Anita Engles, Evan Marwell Visonary of the Year Scholarship Winner Announced

AEAnita Engles’ advice to women in tech is simple: “Know your stuff, stand your ground, and don’t accept second place.” In honor of Evan Marwell, who was the winner of the Visionary of the Year Award in 2015, Saint Mary's College awarded Engles, a new SEBA executive MBA student, a $10,000 sponsorship on Jan 13. “I am stunned, extremely grateful, and honored to be the recipient of the Evan Marwell Scholarship,” said Engles, who has worked for over 30 years in the tech industry.

The School of Economics and Business Administration at Saint Mary’s and the San Francisco Chronicle have partnered to recognize visionary leaders who have made a difference in the Bay Area and beyond. Last year, Evan Marwell, founder of the nonprofit, EducationSuperhighway, was chosen as winner from among a field of 13 prominent nominees, his goal to help connect every public classroom to high-speed Internet and the 21st century. He won the ear of the Federal Communications Commission in 2013 and, in 2014, persuading them to unleash billions in federal funding to address the problem. As part of the campaign, SEBA offered a scholarship to an incoming graduate student who exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit of the Visionary of the Year Award and its winner.

Choosing the scholarship recipient this year was no easy task. Anita Engles had just the right combination of experience and skills. Faculty and staff were particularly impressed with Engles' history as technologist and manager, as well as Engles' significant volunteer contributions, including serving on the board of the Community Women’s Orchestra and volunteering for the San Francisco Opera. 

Fascinated with the cultures of the world—an interest developed through extensive travel—Engles chose Saint Mary’s for her MBA based on the school’s focus on sustainability and social responsibility. She has high hopes that the program will be a catalyst to discovering or developing a business or program in line with SEBA’s values, Think Globally, Lead Responsibly.

Planning to stay in tech, Engles would like to explore her entrepreneurship side, and is considering startup ideas that she believes could attract funding. In five years, she hopes to be running her own company. In the meantime, she is seeking more senior advancement such as regular, senior or executive vice president in a technology role where she can work to develop new technologies to bring to market.

Currently, Engles works as the director of product management at TriNet, a cloud-based professional employer organization. In this role, she manages multiple products and product managers, developing and supporting them to ensure that they support the company’s main goal: to administer payroll and health benefits as well as advise clients on employment law compliance and risk reduction.

Engles acknowledges that one of her most significant challenges over the years has been the gender imbalance of the tech industry. Engles lamented that even famous actress Jennifer Lawrence spoke on "Charlie Rose" recently about the problems women face, not just in tech, but in the general working world—from acting to sales—with unequal pay differential. At her first job in engineering, Engles worked for six months as the lunchtime receptionist in addition to her other duties, because she needed the job and didn't want to rock the boat. "I was a staff developer (also known as a programmer or software engineer) and lunch coverage of the phones was in addition to my regular duties," said Engles. After learning that none of her male colleagues were expected to act in this role, she finally lobbied for a transfer. 

When she started her career, all of her peers were men, but, she said, they were very accepting of her, helping her learn as she went along. “Thirty years is a long time,” said Engles. “I have, over the years, experienced the glass ceiling and lower pay. I know for a fact that at my last job all of my male peers had higher salaries.” When she questioned this, she was given a small raise, but was not brought up to her peers’ levels. 

Because of her experiences, Engles is an advocate for women in tech, and working women in general. “Women who succeed are still a relative minority but we are gaining ground, and we need to support each other but also stand up for ourselves more,” she said. 

To learn more about the Visionary of the Year Award and find out who the 2016 nominees are, visit www.sfgate.com/visionsf.