from the Leonard Stern School of Business of New York University and attributes all of his success and motivation to his wife Kayla and four children Adina, Zahava, Moshe and Rivka.
Founded in 1992, Women In Technology (WIT) serves as a passionate advocate for women and girls at every stage of their STEAM careers – from the classroom to the boardroom. WIT utilizes its programs, connections, volunteer opportunities and events to enable the development of the WIT community through recognition, thought leadership and foundation efforts. WIT is driven to help women and girls write their own stories of success throughout the full lifecycle of their careers and continued evolution as STEAM leaders in Georgia.