Ahead of International Women’s Day this weekend, we asked our team to celebrate some of the women they most admire. Any person can be a role model—a family member, a public figure, a celebrity, a fictional character—and the responses of those who contributed to this blog post are a testament to that. Below is a small sampling of the women we look up to, revere and aim to be more like. Each of these ladies demonstrates a strength of character that is both formidable and honorable, and it’s a privilege to celebrate them here.
Honoring the Women Who Inspire Us
We’re proud to be a part of a company, and an industry, that is advocating more and more for women to play an active role in the community. When there are more distinct voices involved in the conversation, there is the potential for more change, more empathy and greater success. Innovation and pushing progress is what tech is all about, and the women we honor in this blog are those who have taught us to strive for excellence and encouraged us to step fully into our agency.
Justin Lyons – Experience Engineer
My grandma (I call her Mamaw) is someone I’ve always looked up to. She’s shown me every day of my life how strong and loving a woman can be. Her grace, generosity and smile know no bounds! She’s impacted me by not letting me be a dummy while guiding me to become the man I am today. I love you, Mamaw!
Tracy O’Connell – Legal Assistant
I admire my sister, Nancy Davis. She loves fiercely and is one of my strongest supporters, as well as a second mother to me (which I appreciate sometimes) and best friend (which I always appreciate). Recently, she has impressed me with her bravery, leaving a company she had been with for many years to try new opportunities.
I also admire Maggie Smith because she is Minerva McGonagall and Violet Crawley!
Carter Link – Graphic Designer
One woman that I admire is my high school art teacher, Ruth Vesanen. She is someone who gave me confidence in my artistic ability and, ultimately, helped determine my career path. When I came into her class as a sophomore in high school, I was very unsure of my abilities. I had grown up creating art and media, but I had not ever had the space to explore that under a teacher with a broad range of knowledge in the subject. When I came into her class, she helped refine my skills in drawing and painting, and she assigned me projects that allowed me to explore ideas in photography and digital media.
Ruth not only taught me many things herself, but she also pushed me to explore opportunities outside the classroom. Ultimately, this led me to two summers studying photography at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain, an intensive two-week course taught by prestigious Oklahoma artists. She also pushed me to enter my work into competitions, which led to several accolades, including an award that resulted in my work being hung in the Congressional Tunnel in Washington D.C. for a year. These experiences and awards led me to realize that I wanted to pursue a creative career, and when I told Mrs. Vesanen, she helped guide me to graphic design. I can’t thank her enough for the way she nurtured my artistic abilities and encouraged me to try new things.
Above: Mrs. Vesanen and me at a high school graduation party in 2014
Lindsey Saunders – Systems Engineer
I know it sounds strange, but I spent my formative years watching Buffy fight back again and again, and her attitude has carried over into my life. She didn’t always win; sometimes , the odds were insurmountable. Still, she kept getting back up again and kept trying to fight for what was important. Even at her lowest, she managed to pull out incredible strength, resiliency and belief in herself. It taught me that we’re all so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for and that our friends and family are an invaluable part of our strength. I’m glad I can channel Buffy when times are tough!
Garrett Sauls – Communications Manager
I have to start by saying that it is pretty much impossible to measure the impact that so many influential women have had on my life. So, I’ll focus on two of the nearest examples: my mom and my wife.
Let’s start with my mom, Kathy Sauls, since she was literally the first woman I ever met. I admire my mom for a lot of the obvious reasons a son would admire his mom, but some things that stand out to me are her work ethic, her entrepreneurial spirit and her kindness. I feel fortunate that I grew up in a household with two working parents because it gave me two excellent examples of how to balance work and family. After years of working in insurance, my mom eventually decided to start her own business. I think that courage and drive really rubbed off on me. Perhaps more than anything, my mom has been the ultimate model of kindness and helpfulness. She is always concerned with the wellbeing of others over herself and consistently finds opportunities to serve others. One example of this that always stands out was her leadership of a program called Dress for Success in our hometown. This program helped women with limited resources prepare for career opportunities. I could go on and on about my mom, but she taught me what it was to pursue things you’re passionate about while helping others along the way.
Now we move onto the person I spend the most time with and who has had the most impact on me in my adult life—my wife, Courtney Sauls. Strong, intelligent, driven, funny, adventurous and supremely empathic are all fantastic adjectives to describe her. She is one of those rare people that will do exactly what she sets her mind to. Case in point: she always knew she wanted to be a pediatrician, and last year, she finished her final year of residency and landed her dream job. That’s four years of undergrad, four years of medical school and three years of residency to reach this point. Through it all, there were countless hours spent studying, countless 24-hour shifts and countless people affected by her care. She is the first person I think of when I think of someone who is purpose-driven. This has had an incredible impact on me, but when I think of the example she sets for our 16-month-old son, I get a little misty-eyed. Again, I could go on for days about Courtney, but that drive to help others definitely tops the list. She also puts up with me, which is worthy of some sort of medal.
Above: Courtney and my mom at OSU graduation in 2012
Robert Curtis – ANZ Market Lead
The woman that has had the most impact on me is my grandmother, Dorothy Kroamer. She raised me, along with my brother and two sisters. As a little girl in the Great Depression, she worked into her 70s, every day, without complaint. And she was hilarious.
