Interview: Intuit’s Sharon Hutchins Says People Do Their Best Work When They Feel Valued, Included, And Safe
As VP, Chief of AI & Data Operations, Sharon Hutchins leads business operations and program management for Intuit’s AI+Data organization.
The company, which specializes in financial software, was recently in the spotlight after announcing an important goal: to increase female representation in the company’s technology roles from 30% to 37% by 2024.
It’s a mission that Sharon 100% backs as she believes there’s room for everyone at the top. Before landing her senior leadership position, Sharon’s journey has been one of taking risks and not allowing her own limitations and blinders to stop her from reaching new heights in her career.
In an industry that lacks diversity – it’s not always easy to ignore the statistics and she’s well aware of that.
But now she’s sat down with POCIT to discuss what she’s learned about herself in her two decade career and what advice she’d give to those looking to enter the tech space.
The first question I usually ask is what are three words that would best describe you as a person?
Resilient, empathetic, and driven.
Was your career goal always to end up in the tech industry?
No, as it wasn’t the industry I started in. I actually started in accounting and spent several years as an accountant. But as I was getting more into accounting, I was introduced more and more to the world of technology and that really shifted my thinking about what I wanted my long-term career to be.
I would say being an accountant taught me a lot; like always paying attention to details and to really think about solving problems boldly because solving accounting problems sometimes takes creativity.
And when I thought about it, many of the skills that it takes to be a good accountant are the same skills it takes to be a good technologist.
So how did you actually end up in tech then and how smooth was the transition?
One of the things I really love about Intuit is that it’s a place that has always supported career mobility. I started my career at Intuit in QuickBooks, leveraging my accounting background, and then picked up skills in technology both through on-the-job training and formal coursework. It’s essential to stay curious; it leads to growth and learning. If you’re not happy in your current role or field, you can always seek a new area if you’re willing to learn and experiment. I’ve had the opportunity to work in several business units and functional groups at Intuit, which has allowed me to build my skills in technology over time.
For most of my career, I’ve also had an opportunity to transition into different aspects of technology like IT, Privacy, Data and AI; I’ve continued to build on my existing skills and learned new elements. Technology is ever-evolving, with new technologies emerging every day.
And of course, just taking ownership of my own career learning journey has also been important, which for me has included taking additional classes where needed. Another thing I love about Intuit is the investment in our employee’s professional development and the leadership frameworks that teach you how to do things better. I have had opportunities over the years to sharpen my leadership skills through attending and teaching formal & informal training programs at Intuit. These programs have helped me apply frameworks and think through situations to achieve a better outcome.
We’ve all seen the stats when it comes to POC in tech – I imagine back when you started they were worse. How do you not allow stats to discourage your dreams?
I think you have to get to a stage where you say ‘okay the stats for people like me may not be there,’ but you’ve got to be comfortable with that and not let it bring you down. I’ve always been someone who takes risks and I’m not afraid to go into new or uncharted territory.
So I say to those who want to get into tech, whatever the vision is that you have for yourself, forge ahead, don’t be afraid to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Tap into other areas or new areas that appear interesting to you and don’t look back.
What is one of the key challenges you faced in your career?
The ability to persevere. But sometimes you just can’t take no for an answer. If I think about specific challenges in my career, I would say that the biggest challenge I’ve had by far is just my own limitations. There have been times in my career where I have not taken a risk, and when I look back now, I really feel that it’s my own insecurities and my own fears that have held me back.
And that was true early in my career but then at one point, I made a shift to put that all behind me. It was actually a mentor who helped me understand that most of the challenges that were getting in my way, were in my own head. So you’ve got to take off your own limitations, and blinders, to be able to take risks.
What is the most memorable accomplishment to date that you have while working at Intuit?
I’m most proud of my ability to build strong teams and that starts with hiring the right people who value working towards a common goal. I believe that building a strong team by far has been one of the most important leadership skills every leader should have because it doesn’t matter how great your ideas are, or how innovative your ideas are, if you don’t have a strong team to help you execute, then your idea tends to fall flat.
I always make my team a priority. Work gets done through people. And I’ve learned that by creating an environment where people feel valued, included, and safe, they do their best work. A strong team includes the diversity of people’s backgrounds, skills, and knowledge; one where people dare to take risks, make themselves vulnerable and can learn from each other and grow.
The other thing that has been really important and I’m proud of is just my ability to perform well under pressure. I was once asked to implement a new operations team in 90 days. It was stressful, but I also produced some of my most creative work. I work better under pressure because I enjoy working in a challenging environment. As a leader in operations, I thrive when I’m solving big customer problems.
I’d like to learn more about Intuit’s mentorship program and its mission to support women wanting leadership positions!
Intuit has an excellent mentorship program geared towards “retaining and advancing” women in technical roles while expanding beyond gender to all under-represented groups (URG) in tech. Our program is a six-month commitment connecting women & URG employees in technical roles to a mentor match in the organization. Mentees are full-time female, non-binary employees in technical roles. Mentors are senior-level titles or higher in technical roles, all genders. It’s a valuable program that is making a real difference for our employees, both mentees and mentors.
If you feel inspired by Sharon’s journey and are interested in a career at Intuit, check out the many job opportunities they have available on pocitjobs.com.