Career Development Learning Thought Leadership

Ruth Capezzone on overcoming bias: I’ll be darned if it beats me

Ruth Capezzone first picked up a book titled “New Technology” when she was working as a nurse. The book was about the Windows operating system. She was taken aback when one patient’s son asked, “Why are you reading this? You can’t do it; you’re a woman. And besides, you’re black.”

Thirty days later, Ruth had her Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification.

“I’ll be darned if this beats me,” she told me during a conversation about her life and professional journey.

Like many other biases she’s experienced, Ruth didn’t let those comments beat her. More than 22 years working in tech later, Ruth is now a senior solutions architect at VMware, specializing in cybersecurity.

Fighting to gain respect

After completing her MCSE, Ruth switched from working with patients to using her newfound technology skills and passion at a desk job at a local hospital. She recalls that her team had “lots of laughs trying to get computers updated” ahead of Y2K.

Despite her hard work and MCSE certification, Ruth’s boss at the hospital wanted to assign her the job title of admin assistant. “That’s not going to work,” Ruth said. “That title sounds kind of like ‘secretary.’” Ruth was also upset because her male colleagues with similar skills received better job titles that reflected their technology expertise. 

“I think men have the respect to lose, whereas women have to gain respect. We have to blow them away, so we have to work very, very hard.”

I’m just floored, and I want to learn more

Darned if bias will beat her, Ruth has thrived in the tech industry for more than two decades. She now works with cybersecurity solutions at VMware, where she’s been since the acquisition of Carbon Black in 2019.

“Cybersecurity appeals to my nosy nature. I always want to know what’s happening and how to shut [attackers] down.”

At VMware, Ruth is part of the Livefire team, providing VMware partners with hands-on training. “Instead of teaching just one product, we teach the whole solution, primarily to partners.”

The Livefire group is “Amazingly smart. The technology is, like, ‘Wow! This is what we can do?’ I’m just floored, and I want to learn more.”

The intelligence of her Livefire colleagues is a positive challenge for Ruth because everyone inspires each other to be their brightest selves. She’s excited to go to work every morning because she’s determined “not to be the weakest link.”

Ruth also enjoys curling –
“I remember watching Olympic curling and thought to myself “Heck, I do that every day in my kitchen!”.  I have loved it ever since.”

Advice to others: Give your all

Ruth has finally found a supportive workplace in VMware, and she learned a lot about how to overcome obstacles on her journey to this point. Along with her own determination, she’s found that engaging with mentors can provide helpful support along the way.

For example, one of Ruth’s mentors told her that only her immediate team will be aware of her successes but that her failures will travel far and wide.

“I’ve remembered that for 22 years, so I make sure to give my all to my students or wherever I’m working.”

Another piece of advice is especially important for introverts like Ruth. “I can perform in class, but I am an introvert. I like being at home. I love to read and love going to museums.”

For those who are also reenergized through time alone, “Find a mentor or a sponsor. Especially for introverts, or others not motivated by negativity like I am, you’ll need it. That person can really help you out.” While it’s not an introvert’s ideal way to spend the evening, they should consider joining groups and attending meetings, as they’re a great way to meet potential new mentors.

Finally, many women encounter doubts from colleagues about their ability to balance motherhood and a successful career. “We do the bulk of the work. If the kids get sick, we’re the ones to leave [work]. It may look as if we’re not as serious with our careers.”

For other women pursuing careers, Ruth urges them not to worry about others’ perceptions. You can be a mother and have a career.

I’ll be darned if this beats me

Ruth says her stubbornness is the key to her perseverance. “I’m hard-headed. If someone says I can’t do something, that’s what gets me up in the morning.”

Whether it’s learning new skills, fighting for the appropriate title, earning promotions or showing that women can have a family and a career, Ruth’s hard work keeps her going.

“The way I work is, I’ll be darned if this beats me.”

Read the stories of other brilliant women on VMware’s Learning team

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