“Why Tech? I wanted to work on something tangible and relevant for everyone across the world. Everyone has a component of tech that they use on a regular basis. For me, that was the value-added component: to be able to change lives.”
When speaking with Andre’a Streeter, it was clear that while she didn’t start her career in the software field, now that she’s here, she’s here to stay.
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee State University, a Historically Black University (HBCU), Andre’a landed what some might have thought as a dream job: working at NASA designing and analyzing the heating and cooling systems on the International Space Station. Even though Andre’a found the job challenging, she felt herself wanting more. “I always had questions of why. Engineering is conceptual, with lots of computer analysis. But I always wondered how it translated into a practical business application. I wanted to know the why behind the scenes. So, I just kept asking questions.”
Question everything. The reward is clarity.
These questions became her key to success. The more questions she asked, the more answers and clarity she found. “I am a learner at heart. I like to learn, grow and advance.” These questions led her to a career in project management, across multiple different industries: aerospace, oil and gas, and technology. As she navigated these industries, she discovered more about herself and what she likes. “I learned that I am comfortable, being uncomfortable,” she remembers. She didn’t let the fear of something new stop her from becoming the woman she wanted to be and learning what she needed to get there.
She received her master’s in project management in 2010 and wanted to return for school for an MBA, but she couldn’t decide what to specialize in. After several years of working in the field, she remembers discovering another aspect of herself. “International is kind of my thing. This helped me solidify my interest, and I went on to get my MBA in Global Corporate Expansion.”
Andre’a didn’t land where she is now without a lot of hard work, perseverance and growth from life lessons along the way. “When I started my career, I didn’t really realize that I was the only woman, or the only black person, or even that I was in my 20s surrounded by men in their 50s. Not once did I ever question if I deserved or if I should be in those rooms. I knew that there was always value in my message. It was my obligation to figure out how to deliver it.”
From those experiences, she learned two main things. “I didn’t let myself get small. I didn’t let people belittle my knowledge. But I had to keep myself open to learning from others. Communication is a two-way street.”
Learning is a lifelong pursuit
Another key life lesson along the way that Andre’a learned was to be open to ask questions and willing to learn as you go. She remembers the feeling of being the new person at work and being shy about asking questions; however, she encourages everyone to not let that feeling stop you. “It’s okay to ask those questions, and it allows you to meet people and build rapport with people. You have to find the balance between the question you should ask and what you need to go look up yourself.” Taking her own advice, Andre’a took the jump from a computer hardware-focused company to VMware two years ago. She now works on the business transformation team for VMware’s Professional Services, focusing on post-merger integrations. Her days are full of innovating, strategizing, integrating and making VMware and the acquired company better. “No two days are alike,” she laughs. “I enjoy connecting the dots that didn’t use to exist, building out strategies and project plans and seeing things through from start to finish.”
But if you ask her what her job is, she won’t hesitate to tell you. “My main job is to be a chauffeur to my kids.” Andre’a has two pre-teen daughters who keep her busy, along with various community service organizations and being an active member in her church. “I believe that I have been extremely blessed over my years, and I do believe in being a blessing and paying it forward.”
When asked about her hobbies, she exclaims, “I am working on it!” Andre’a shares that she spends her free time on self-care, acknowledging that you cannot pour from an empty glass. Other working mothers motivate her to be there for others without losing herself in the process. “They motivate me to know that I can be all these things to others and still be true to myself as long as I am intentional about the choices I make and continue to dream.”
Andre’a encourages her daughters and other women to dream big too. “Dream, explore, grow and go! Don’t let being the only one interested in STEM make you think you don’t belong. There is a space for everyone in STEM. If it gives you life, go for it!” Lots of factors can turn into barriers, if you give them power. Believe in yourself and you can surmount anything. “You have to be your biggest champion, find your why and let it drive you forward to achieve.”
The world of tech is lucky to have talented women pushing the envelope and taking steps toward breaking the bias. Read about other amazing women on VMware’s Customer Experience and Success team: