Gina Ehrlich – AHEAD
It’s easy to picture the stereotypical IT department. It’s filled with computers, servers and tech tools, and the only sounds are the clacking of keyboards and sporadic digitized beeps. It’s a quiet environment where staff are a little nerdy, but supposed geniuses.
Oh, and they’re all men.
“Working at a successful, fast-growing IT company is a great place to be,” says Ehrlich, the company’s director of IT. “In general, I think there’s room for women in so many different areas of IT. There are endless opportunities in this field for people to carve their way.”
Growth and scalability
AHEAD, located in Chicago, is an IT services company that builds platforms for digital businesses. It implements hardware and software and helps clients move to the cloud or a more modern stack.
Ehrlich’s team manages the company’s customized Salesforce platform using an “Agile scrum framework” that releases enhancements every two weeks. The goal, she says, is to “deliver value to customers sooner,” which has required keeping up with the system changes while working to maintain the trust of their users.
She says her team is continuously improving its methodology so it can deliver services more efficiently. Ehrlich is also exploring automation through MuleSoft, an application integration platform owned by Salesforce. The platform will allow AHEAD to scale by automating data exchange and transformation processes, such as synchronizing information across applications, which she hopes will help support company growth.
MuleSoft, which Ehrlich is in the early stages of implementing, will help move data within the company, as well as between clients and their customers.
“I love to see continuous improvement,” Ehrlich says. “If I see a problem, I like to talk through solutions and implement best practices.”
Since Ehrlich joined the company in 2019, it has grown from 300 employees to over 1,000, which Ehrlich attributes to several recent acquisitions. To accommodate the growth, the IT department has relied on the customized Salesforce platform as well as new products it’s added over the past two years.
Using FinancialForce, Ehrlich’s team integrated AHEAD’s accounting system into Salesforce to handle the volume from the acquisitions and streamline operations. She says the project wouldn’t have been possible without VFP Consulting, a firm that helps companies implement FinancialForce and Salesforce.
VFP Consulting, which is based in Arizona, worked closely with AHEAD’s IT and accounting departments to configure the product and move all the data over from the previous general ledger system.
“We knew our growth would require an increase in data throughout our end-to-end workflows,” Ehrlich says. “FinancialForce Accounting was a large implementation, and VFP’s expertise was critical for us.”
Using Salesforce with FinancialForce has helped scale the business, she adds, and allows AHEAD to more easily integrate new companies into the enterprise resource planning system. She says this is especially helpful if there’s not an IT counterpart during an acquisition.
AHEAD is also growing because of its recruitment efforts, which Ehrlich says have brought more women into the company and into her department. She says the company provides leadership development, networking and mentoring opportunities through its employee resource group, Moving Women AHEAD, and that she’s seen many women promoted within the company.
“I see women as vital in this field,” she says. “My team is great proof of that.”
Leveling the field
Ehrlich says she pursued IT because of her lifelong interest in solving problems.
Now that she’s an IT director, she couples this interest with her passion for project management. She loves developing processes with her team while leaving room for curiosity and exploration. She wants her staff to grow, and that means giving them room to make, and learn from, mistakes, she says.
Prior to working in IT within the technology field at AHEAD, Ehrlich worked in IT within the financial and engineering industries. She started her career on the infrastructure side of technology as a network administrator, where she says there have always been very few other women.
She says she’s excited to see this changing and that she actively encourages women on her team to go after what they want in the industry.
“Technology can solve so many problems, and we need more women pursuing careers in this field,” Ehrlich says. “As a woman in IT, I hope to see more women following their dreams in the technology sector and breaking through glass ceilings. You can’t shy away from something if it’s what you love.”
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