Last International Women’s Day, we celebrated by highlighting the ways in which some of the incredible Women of Headspring promote gender balance in their personal and professional lives. For International Women’s Day 2020, we wanted to reach out into our community to see how women are embodying #EachforEqual in their everyday. That’s when we realized we were working with an incredible IT leader who just happens to be a woman, and who stands as a champion for equality within our industry and society.
Meet Julie Bullerman: A respected VP of IT, Air Force veteran, and one of our close partners at USA Compression (an Oil & Gas client undergoing IT modernization). Though Julie’s been part of highly male-dominated industries her entire career, she’s been unfettered in her path towards personal and professional goals. You could certainly call Julie resilient and headstrong, but her success lies in one equalizing ideal: treating ALL people respectfully.
That’s why Julie is such an exemplary spokesperson for this year’s IWD theme, #EachforEqual. It’s all about the actions we take in our everyday lives to promote behaviors that lead to a more equitable society. Julie was generous enough to share her story with us, which is chock full of inspiration for stepping up to challenges, living well, and leading mindfully:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get into the IT field? Was technology something you’ve always been interested in?
Like a lot of folks, IT was more of an accident than a choice. I began my career in the Air Force with an Information Management specialty. Back then, Information Managers informally served as the first line for IT within the squadrons we worked.
Towards the end of my service, the Air Force began formally transitioning Information Managers into Workgroup Management, starting off a more formalized integration of IT responsibilities into the role. I became part of that transition during a deployment to the Middle East, where I was assigned to the Communications Squadron (IT). Because of my rank at the time, I became responsible for managing the support desk for the Airmen deployed to our location. I was actually finishing college about the same time, with an undergrad in finance, so IT wasn’t really on my radar although I had already been providing some support in that area for seven years.
Then, after I got out of the military, I landed a job at a Credit Union in eServices, working closely with IT to deliver e-banking solutions. That’s where I realized that I had a knack for being the communication bridge between IT and the end-users. and finally gave in: IT just kept showing up, so I decided to jump in.
You’ve gone from project management into a VP role—was that always an aspiration of yours?
Like IT, becoming a VP was also not something I necessarily planned or aspired to. I attribute my advancement to working hard, caring about the work I do, and being lucky enough to work with some really wonderful colleagues who opened doors for me. I often think about how grateful I am to have worked with people who saw things in me that I didn’t, and gave me opportunities to take on roles that I wouldn’t necessarily have put myself in. I’ve always tried to focus on doing what I do well and continuing to learn. Honestly, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
What are some of your proudest career achievements?
One of my proudest achievements has been USA Compression’s recently completed acquisition. In early 2018, just a few months after being promoted to VP, we announced the acquisition of one of our competitors. From a personnel standpoint, their company was actually larger than ours. I’d been through a small merger before, but never an acquisition with the aggressive timeline we had for integrating the systems: Our team completed the integration and had everyone working out of a single set of systems in about six months.
How about personal ones?
I’ve always been an active person and played all the sports I could growing up. In 2009, I trained and completed a half Ironman distance triathlon. I really enjoyed the training and the feeling of accomplishment from pushing myself physically.
Can you think of a particular instance in which you had to overcome a gender bias in order to succeed?
Looking back, there’s not a particular instance that stands out. However, I have always felt that I needed to consciously present myself as a very strong person and sometimes be more aggressive than I wanted to in order to be heard. There are still the little comments that show up here and there that are more annoying than anything. For example, I’m recalling a recent call with a solutions provider after they failed to provide the support they were contracted for. Our account rep told me he was “really impressed with how I handled it, considering how upset I should be.” And I couldn’t help but wonder, was that a comment he would have made if I was not a woman?
“We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”- IWD 2020 #EachforEqual
This year’s IWD theme is focused on how our individual actions can effect change. Are there things you do, ways you act or think, in your day-to-day that you believe help promote equality in the workplace or in society, generally?
First, I’m really big on the golden rule. If you don’t care for others, why would you expect them to care for you? This is something that I try to take from work, to play, to my interactions with the stranger I’m in line with at the grocery store. It shouldn’t matter whether they’re the CEO of your company or the janitor. We’re all people and we need each other—nobody makes it on their own.
There’s a quote from Simon Sinek that I love and try to lead by: “Leadership is not about being in charge, but taking care of people in your charge.”
How have you seen gender perceptions in your industry shift over the years? Are there any instances you can think of to illustrate this?
I’ve been in the military, IT organizations, and now in oil and gas. So I’ve sat in three different verticals that are all very male-dominated. I think the shift is slow, but it is happening. I’m excited to see the company I work for hiring women into some of our field roles: compression mechanics and materials jobs that have been almost exclusively held by men. We have a long way to go in oil and gas and in IT, but it is changing.
Did you have any role models or mentors (male or female) who inspired you throughout your career and life?
I see role models everywhere around me. I’m a firm believer that you can learn from everyone, even the most junior folks in your organization. I see things every day within my own team that inspire me to do better. I’ve been lucky to work with great people that have taught me so much; and I also consider myself lucky to have worked with people who have taught me how I don’t want to be.
What advice would you give to your younger self if you met her today?
I have a few things I would tell my younger self:
First, I would have told her to select a STEM program for my undergrad.
[For future young Julies, there are now a great many programs out there to expose and train girls on STEM subjects at a younge age—like our charity partner, GirlStart, for example!]
Second, I would have given myself more time to enjoy myself when I was younger instead of being so focused on school and work.
Finally, I would do a much better job of keeping in contact with my network of colleagues and friends. This last one is so important. Your network is one of the most important things you can build, but to have a good one, it takes care and nurturing.