When CDN asked Nancy Kierstead how much progress women have made in the channel during her career, her mind went back to one particular room at her company.
And no, it’s not the boardroom.“I went months, maybe even a year or more before I ever met up with somebody else in the ladies’ washroom,” Kierstead told CDN in an interview from Fredericton, N.B.
As she hastily pointed out, that was 14 years ago when she had just joined a small New Brunswick company called Bulletproof. Kierstead noted that since then, women have made significant strides in the channel and at Bulletproof itself.
“Now I work with lots of really great women throughout the company and we all bring such a different perspective to our roles,” she said. “We even have three of our VPs that are female and I’m seeing the same presence of women in leadership roles within other companies as well. So I think we may still have a ways to go but we’ve made so much progress that it really needs to be celebrated.”
On Tuesday, CDN celebrated Kierstead by inducting her into the Women in the IT Channel (WITC) Hall of Fame.
Love of math
Kierstead’s route to the channel started with her pursuit of a childhood passion.
“As a kid I really loved math. When I was in high school I got the opportunity to take a programming course and I just really loved the logic in it,” she recalled.
She graduated from the University of New Brunswick with two degrees that would serve her particularly well in the channel: a bachelor of business administration and a masters in computer science.
Armed with that dual knowledge base, Kierstead got her first job in the channel fresh out of university as a business analyst and project manager at Xwave. After 12 years there, she joined Bulletproof in 2007 and is now director of corporate services at the company.
Founded in Fredericton in 2000, Bulletproof now employs close to 300 people and supports more than 50,000 users in over 300 client locations around the world. Originally focused on security consulting, Bulletproof expanded its offerings to broader IT services and was acquired by Gaming Laboratories International (GLI Group) in 2016.
Bulletproof was named Microsoft’s Global Security Partner of the Year for 2021 and is a previous winner of Dell Canada’s Partner of the Year award.
The theme of this year’s WITC Recognition Luncheon is Come Together, a nod to tumultuous social and political change during the 1960s and 1970s. Calls for more diversity and inclusion during those decades eventually paved the way for progress in civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights.
Kierstead said Bulletproof’s success highlights regional diversity, showing how regional strengths can bolster the Canadian channel as a whole.
“I look back and I’m reminded that this company was started just 20 years ago by three very smart minds in little, little Fredericton, New Brunswick. And now, through the collective contribution of numerous people, we’re an international company of 300 people winning Microsoft partner awards. So that’s really exciting to be a part of and I’m incredibly proud of what this team has accomplished,” she said.
CDN celebrated Kierstead and four other women at this year’s WITC Recognition Luncheon. Kierstead was inducted into the WITC Hall of Fame along with Noémi Labelle of ITI, Rose Marcello of VMware and Joanne C. Wilson of The Trainer’s Advisory Network.
At the same virtual event, Wilson was named Mentor of the Year and Pallavi Ramdanchani of Cognizant Microsoft Business Group was named Rising Star of the Year.