It’s not enough to follow your own path and achieve the career goals you’ve set for yourself. For me at least, being successful means paying it forward and laying out the groundwork to help others find their path, too.

I’m Jeannie Pridmore, associate professor of information systems and the graduate program director for the Richards College of Business at University of West Georgia. When I’m not teaching information systems courses with related SAP solutions, my passion project includes teaching elementary school children the foundation of how to code.

Finding My Path

I discovered my love for teaching early on in my career. It was around the same time I discovered my love of statistics and data analysis. So, it made sense that my career path would lead to combining my two passions.

Although I started in chemical engineering, I soon found myself building programs to run and control large-scale equipment. That led to pursuing an MBA, which led to my role as data analyst, which then led to pursuing my Ph.D., which ultimately led me to my role today.

Early on in my career, before I knew I wanted to teach, I knew that I loved to learn. The company I worked for at the time was implementing an SAP system, and the entire process of designing, developing, and rolling out a custom ERP was my introduction to the technology world. So, when the University of West Georgia partnered with the SAP University Alliance program, I was tasked with rolling out the program within our university. I’ve been teaching it ever since.

The Aha Moment

We teach three classes related to SAP: one on management information systems that is required for all business majors, another on enterprise architecture, and the last on enterprise and decision support systems. The MIS class is a requirement for all business majors because it won’t matter what field they eventually end up in, they will come across the need to understand integration, data quality, and the whole process flow of business.

I feel traditional business schools have kept everything siloed. Students don’t learn about process flow or business integration, and it’s absolutely critical. Teaching doesn’t just allow me to help others find their own path in life, it also allows me to be a part of that aha moment in their lives. I love it when they learn something they didn’t even know they needed, or when they’re able to connect those dots and understand the why behind a concept.

That’s the exciting part. The challenging part, on the other hand, is keeping up with the pace of change and making sure that what we are providing the students is what they need to keep them skilled and marketable for the future.

My Teachers Taught Me, Too

The thing about teaching is that you don’t really need to be a teacher to be impactful in someone’s life. I’ve had mentors in life who probably aren’t aware of the lessons they’ve taught me, but they’ve shaped who I am as an educator in so many ways.

I dealt with a lot of pushback when I was a 22-year-old engineer as one of 50 female employees in a company of 400. For the first six months I was there, I had at least one person every day say to me, “You know you’re only here because you’re a female.” That was really, really tough. I remember feeling stupid all the time because my coworkers would ask questions and I didn't know the answers.

It’s not that I didn’t deserve my job, but rather I didn’t know how to say, “I don’t know, but I could find out.” I was intimidated. But then an engineer by the name of Chuck Hodge got me to understand that it was OK to say I didn’t know. He said to me, “If they knew the answers, they wouldn’t be asking you. Why do you think it’s bad that you don’t know?” A lesson so simple has had a lasting effect. It was so empowering, too. It taught me to believe that I earned my right to be there and learning doesn’t stop just because you have a degree.

Start Young, Grow Strong

I’ve worked with several other inspiring individuals during my tenure. In addition to believing in myself, I have been taught to brag on myself too. Women don’t do that often enough and I’m not sure why. There is a difference in how men talk about their accomplishments versus how women do.

But we have to be willing to promote ourselves and be OK with doing so. It’s not being pushy or crafting a story around something that doesn't exist. You must be willing to stand up for yourself and promote the things that you're doing. Because if you don't, nobody else will, and no one else will ever know.

Something I’m very proud of is starting a program with one of my colleagues, Monica Smith, aimed at teaching second- and third-graders how to code, including programming basics such as event triggering, loops, and if-then statements. We’ve just completed the second year of the coding club and have plans to continue and expand. It is such a treat to work with young kids and teach them about STEM and the opportunities that lie ahead for them. In my next blog post, I will share with you the details of the program, what we’ve achieved, and where we plan to go next.

Register for the Executive Exchange Virtual Summit: Partners in Leadership on July 29, 2020 for an expert panel hosted by ASUG Women Connect on building a meaningful diversity and inclusion strategy.