Carey Bzdok: “Be true and authentic to yourself and you will be successful”
Written by Kimberly Jacobs
For this Teal Carpet interview Kimberly Jacobs, Digital Content Manager at Women Who Code sits down with Carey Bzdok, Senior Director of Application Development with Ally. They discuss the trajectory of Carey’s career over the past two decades, her experiences as a working mother, and breast cancer survivor, and her experiences as a technologist in the banking industry.
20 years and five companies is an impressive resume, tell us more about your career journey.
I went to the University of Michigan. The programs that colleges have today for technology, and women in technology are so much better than when I was in school. I majored in economics but knew that I wanted to go into computer science. I started my first job and I kind of faked, pretended that I knew how to code. I’d go home at night and learn what I needed to learn and then come back the next day and code, acting like I knew what I was doing.
Over the years I continued to find resources to learn. I worked for a couple of companies in Michigan, and then I had a job here in North Carolina. I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been in a number of different companies, some small, some really big ones. Each one has helped me to grow. I started out as a software developer, writing Java. I love working with the database. Then I transitioned more into architecture and team lead. I enjoy mentoring people. My strengths lie in guiding people in architecting larger designs. I still get that technical flair, even though I’m not writing code on a daily basis.
What is it like being an engineer, specifically in the banking industry?
I’ve had experience in a number of different industries, so I’ll say a couple of things. Technology is its own industry, and so whether there’s a focus in finance or a focus in healthcare, technology is technology. I think that based upon the industry, you can afford some risk. In financial industries, you can’t take some of those risky moves because they’re regulated.
I think that the small companies that I’ve worked for have provided some great opportunities. I would push code right to production. But then, at some of the bigger banks, you get to see how things work in a corporate environment. I think that understanding why certain things are a certain way and why you can’t just push code to production, how that can impact you is really good to understand. It makes you more sensitive to some of the confines that you have around building and developing.
Tell us more about what you do at Ally.
I’ve been at Ally for about three and a half years. When you go to ally.com and log in, all of those authenticated capabilities, my team builds the back-end components for. Ally is kind of in the middle of the road. We’ve got the big things and then the real small start-up companies. It’s a best-of-both-worlds mentality and they’re really pushing innovation. The leverage that we’re given to find new and innovative ways to do things, it’s really differentiating Ally from other financial industries and companies that I’ve worked for.
Can you talk a little bit about the Women in Technology program that they have?
I’ve had wonderful mentors, but they’ve all been male. A woman’s perspective on things, the way that they tackle problems, the way that they emerge from a very male-dominated industry is critical. I’ve never had that guidance. In the position that I’m in, I’m hoping to make a difference and help mentor people. Ally has given me a great opportunity to go further than what I could do by myself. They started a Women in Technology group, which is actually sponsored by our CTO. It’s very important to him to be able to promote Women in Technology. The things that we’ve been able to do with Career Fairs, Girls Who Code, Women Who Code, and a lot of the other areas are supercritical and important.
You are a mother with a thriving career. How was that transition? You’re also a breast cancer survivor. How were you supported during that time? How did you get through it?
I have two kids that are 14 months apart, I’m also a single mom, and then having a breast cancer diagnosis. There was a blur of years. I would not have made it through if it weren’t for my faith, my family, my friends, and my companies. I got diagnosed with breast cancer four months after I joined Ally.
People who didn’t even yet know me, the outpouring, the outreach, and the support that they provided, was tremendous. I poured myself into my work. I tried to make it so my day-to-day wasn’t any different. The support of my peers, my friends, prayer and the community really helped push me to keep going. Before I knew it, I was on the other side and I was stronger. I also didn’t feel like I had sacrificed my career.
I’ll also say, you have to give yourself grace. You have to prioritize what’s most important to you. For me, it’s always going to be my family. When I couldn’t jump on a call at five or six at night because I had to go pick up my kids, I didn’t do it. I kept my priorities straight. Find a company that supports your priorities and then you give yourself grace.
What pro-tip do you have for women in technology?
You do you, boo. I’ve seen in my own career that I have, at times, changed my personality because I was mirroring peers or colleagues, and men in this case, and that wasn’t me. I realized that you bring your own special perspectives to things, and that’s why you’re important. If we had the same type of people in all these meetings, it would be a really dull universe. Don’t conform to what you think that your role should be. Don’t conform to how you feel that you need to act. Be true and authentic to yourself and you will be successful.