ASUG recently caught up with Dr. Staci Baker, Director & SAP Technology Consultant at PwC, about her doctoral research. Dr. Baker received her doctorate in business administration at Saint Leo University. Her dissertation focused on diversity and inclusivity in technology consultancy leadership. We discussed Dr. Baker’s research, the span of her career, and her involvement with ASUG.

This interview was conducted via email and edited.

Q: How did you come to choose your dissertation topic?

A: As a woman in tech consulting myself, I was seeing the lack of women in top leadership percentages in the industry. I have personal aspirations to work at the top levels in my field, so understanding the factors that may or may not influence this trend was personal for me. I believe it’s critical when picking your dissertation topic and study to find something that truly interests you as you’ll spend years researching, reading, writing, studying, and refining the topic.

Q: What part of your research’s findings surprised you the most?

A: My study looked at two primary variables—perceived organizational support and inclusive leadership—and their potential impact on the turnover intention of tech consultants. I also examined if these potential impacts are moderated by gender with the hopes of gaining insight into what may influence women to leave tech consulting before reaching the top levels of leadership. The results show that both perceived organizational support and inclusive leadership impact turnover intention for both men and women, and that men also take inclusive leadership and perceived organizational support into their decisions not to leave the industry.

Q: How can business leaders leverage insights from your research to improve their teams?

A: In chapter five of my dissertation, there is a section called “Implications for Practice” that attempts to give leaders insight into leveraging inclusive leadership and perceived organizational support to retain their talent and, in turn, improve their teams. According to my research, focusing on these two variables (perceived organizational support and inclusive leadership) should impact turnover.

Q: Can you walk me through the beginning of your career?

A: I started my career on the business side, as a senior accounts receivable and accounts payable (AR/AP) analyst with Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). They were on an old AS400 system at the time. My boss saw that I had a high aptitude for systems, and asked if I would want to travel around the U.S. Customer Financial Service Centers and implement SAP Finance modules. This was back in 2004 and I have been in the SAP implementation space ever since for the last 20 years.

Q: What initially sparked your interest in the tech industry?

A: My boss back at CCE saw that I had a talent for tech. Giving me the opportunity was key for my entrance into tech. I will forever be grateful as he changed the trajectory of my career.

Q: What role has ASUG played in your career, and what significance does it hold for you? Can you speak to Women Connect as well as the Volunteer community?

A: I have had multiple volunteer roles within ASUG over the years. I started as a Program Chair for the Treasury and Risk Management SIG (Special Interest Group) back in 2008. Additionally, I held various Market Leader roles within the Finance Community and Chapter volunteer roles in the Florida Chapter over the years. Today, I am the chair of the Florida Chapter and, of course, the ASUG Champion for PwC. ASUG has provided leadership opportunities within my organizations over the years and has expanded my SAP network out in the market. I have been so inspired by many connections gained through ASUG events and believe that ASUG truly is a community.

Q: How do you prioritize mental health and stay organized amidst career demands?

A: I am not sure I have always done a good job at this over my career, honestly. But I do believe I have made some small improvements. Starting in 2023, I prioritized doing light yoga every morning to get my blood flowing and my body moving. I also have been attempting to prioritize sleep where I can by sticking to a routine. Work travel often does not make this possible, but I make an effort. I could use some tips in this area from the ASUG Women Connect community!

Q: Have you encountered any significant mentors or supporters during your ASUG journey and, if so, what role did they play?

A: I have been inspired by and have made some amazing connections throughout my ASUG journey, though I wouldn’t say I have found a significant mentor or supporter. I am excited for the refreshed beginning of ASUG Women Connect, and optimistic about making these types of connections in my ASUG community.

Q: How do you believe organizations can inspire inclusion and promote gender equality in the tech industry? How can executives ensure long-term careers for women in leadership roles?

A: According to the results of my study, organizations should focus on perceived organizational support and inclusive leadership to retain women in tech consulting. Organizations should demonstrate support for their staff and truly show an interest in their well-being. Showing employees they are valued and that their goals are understood can increase their perceived organizational support. Firms should also create a safe environment for innovation and creativity by allowing employees to learn from mistakes.

To focus on inclusion and inclusive leadership, firms must look further than just the backgrounds of who is being recruited and hired. Firms should ensure that leaders are working with and listening to their employees instead of purely delegating and managing their staff. Inclusive leadership is a truly two-way relationship. An inclusive leader's ability to respect, listen to, and understand the employees' needs fosters win-win results for staff and companies.

Q: What advice would you give to your past and future selves?

A: For my past self, I would tell her to just lean in and speak up more. I spent quite some time early on listening and trying to learn rather than actively pushing ahead. For my future self, I suggest she remember that "this too will pass," and not sweat the small stuff.

Want to hear more from Dr. Baker? Tune in on March 14 for the upcoming ASUG Women Connect community conversation centered on National Women's History Month. Dr. Baker is speaking at the event, which will explore the ways ASUG members advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in their respective fields and communities. Register here. 

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