- Alyson’s “accidental career path” went from family therapy fantasies to running IT ops
- Getting rid of impostor syndrome is one piece of advice she gives to young women
“I run the internal business of the IT organization,” explains Alyson Crafton, head of the Global Information Systems’ (GIS) Common Services Organization. “My team’s job is to make my peers’ jobs easier so they can focus on delivering IT services to the company!” That’s no easy feat considering GIS has 250+ employees worldwide whose work affects how we work. (Do you think your laptop just magically arrived out of thin air or that our payroll system came ready to use right out of the box?)
On Sep. 22, Alyson will appear at the Grace Hopper conference in Florida alongside Lubab Sheet-Davis, vice president of Strategy and Innovation, and Soon Kuek, general manager of Lam’s operations in Malaysia. The trio will host a workshop on career development and empowerment. Grace Hopper is the premier conference in the U.S. for women in technology.
We caught up with Alyson at the end of August to talk about her career and to get her advice for young women just starting their careers. We also found out what her dad thinks she does for a living. (He’s way off.) The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What do you do, exactly?
Officially I lead the GIS Common Services Organization. I consider myself the COO of IT—chief operating officer of Information Technology. I run the business of running the IT organization. My team of 11 puts into place processes, tools, and accountability systems so IT can do its job with ease. We also develop funding strategies for our department, participate in annual operating reviews, and assist with organizational change management, program management, and vendor management.
Describe your career path.
I like to say that I have had an accidental career path. I started out thinking I would be a family therapist, but I changed course and got an M.B.A. in finance. I then went to Intel where I spent 25 years. At Intel I had many roles, as you can imagine. I held positions in the supply chain IT organization for 10 years. Then I spent time going back and forth between IT and operations teams.
What attracted you to Lam?
A friend of mine connected me with Rob Hawthorne, our chief information officer. In my first conversation with him we talked about the transformation he wanted to make for the GIS organization. I was attracted to the challenge and opportunity to effect real change. Lam was – and still is – poised for big growth and changes.
I was also struck by Lam’s genuine commitment to its Core Values. Everyone I interviewed with really embodied these values.
What motivates you?
The opportunity to make an impact every day. I’ve had roles where my job was just to keep things running. And I do some of that. But we have so many opportunities within GIS and within the company. What got us here is not going to get us to the next phase. We must change, tweak, and mature to get where we want to be.
I love being able to make processes better. Hopefully I can also bring out the best in people. I love seeing others grow. Helping people think differently or achieve something great motivates me. I want to leave Lam employees better than I met them. You could say that I get my mothering fix at work now that my kids are adults and out of the house.
Describe your leadership style.
Years ago I decided it would be the four Fs: Firm, Fair, Fast, and Fun. I try to listen so we can all move forward. I also think that it’s important for leaders to take a stand. Leaders should be able to change minds. Be flexible, yes, but have a point of view. You need to steer the ship in a direction and do it in a friendly manner. I also want to build relationships, to be a connector.
I spend a lot of time with Lam, so I want to make sure that I’m friendly and fun. There is room at work to have a good time! Having fun goes a long way in keeping people engaged and productive.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Energetic. Driven. Impatient.
Energy is important. People draw their energy from leaders. I want to be the person who gives energy, not drains energy.
I’m also driven or results oriented. We’re here to get things done. There’s room for chit-chat and slowing down, but at the end of the day, let’s do things that move the ball down the field.
Impatience is a strength and a curse. I will forever be working on my need to go-go-go. I have a general sense of urgency. I want to get things done quickly without sacrificing quality. We have huge aspirations. It takes a results-oriented approach to get things done. I want to light a fire!
And what are three words teammates would use to describe you?
Impatient! [laughter]. Also positive and connector. We work in a system. I try to understand how this person’s work connects to another person’s work and brings things together.
What are you talking about at Grace Hopper?
I am participating on a panel with Lubab and Soon called “Breaking Barriers Through Innovation.” At Grace Hopper, among other things, young women seek advice on how to navigate their careers. We’ll talk about the challenges we’ve had in our careers and how through innovation we’ve overcome those obstacles.
What’s one takeaway you want participants to walk away with?
I’ll give you two.
First, I want women to be their authentic selves. You can be your authentic selves and succeed. Get rid of impostor syndrome. Don’t try to be a man. Be yourself. I am a prime example. I have had a successful career by just being me.
Second, Lam is a really cool place with cool women in leadership! We want to make attendees more curious about our company.
What career advice do you have for young women in tech?
I have learned through my career that women tend to mask their personalities at work, for whatever reason. Be your authentic self. Stay curious. Build a broad set of experiences throughout your career. I have worked on the technical side and the business side. Because of that I’ve been able to make connections and build end-to-end solutions. Building a broad point of view makes you more successful.
And if you want to be a mom, be a mom! I left Intel as a VP and joined Lam as a managing director…and I had four kids along the way!