Stephanie Schiwinger believes that the key to attracting more women into technology professions is by having more female representation as role models. In her 22-year journey at Enterprise Holdings, Stephanie has seen strong female leadership styles that have inspired her to try to replicate for her own team. In this edition of our blog, Stephanie discusses why mentorship and authenticity are two important ingredients to navigating a career in technology.
How long have you been at Enterprise Holdings and what is your role?
Stephanie Schiwinger: I’ve been at Enterprise Holdings for 22 years. I am responsible for the technology solutions that enable our customer and employee products used throughout the car rental process. I guide creation of new innovative technology solutions and care for our current solutions to ensure we deliver the best customer experience.
Has your role evolved since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and how so?
Stephanie Schiwinger: My role has not necessarily changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the need to use technology to communicate with customers and remove friction from transactions, such as close contact for our customers, is more relevant now than before the pandemic. When contact became a concern during the pandemic, the world began depending even more on digital experiences. So, digitizing more of the customer journey is now a mainstay for our industry.
How did you get started in the payments industry? What led you to that career choice?
Stephanie Schiwinger: The way I got into payments was organic to my responsibilities, which includes technology that supports the customer’s entire rental journey including paying for that rental whether pre-rental, during rental, or post-rental. The digital economy has generated many exciting changes in the payments industry the past few years, prompting the car rental business, among others, to adopt more omni channel commerce for flexible payment methods and currencies. Our innovations focus on how, where and what types of payment we take. We’re applying innovative technology to digitize our customers’ rental experience. Payment is a key factor in removing friction for our customer journey. We are expanding our digital payment capabilities to include digital wallet, looking at new gateways such as PayPal and Stripe, and exploring new currencies like crypto.
Who has been your biggest role model in shaping your career path?
Stephanie Schiwinger: I would say I have two role models who have shaped my career path. First, is my supervisor Shane Behl. He has encouraged me to take on many roles and opportunities throughout my career that allowed me to build critical relationships, learn the business to help make better technology decisions, and grow my confidence. His empowerment and encouragement of my development is something I strive to replicate for my team.
Second, Chrissy Taylor as CEO of Enterprise Holdings is a role model for all women. Chrissy’s authentic leadership style makes her relatable, genuine, and inspirational. You want to follow her. These are leadership styles that I admire and strive to model.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Stephanie Schiwinger: I am most proud of the diversity of my team. An incredibly talented group, they are diverse in gender, race, culture, and personality. Combined with their broad range of skills, experiences, and perspectives, we consistently have diversity in ideas and opinions, which makes us a stronger and more innovative team.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that is the case?
Stephanie Schiwinger: Yes. There is a lack of women, especially women of color, in the technology talent pool, though I see it improving. There are several contributing factors. First, is a lack of women role models in technology, which makes it difficult for younger women to see themselves in tech roles. Second, there are historical stereotypes and cultural biases around science and technology as male professions. This is gradually changing, and hopefully will lead to more role models. For example, as a woman in tech, I personally feel supported by my employer, Enterprise Holdings, and I know helping to bring more women into this field is an area Enterprise is helping to champion. I am also on a board for STEMSTL in St. Louis, Missouri, and breaking down these stereotypes, cultural biases, and inequalities is a major focus to attract more women, especially more women of color, to careers in science and technology.
Many women in the tech industry have felt that their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Is “unconscious bias” holding women back in the workplace and, if so, what can women do about it?
Stephanie Schiwinger: Unconscious bias is something that women absolutely face in the workplace, and the tech industry is no exception. One of the most important ways women in tech can address bias in the workplace is to educate themselves about how to identify unconscious bias and prepare responses when they see or experience it.
What do you see as the future for women in technology roles/payments industry?
Stephanie Schiwinger: I think we will continue to see more women in technology and the payments industry as we see more women role models. Increasingly, women are working as individual contributors and taking on leadership roles in both the payments industry and in tech.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a famous quote that you live by?
Stephanie Schiwinger: Be authentic. Be who you are. Be open to others. I think if you try to change who you are to feel included, people can sense that, and it works against you. I try to be open about myself with my coworkers and want to get to know their authentic selves, too. We then create relationships built on mutual trust and respect.
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payment industry or in a technology-based field in general? What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stephanie Schiwinger: First, I would tell you to actively seek out other women in technology/payments as mentors and a support system to provide advice, share ideas, and help you navigate your career path. Then, when you have the opportunity, pay that forward to other women in technology/payments and become a mentor and sounding board.
Second, I would tell you to explore and take on as many different opportunities as you can early in your career to expand and diversify your expertise. These opportunities grow your confidence and build your industry network.
Finally, be authentic and build diverse relationships, which are critical to growing your confidence and becoming recognized in these industries.