Elena Newton began her career as employee number 16 at a software start-up, with responsibilities ranging from technical writing to operations. After the company’s acquisition by a Dutch multinational, she held various leadership roles focusing on both customer and technical areas of the business. Ultimately, Elena led the establishment of the Global Services organization, with responsibility for the experience of the company’s +10,000 customers. In addition, she led the design and development of the company’s first cloud-based product. Elena went on to co-found Inspiration Engine, a people analytics software start-up focused on creating better customer and employee experiences, and most recently Xmetryx.
As Xmetryx CTO, Elena is responsible for product design, technology, and security, leading the development team, and a hodgepodge of other things (like social media technology strategy, finance, customer support, etc.). She brings a blend of product design and software development talent, along with an unrelenting focus on execution excellence, to create an exceptional experience for Xmetryx TRM customers.
How long have you been a woman in the technology space?
Tell us about Xmetryx and what your role is?
Xmetryx is Team Relationship Management SaaS startup. We give team leaders the tools they need to craft extraordinary teams. We help them reduce risk and improve performance by offering a way to measure and map relationships on and across teams. Xmetryx gives people on teams a safe approach to discuss how their experiences are matching up to their expectations, and what is most affecting their relationships at work.
As co-founder, my responsibilities are broad (a friend of mine once said, “co-founder just means you take out the garbage, too.” ☺ ). As CTO, my role is to ensure that our software roadmap is on track and that we are able to pursue our technological goals. I ensure that we are using the best tools for our success and security, and of course, that we deliver an exceptional customer experience.
What has been great, but also challenging about being a woman in tech?
One aspect I LOVE about being in tech is the work schedule! I’m a total night-owl (though, once-in-a-while, my brain pops-on at 6 am, annoying as that is). As a developer, I can work anytime and anywhere I get the urge to create (even from Bali at midnight)!
The challenge of being a woman in tech is the (unfortunate) stereotypes that pervade the industry. When I meet someone for the first time, and they find out I’m the CTO and developer of our software, they usually have a stunned look on their face. Or, they don’t believe me until we start to talk languages or code or how to approach a problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “you don’t look like a developer!”. Ok, so if you’re somewhat attractive, or female, or god-forbid both, you can’t be smart or technically-savvy? However, I get great enjoyment dispelling that myth. When a smug developer / CTO talks with me and discovers that I am both intelligent and tech-savvy, the dumbfounded look on their faces is pretty satisfying.
What are the problems you feel women face in the Salt Lake Valley and what are some possible solutions?
I think that in SLC there’s been a resurgence of diversity, and that’s had a very positive influence on the culture here. I lived here for 18 years before we moved to Singapore, where I worked in a male-dominated industry. Because I was a woman, I had to work harder, I was paid less, and worked significantly more hours than my peers to maintain my position. I was ignored, interrupted, and discriminated against for both my beliefs and even personal life-trials. I think this is one of the biggest challenges faced by women in SLC. I think the answer lies in garnering greater diversity in the area, and I’ve seen a vast increase in diversity since returning. The Sugar House area, in particular, is highly diverse with a population of women who are open to taking on challenges, and who were raised without the burden of conservative, traditional gender roles.
Another way I believe we can address this is through (both men and women) taking gender out of the equation. I’m a developer – whether I’m a female developer or a male developer doesn’t matter – I’m a developer. Just like we no longer see race as a factor, we need to stop seeing gender as a defining element. This isn’t to say that different people don’t bring different traits to the table – but this can be as much culturally as it is gender influenced.
For instance, I find that women in the US are far more competitive – even in a social setting – than women in Asia. In Asia, there’s a desire to bond with other women, to support each other, emotionally and physically. So, the difference is cultural – culturally, Asia is collectivist rather than individualistic. Behavior is different in both places, though gender is the same.
What are some of your go-to places in The Valley for coffee, brunch, dinner, and drinks?
Oasis Café – Fantastic coffee, and the food, energy, and people there are lovely!
RedMoose Coffee – Good coffee, a great selection of eats, and the ladies there are absolutely wonderful!
Park City Roasters – Love the coffee and teas, can be super busy at times, and they leave the doors/windows open, so you get a taste of outside even when you’re stuck on a computer
Hugo Coffee (Park City) – When I need a dog fix, they’ve got it along with good coffee and stunning views. Also, not as busy as other places on my list.
Rawtopia – I love Omar’s Rawtopia. Omar is a very gentle soul with a lot to share, and he does it through the most incredible foods.
Drinks – We haven’t had a chance to find a great place for drinks since we returned from 8 years in Singapore, so we’re open to any suggestions! Our favorite place in Singapore is Manhattan at the Regent Hotel. Amazing artisanal cocktails … named #1 in Asia and #3 in the world for a reason.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Wow. Huge question! The answer is 3-fold. First, I think that to find happiness, you have to be fulfilling a purpose in life – are you here to heal, or to create, or to guide, or a combination of these things – and are you doing it? People who have lost their purpose are unhappy!
Second, I think that you can only find happiness through conscientiousness – being conscientious of those around you, of your mental and physical health, of your environment and context.
And third, love is critical – love for family, for self, for others, for life.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is not being acknowledged and respected for who I am and what I can contribute.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I struggle to articulate my value, my capabilities, and what I can bring to the table.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Narcissistic arrogance. Wherein someone exhibits arrogance, self-centeredness, dishonesty, and manipulation, without regard for others, to get what they want.
Which living person do you most admire?
My partner and co-founder Dr. Jeb Hurley. His drive, his empathy, his compassion, his intelligence, his presence, his ability to inspire, to listen, to take feedback and learn and grow, his energy, his focus, his consideration, and his love of life.