Garben Willis – Systems Engineer
Someone I certainly admire is my grandmother, Helen Johns. She was certainly no stranger to struggle, but our existence as a family is a testament to her tenacity. She was married to my grandfather, but he traveled, so she raised my father and his five brothers (two of whom died as children) on her own through the Great Depression. She also fell victim to energy corporations stealing tribal members’ land: she was told energy exploration was what she had signed a contract for, but eventually learned our family land was taken in whole from us (Johns Valley, OK). She also did not teach Choctaw to any of her kids because she believed that the tribe would no longer exist, and she wanted the family blood to survive in the “white world” even if all of our culture was lost.
Through all of that loss, she stayed the course. My father taught us the language and told us her stories. As sad as they are, they were the cornerstone of my development as a child and what continue to influence my life. She stands as a constant reminder to never relent, even if failure or loss is guaranteed. In a world where it feels like tribal rights, sovereignty and relevance are consistently being eroded, she reminds me that although the end of our culture may be inevitable, it certainly will not occur while I’m alive.
Lyah Barberan – Project Coordinator
This 17 year-old from Sweden has been speaking out passionately about climate change and what we can do as humans to save our world. She’s sparked up a conversation about climate change that not many of our politicians were ready for, and I’m all in for it. When faced with backlash and personal criticism on her Asperger’s, she refers to it like a superpower, and I think she serves as a solid role model for young people today. Her courage and tenacity to lead climate change initiatives inspires others and will ultimately improve our planet. Essentially, she’s fiery, confident and powerful—all the makings of an incredibly impactful woman, and I’m so glad she’s here!
Above: Image courtesy of TIME Magazine. Greta was chosen as the Person of the Year for 2019.
Azucena Coronel – Data Engineer
“When my future was taken from me, I knew I had two options: To speak out or remain silent. To be silent was no hope.”
One of the biggest things that I admire about Malala is her great courage to speak up and keep working to promote education for all children; thus, the threats, the gunshots she fortunately survived and the heartbreaking situation of being unable to return to her country and family. This has affected me as I’m a great believer in education as a vehicle for human development, and I firmly think that all people across the world (and even more so, children) deserve and need access to education. Also, I can relate to Malala as a foreigner living in another country. I could not imagine being unable to return to my hometown in Mexico. Yet even as difficult as this is to endure, she hasn’t stepped away from fighting for her beliefs or pushing the world to improve education for all children.
Above: This is a picture from where Malala visited Sydney in December 2018. Unfortunately, I got tickets for her speech but was unable to attend the presentation. Fortunately, one good friend used the tickets and was able to enjoy Malala’s inspiring speech.
“When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
One of the books that I’ve enjoyed the most is Becoming, a memoir deliciously written by Michelle Obama. In this book, she talks about everything from where and how she grew up to her role in Obama’s campaigns and, later, the experience she had as First Lady of the U.S.
I’ve always admired two main things about Michelle. For starters, she seems like a whole and well-balanced person, and this has a great impact on me as I strive to be like that myself. Throughout her book, she shares several stories that portray her balancing professional commitments, family and personal interests. The second thing I greatly admire about her is that she seems to be constantly mentoring and helping others; one demonstration of her kindness is the program she developed as First Lady to build a garden in the White House and invite kids from the community to help with it. All this was done to inspire community-building and show others how to eat and live well.
Kendra Allenspach – Analytics Consultant
The women I admire most are a group close to my heart, and my bloodline: the Allbee women. It’s hard to describe in words how much these women mean to me, but I’ll do my best.
Our matriarch Sue leads our family with grace, and a little bit of sass, which is honestly needed to keep us all in line. She has a soft heart and thick skin, and I hope every day to be as cool as she is when I’m 82. I’ve grown up my whole life being told I’m a ‘Lynne mini-me,’ and I have always taken that as the highest compliment. My mom is the absolute best! She is a role model in so many ways and has taught my sister and me how to be strong, independent women who can achieve their dreams with a little hard work and a lot of faith. My Aunt Alison and Aunt Heather both qualify for ‘cool aunt’ status. As mothers of only sons, they adopted me and my sister as their pseudo-daughters, spoiling us and teaching us a thing or two along the way. Whether I need professional advice, boy advice or just a listening ear during a hard time, I know I can call either of them and they’ll be eager to help.
And last but not least, my younger sister, Paige, takes the cake for not only being the best sister but also the best friend. She is wise beyond her 25 years and is a boss babe if I’ve ever known one. While I maybe didn’t like her at first for stealing my spotlight, I now can’t imagine life without her. One of my favorite pastimes is making her laugh, and I think that probably goes both ways. It doesn’t take much to keep us entertained as long as we’re together. Getting to live in California and being only an hour away from one another for the first time in 10 years has been a dream come true.
Andrea Avey – Content Coordinator
I want to celebrate my mom every day but especially on International Women’s Day. I admire her courage, strength and perseverance in the face of the unknown. She was brave enough to strike out on a new career path, leaving a well-established role in which she excelled to pursue something more fulfilling and freeing. She’s selfless and has always been there when I’ve needed her, no matter when or where. She inspires me to be a woman who is unafraid to live according to her own lights, leads by example and asserts her voice, especially when it’s hard.