Alyson Crafton wants to start a fire

  • Alyson’s ‘accidental career path’ went from family therapy fantasies to managing IT operations
  • Getting rid of impostor syndrome is advice she gives to young women

“I manage the internal activities of the IT organization,” says Alyson Crafton, head of the Global Information Systems (GIS) Common Services organization. “My team’s job is to facilitate the work of my peers so that they can focus on providing IT services to the business!” This is no easy task given that GIS has over 250 employees worldwide whose work affects how we work. (Do you think your laptop magically came out of nowhere, or our payroll system is ready to go right out of the box?)

On September 22, Alyson will appear at the Grace Hopper Conference in Florida alongside Lubab-Davis sheetVice President of Strategy and Innovation, and Soon KuekGeneral Manager of Lam’s Malaysian Operations. The trio will lead a workshop on career development and empowerment. Grace Hopper is the premier conference in the United States for women in technology.

We caught up with Alyson in late August to talk about her career and get her advice for young women starting their careers. We also found out what her dad thinks she does for a living. (He’s a long way off.) The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What exactly are you doing?

Officially, I lead the GIS common services organization. I think of myself as the COO of IT—COO of information technology. I run the IT organization management business. My team of 11 puts processes, tools and accountability systems in place so that IT can do its job easily. We also develop fundraising strategies for our service, participate in annual operating reviews, and assist with organizational change management, program management, and vendor management.

Describe your professional background.

I like to say that I had an accidental career path. I started out thinking I would be a family therapist, but changed course and got an MBA in finance. I then went to Intel where I spent 25 years. At Intel, I had many roles, as you can imagine. I have held positions in the supply chain IT organization for 10 years. Then I spent time going back and forth between the IT and operations teams.

What attracted you to Lam?

A friend of mine connected me with Rob Hawthorne, our director of information. In my first conversation with him, we talked about the transformation he wanted to bring to the GIS organization. I was drawn to the challenge and the opportunity to bring about real change. Lam was – and still is – ready for significant growth and change.

I was also struck by Lam’s genuine commitment to his core values. Everyone I interviewed truly embodied these values.

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What motivates you?

The opportunity to have an impact on a daily basis. I’ve had roles where my job was just to make things work. And I’m part of it. But we have so many opportunities within GIS and within the company. What got us here will not get us to the next phase. We must change, refine and mature to get where we want to be.

I like being able to improve processes. I hope I can also bring out the best in people. I like to see others grow. Helping people think differently or achieve something great motivates me. I want to leave Lam’s employees better than I met them. You could say I get my motherly fix at work now that my kids are adults and out of the house.

Describe your leadership style.

Years ago, I decided it would be the four Fs: firm, fair, fast, and fun. I try to listen so that we can all move forward. I also think it is important for leaders to take a stand. Leaders must be able to change their minds. Be flexible, yes, but have a point of view. You have to steer the ship in one direction and do it in a friendly way. I also want to build relationships, be a connector.

I spend a lot of time with Lam, so I want to make sure I’m friendly and fun. There is room at work to have a good time! Having fun goes a long way in keeping people engaged and productive.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Energetic. Driven. I am patient.

Energy is important. People get their energy from leaders. I want to be the person who gives energy, not who drains it.

I am also self-motivated or results-oriented. We are here to get things done. There’s room to chat and slow down, but ultimately let’s do things that move the ball down the court.

Impatience is a strength and a curse. I will always work on my need to go-go-go. I have a general sense of urgency. I want to get things done quickly without sacrificing quality. We have huge aspirations. It takes a results-based approach to get things done. I want to light a fire!

And what three words would your teammates use to describe you?

I am patient! [laughter]. Also positive and connector. We work in a system. I’m trying to understand how this person’s work connects to another person’s work and brings things together.

What are you talking about at Grace Hopper?

I’m on a panel with Lubab and Soon titled “Breaking Barriers Through Innovation”. At Grace Hopper, among others, young women seek advice on how to navigate their careers. We will talk about the challenges we have encountered in our careers and how, through innovation, we have overcome these obstacles.

What is the takeaway you want attendees to take home?

I’ll give you two.

First, I want women to be authentic. You can be authentic and successful. Get rid of the impostor syndrome. Don’t try to be a man. Be yourself. I am a great example. I had a successful career just being me.

Second, Lam is a really cool place with cool women at the helm! We want to make attendees more curious about our company.

What career advice do you have for young women in tech?

I’ve learned over the course of my career that women tend to hide their personalities at work, for whatever reason. Be your authentic self. Stay curious. Build a wide range of experiences throughout your career. I worked on the technical side and the commercial side. Thanks to this, I was able to make connections and create end-to-end solutions. Building a broad perspective makes you more effective.

And if you want to be a mom, be a mom! I left Intel as VP and joined Lam as GM…and had four kids along the way!

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