Joan Smemoe brings a fresh approach to breaking the barriers for women’s success in the fields of technology, rail, software development, and computer science engineering. Smemoe started her career with Railinc in 2006 as a senior software engineer, polishing her skills in leadership as she spearheaded application engineering as Railinc director of the department. In June 2018, Smemoe was appointed the company’s Chief Information Officer as well as the Vice President of Information Technology. She attributes her success to an environment that supports diversity – regardless of gender, in addition to a strong team of mentors that helped guide her career success.
“The big takeaway is having a reliable and robust succession planning. This is vital to minimize disruption and impact to an organization, and of course made my life very easy,” Smemoe explained. “Railinc leadership is really big about succession planning. I was put on the successor path for 3 plus years and I had the CEO as a very close mentor. When I was preparing for my new role as CIO, my predecessor also provided robust mentorship, so I was learning closely with senior leadership and preparing myself. Additionally, I gained a lot of trust and support along the way from my peers because they all knew that at the end of my boss’s retirement, I would be the designated CIO.”
When leading her team, Smemoe focuses on the bigger picture, including both short-term and long-term goals in strategies, especially when integrating automation and technology solutions into operations. She doesn’t believe in a “one size fits all” strategy when it comes to solutions development and advocates for all technology leaders to evaluate customer and company needs and how current and future employees can provide the best form of support.
“It really requires people to be more flexible, meaning that as developers they may have the core competency in software development while they’re also wearing the hat of understanding business process, customer needs, as well as IT infrastructure,” Smemoe explained. “When looking for talent, the candidates have to be willing to go outside their core skill set and pick up some other competencies. That’s the key to make sure your automation integration is successful.”
Smemoe’s advice to her female peers and women in the industry is to never give up and break through the glass ceiling mentality.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s a little bit of a self-imposed limitation for women. I think it’s very important to continue telling success stories and building that confidence. As long as you continue to show your ability to execute , have good ideas, and demonstrate technical compentency, your result and talents will be recognized.”