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WiT Interview with Natascha Thomas, Development Center Director at Rural Sourcing

Women in Technology WNY is here to feature the stories of women in our local community and the various technology roles they fill, traditional and non-traditional. TechBuffalo is here to highlight these women to encourage others to not only explore technology opportunities but to take advantage of them. Buffalo newcomer Natascha sat down with me to chat about her journey from research to video games, finding her new home in Buffalo, and how being your own advocate will help you go farther in your career.

Would you mind telling us about your journey in tech?
I didn’t start my career in tech. Believe it or not, I went to college, did premed, graduated with neuroscience, and thought that’s what I was going to do. I was going to either be a doctor or do research science. At the time, it was hard to find a good-paying job doing research, and then when I found one, it barely paid, and it wasn’t fun.

I had always loved video games and I had some friends that I went to college with that worked at Activision doing beta testing for video games. My friend was a test lead at the time and suggested I join, and I really liked it. I was a paid contractor and played video games! I absolutely loved it. So, I tested games for a few years, network testing, and manual testing, and then started applying for jobs in production or project management. I got my first regular full-time job in 2005 at NovaLogic as an associate producer, which was a junior project manager and I loved it. This was before Agile. Everything at that time was Waterfall and I got to work directly with developers. I wasn’t testing anymore, so I kind of missed that, but all the submissions, paperwork, dates, and attention to detail –  I really loved it. That’s when it clicked and realized this is what I want to do. I wanted to be a project manager.

Can you tell us about your current role?
Before I got this job, I was a project manager with Rural Sourcing. My current role is a development center director, and my main job is to make sure we bring in the right talent and keep the right talent. I’m here to support our colleagues. The reason I took this job is that at Rural Sourcing as a project manager, you’re also an account manager, you manage the client relationship, and you support your colleagues. Our projects and our company are nothing without our colleagues. We sell people. If your people are unhappy or they feel unsupported, they’re not going to be able to deliver. I was one of the project managers with some of the biggest accounts, my people felt supported, and I liked supporting them. Helping clear their issues and sometimes just being an ear in case they just needed someone to listen to them. That’s why I decided to take this job. Of course, there are financials and dates and things like that, but at the core, my job is to support my colleagues.

What influenced you to take this journey to Buffalo?
Well, I relocated to Mobile, Alabama for my last project manager role, and my family and I were open to a change. An opportunity opened in Buffalo, and we visited and loved the town. There is a great sense of community and pride. We also liked the idea of having four seasons. We had never been to the East Coast, so from this, we could say that we’ve lived from coast to coast. We were ready for Buffalo. Buffalo was a very good fit for me and my family.

What is something you wish you would have known at the start of your career?
I wish I would have known at the start of my career that hard work is not enough. Performing is not enough for you to get promoted. You have to cheerlead for yourself. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not a fun conversation to have, but you have to ask for what you know you deserve because nothing will ever be handed to you.

What advice do you have for women when it comes to taking on that leadership role? How can we inspire more women to become leaders in their organizations?
This is my opinion, but I think it is harder for women to break into leadership roles. I believe that men are promoted on potential, and women are promoted after they prove they can do the job. So, I’d say for women, make it clear what you’re doing. People aren’t going to always look at you when they have that leadership role open. You have to be more intentional about creating an executive presence, and a brand for yourself. We have to be harder and louder and more intentional.

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