Three missions, one woman
IT recruiter helps women succeed in tech through mentoring
By Alex Harrell
After going on a blind date set up by her mother, Megan McCann agreed to a second date—at a wedding. While at the reception, McCann shared a table with a man named Martin Barr. They got talking, and he suggested she meet his sister, Jane Gilligan, since the two were involved in IT recruiting. The meeting, however, never came together. The date didn’t go so well either.
“It’s tough to go to a wedding with someone you don’t know so well, and it was not the best second date,” McCann says.
A couple of years later, she was in the final walk-through of her soon-to-be condo when she noticed a familiar face—Martin Barr. She later learned that the condo belonged to Gilligan, the missed connection from that awful wedding date.
Fast-forward another couple of years and McCann was sitting through a PowerPoint presentation for McCann Partners, an IT recruitment firm she founded in 2011. The presenter, Leslie Vickrey, reached her final slide, which contained a quote from none other than Jane Gilligan. “I was like, ‘Jane Gilligan! I know Jane Gilligan!’ ” McCann recalls.
The three women met for dinner that night, and as a result, ARA was born.
“We kept going to dinner and bringing other friends, and all of a sudden we made this networking group of senior-level women in IT,” she says. “We have dinners on a quarterly basis with about 60 women total, and we’ve continued to do this for, probably, 10 years now.”
ARA—pronounced aura—aims to attract, retain and advance women in technology and give them a stronger voice in the industry by fostering mentorships and hosting events. “There is a talent deficit in technology because there are just not a lot of women in technology,” McCann explains. “We launched an effort to do something proactive for the community in which we work and live in, in support of women.”
Mentorship doesn’t have to be between a senior-level executive and an up-and-comer, McCann explains. Sharing experiences, collaborating and breaking down the communication barriers are what mentor relationships seek to provide, regardless of skill level.
“Mentorship can come from colleagues, it can come from friends, peers, those that report to you or those to whom you report,” she says.
A crucial part of ARA’s mission is ensuring that women know it’s OK to ask questions. At ARA events, the dynamism of these relationships is palpable.
“Creating a forum to make it safe for people to do that, to ask questions without judgment, is really important to me,” McCann says.
“You will feel an energy about the room that, I think, is bred because people are sharing their stories and are relieved and excited and, to some extent, probably disappointed to know that others are having these experiences,” she says.
Aside from being president of McCann Partners and co-founder of ARA, McCann also volunteers at I.C. Stars, a nonprofit, workforce development and leadership program for low-income adults interested in the IT world.
I.C. Stars President and Co-founder Sandee Kastrul compares McCann to a proton.
“You’ll have to forgive me. I’m an old science teacher,” Kastrul laughs. “People are either protons, neutrons, or electrons. Megan is a pure proton. It’s never ‘No’ or ‘Here’s why we can’t do something.’ She’s just like ‘Why not?’ and will work really hard to figure out a solution.”
In addition to working with I.C. Stars, McCann also volunteers with the Illinois chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
McCann doesn’t sit still very often, let alone forgo her to-do list—that is, until she held her “little love bug,” Sadie.
“Any opportunity I got to sit and hold her, I took,” she says. “I didn’t care what I had going on. I knew I was only going to have her for as long as God gave her to us.”
McCann says she’s discovered that sometimes the mentors we need are the ones we would least expect to learn from. Sadie McCann died when she was 3-and-a-half years old, and McCann says she’s applied the lessons she learned from her niece on a daily basis: Make time for what matters to you, regardless of what it may be.
“Sadie taught us great lessons. It would be remiss of us not to keep them in mind and share them.”
Edited and photos by Karina Corona