Female Leader in Tech: Kelly Ireland

Kelly Ireland focuses on client needs and constant change to propel CBT forward

as featured in the Women’s Enterprise USA (WE USA) Magazine – Volume III, 2019

Leadership in the technology space requires the abilities of anticipating future trends and adapting quickly in an always-changing industry. CBT, under the guidance of founder and CEO Kelly Ireland, has developed these abilities through innovative product offerings, strategic partnerships and a solutions-focused mentality.

While the products and services are evolving, she credits much of her success to two values that have remained constant since she founded the company in 2001 — a customer-first approach and a steadfast appreciation of and respect for her employees.

“Every year we review our core values, and it’s interesting because the values and our mission have never changed and are central to who we are — in addition to the technical expertise we bring,” Ireland said.

The Orange, California-based CBT provides clients integrated technology solutions, including information technology supply-chain optimization, high-performance computing and asset intelligence. After more than 20 years as a programmer and corporate IT leader, she started the company in the spare bedroom of her home with four employees, mortgaging her house and borrowing against her 401(k). It was the first of many risks she took as an entrepreneur in building a successful company that now has 50 employees.

In 2015, Ireland made a significant investment to successfully transition CBT from a solely value-added reseller to a systems integrator company, hiring engineering experts and developing integrated and customized solutions for customers.

“We had to hire the right people and understand that we were going to create things and people might not buy them,” she said. “The industry changes so much, and when it makes diverse changes, you have to be in the position to move with it.”

Ireland’s focus on the customer did not change with the evolution of the company. In fact, it was her client-centered approach and anticipation of needs that led to the change i.e., understanding there were new and innovative strategies that CBT could bring to its customers.

“You do what the client needs, and you are proactive and ahead of them in terms of what they need at every point possible,” she said.

One area where Ireland and CBT focus on long-term goals is in asset intelligence — developing solutions for clients to bridge the gap between data and information, maximizing the potential of the industrial internet of things or IIoT.

Working with customers and strategic partners in industries such as aerospace and oil and gas, the company is already standing out as an innovator, leveraging its employees’ experience in both operational and information technology.

“There are very few who can challenge us and what we are capable of doing in a brand-new market,” Ireland said. “We know what we bring to the market, and we know we’re well ahead. Our goal is to stay ahead.”

A self-described “STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] girl before STEM was anything,” she recognizes the challenges women in IT face — often, she is the only woman in industry events — and understands the importance of differentiating her company from competitors.

“Being a small, woman-owned technology company, it’s hard to get clients to believe we can offer so much, but we have to get past that,” Ireland said.

She credits organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council for helping her gain exposure and build her network with other female entrepreneurs and corporations. She advises other women — especially those in technology — to be present and make their voice heard when they have a seat at the table.

Ireland has also benefited from many mentors — male, female, older and younger. In addition, she makes mentoring young female entrepreneurs and technologists a priority in her schedule.

CBT hosts an annual fundraiser benefiting one of California’s largest mental and behavioral health providers. She also works with the organization Generation YES which focuses on developing student technology leaders — something she believes is vital not just for the future of CBT, but also for the industry.

“I am especially concerned with developing the IT workforce and getting more women into leadership roles in technology,” Ireland said. “I believe we should all be embracing and supporting the education changes that need to come about to arm leaders with the skills to succeed in real-world technology jobs down the line.”

Check out Women’s Enterprise USA (WE USA) Magazine to read the full article.

**This content was originally written by Caryn Berardi for WE USA, Vol.3, 2019