NEW YORK—While she regularly offers guidance to younger women as they make their way in an industry largely dominated by men, Colleen Miller of tech firm Roltronix told reporters Tuesday she also enjoys knocking one or two down from time to time, just as a treat to herself.
As the sole female executive at a company that employs far more men than women, the 47-year-old vice president of development explained that she’s always glad to provide advice, encouragement, or a bit of camaraderie to new female employees, while also at times singling one out and tearing her down with a few choice words when she feels she needs a little boost.
“Close mentoring relationships are vital if we want more women to succeed in this business, but every now and then it’s really satisfying to just smack a younger colleague down real quick and watch her go crawling back to her desk,” said Miller, admitting that after all the positive reinforcement and support she administers each day, the experience of brusquely putting a coworker in her place is an enjoyable, refreshing change of pace. “It feels great to know I’m helping other women. Of course, it also feels great to blow off some steam by telling someone that, given her limited skills, she’s lucky to have a job here at all.”
“Sometimes I can’t help but pull aside a young woman and tell her that if she hasn’t been able to get the hang of things by now, she probably never will. It’s actually kind of a rush.”
“It’s these special moments of nurturing these young women as they grow and succeed as professionals, and once in a while squashing one into the ground, that make this job so worthwhile,” she added.
Miller told reporters she’ll often take younger coworkers out to lunch to share stories about her early days with the company, pass along some of the wisdom she has gained during her 25-year career, or, when she needs a little pick-me-up, casually ask one of them what makes her think she can succeed with her modest levels of talent and education.
Because women starting out in the tech industry face unique challenges, Miller reportedly goes out of her way to offer them assistance—for example, on how to hold their own in the company’s highly competitive design meetings or deal with a pushy male boss. Only then will she allow herself a reward, she said, such as hammering a flaw in a presentation one of her young colleagues is giving in front of senior management or asking another point-blank if she believes she’s even cut out to be at this company at all.
“I can only go on being an encouraging, supportive role model to these women for so long before I have to cut loose and take one of them down a peg,” said Miller, noting that at any given time she works with eight or nine protégées, one of whom she will sometimes hit with a burst of pure contempt for a quick thrill. “That being said, I recognize that a lot of great women helped me get to where I am today, and so I feel an obligation to help the next generation, whether by providing tips on how to negotiate that next pay raise, or simply reassuring them their hard work has not gone unnoticed.”
“But sometimes I can’t help but pull aside a young woman and tell her that if she hasn’t been able to get the hang of things by now, she probably never will,” she added. “It’s actually kind of a rush.”
In order to remind the women she takes under her wing that she can destroy them every bit as quickly as she has built them up, Miller confirmed she will give one of them the cold shoulder now and again, just to make the young woman wonder what she might have done wrong.
“My door is always open, and for the most part, I will provide a welcoming and positive atmosphere for younger women in this company,” she said. “Though occasionally when one of them walks in, I’ll just break her down right then and there to give myself a nice little lift. For instance, just last week, we had a new engineer who was clearly very talented and had the potential to accomplish a lot with us, but, frankly, it had been way too long since I’d really cut someone down to size. So that’s what I did.”
“It’s wonderful to know I can have such an impact on their lives,” Miller added.