Deb Dendy is a Business Coach, Workshop Guide & Podcast Host. She is a wife to her husband for >27 years, mother of 3 awesome young adults, and an entrepreneur at heart. The first test she ever flunked was in electrical engineering and because she loves a challenge – she knew that was the right place to start her career. She has tackled many roles in her career – starting as a circuit design engineer for satellite communications and taking on new challenges every few years. As an entrepreneur, she has helped build 2 companies in the communications and semiconductor markets. She has held numerous leadership roles in engineering, operations and HR and now as a Business Coach and Workshop Guide for MacklinConnection. She is grateful for the many people who have helped her learn and grow throughout her career and who were willing to give me new opportunities.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I was studious and curious as a child with a passion for playing sports. Whether it was soccer or tennis – I loved playing the games, especially with a team. I had many great teachers who fostered my love for Math and Science. I always knew I would do something in the Science realm because that is what really challenged me and kept me engaged.
At home – my role models were my Mom and my Grandma. My Mom was passionate about helping others and served as a city council person and on the planning commission for my home town of Madison, Wisconsin, USA. My Grandma was also an amazing person who cared about working conditions for people. She was the first woman president of the State Employees’ Association in California back in 1967.
My role model in tennis was Chris Evert and for soccer, it was Pele. They were both extremely talented without the drama and I followed their example. I always dreamed of being an astronaut and Dr. Sally Ride became the first woman to travel in space just as I was graduating from high school so she was also a role model.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
There were a few turning points in my life. One was the first day of class in engineering school where my professor announced that women do not belong in engineering. I was one of only a handful of women and I took this to mean that I would be challenged and would have to rise to that challenge. I would have to work hard and that is exactly what I did.
Another turning point was meeting my first mentor in engineering, Warren Seely. He did not care if I was male, female, or space alien – just that I could learn and engage. He opened up so much new knowledge for me. Then I met my next mentor, David Corman. Dave also gave me the opportunity to learn new things and grow my skills. He believed in me and allowed me to fail and to succeed in order to learn. I am deeply indebted to these caring individuals who took me under their wing and supported me. And today, I am working with another one of my mentors and friends, Ron Macklin. His belief in me to learn and try new things has truly enabled me to see myself as “enough” and for that I am so thankful.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
I started my career working for a very large company but it was pretty stifling in terms of all the rules you had to follow. I like to be creative and sometimes there was not a lot of room for that or for me to just be myself. So when one of my mentors called and invited me to be part of his new company, the excitement of being able to create something from scratch prompted me to accept right away. I was also fascinated to learn more about business in general, not just the business of circuit design.
The second company I helped re-start was formed because there was a clear need for low cost, millimeter-wave advanced ICs in the semiconductor marketplace and other companies were not designing in that space. If that sounds like a mouthful, it is. The best part of forming that company was working with some of the best and brightest people I have ever worked with and they also gave me the chance to grow and learn new things.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
Working now with MacklinConnection – I joined because I saw first hand the changes people made (including me) to their lives and their ability to develop relationships with their co-workers, friends and family. Because we all need help and are insufficient to do everything on our own, it is our ability to create strong and authentic connections with others that enables us to try new things, take on new roles, and create the world we want. Being part of MacklinConnection allows me to do that each and everyday. We are helping others learn the most important skills for the future including leadership, collaboration, communication, and how to build authentic relationships which will enable them to literally change their world. That is the impact we want to make.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
When you start a new venture, you never have enough help. While that usually means working harder and even longer hours, it can also mean learning a lot which is gratifying. I try to focus on the positive side and if it does get to be too much, I ask for help.
Starting a new venture is also scary. Perhaps you have a family to support, bills to pay, and you’re not sure where or when the money will come. The best coping mechanism I know of is to first – believe in yourself, and second – to believe in others. Believe that you can learn and make it happen. Believe that the others around you are a great help. And then – get to work together. Forge strong relationships within your company and with your customers and vendors. Also, if you find a situation where you messed something up – own it. Take responsibility and clean things up rather than looking for others to blame.
Because the world is changing so quickly, I also find it is a requirement to continue learning new skills. Start a study group. Read a book together and discuss it. Take a class. Watch videos on the internet as a group and discuss them. Those that stop learning cannot adapt to the changes and make themselves obsolete.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
The pandemic opened my eyes to how people in some industries can work effectively from home. While I see this as a plus for people desiring work/life balance, I also see that relationships can degrade without some impetus to stay connected with your colleagues. It has been proven that teams outperform individuals which makes these relationships critical for innovation and creativity.
Personally, the pandemic helped me realize on an existential level that I wanted to help more people in the world and I could not do that in the role I was holding at the time. Even though I was scared, I saw this as an opportune time to make a change in my career. This change to now working with MacklinConnection also allowed me to be more present with my family – something I had missed while I was traveling extensively for my last 2 companies. So while the pandemic has been such a tragedy, I have also seen great personal growth and I am happy to be where I am both personally and professionally.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
It’s not so much about awards or titles for me. The relationships I’ve built with others and our ability to collaborate and create together to do amazing things – that I view as my greatest accomplishment. I am proud of being able to hold different roles in my career – and roles I sought out myself because of my interests. I’m also proud that I did not let obstacles stop me from doing what I wanted. I think I learned the most from overcoming the obstacles.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would like to see us building people up in the world and giving everyone opportunities no matter their [insert label here]. Being able to see and treat people as people and not as a certain race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation… – that is what I would like to see in the world. I would also like to break down the stereotypes of what people “should” do and allow them to find the path in life that they want.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
The most important things I’ve learned are threefold: 1) the power of building a strong network of help; 2) the power of persistence; and 3) the power of learning from my mistakes.
1) The relationships I have built and cultivated throughout my career have not only been fun and rewarding but also very helpful to me. My mentors, colleagues, friends and family have all been critical to my success. I have only interviewed for a job once in my life – directly out of University. All other jobs I have either been asked to join or I asked to join the company and they accepted and this was due to my relationships with them.
2) If I had listened to the engineering professor who told me women did not belong in engineering, I never would have become an electrical engineer which I loved. The persistence to go after what I wanted was and still is key to living a good life for me.
3) And learning from my mistakes is also key to being able to grow my skills. Textbook learning works to a point but you’ll never forget the lesson from really messing something up.
My personal motto: “I am Enough”
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Studies have shown that having women in leadership roles can boost performance and profitability for a company so why is it we are still struggling to add women to such leadership roles? Is it resistance to change? Is it fear of losing power? All of these are questions I ask myself. I believe what it comes down to is people who are able to notice and trust the skills and abilities of women and bring them into leadership roles will outperform the companies that don’t. Investors will notice this. Future employees will notice this. And this noticing will apply even more pressure to people in companies to open up leadership opportunities for women. This is what I hope for. And if women are not promoted into such leadership opportunities, I see an amazing space for these female entrepreneurs to start their own companies.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
I would ask a question – what is it you truly want? And, is there a story you have in your head that is holding you back from trying it? What is that story and how can you change it? I believe if there is something you are passionate about – try it!
The best advice I can give is to build a strong network of help of people that will challenge and support you. People who will help you learn and grow your skills. People who you care about and they care about you.