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Women s Leadership Executive Spotlight: Lang Ly

Cindy Cheng, ​Sr. Director of Marketing Communications, EMEA, Appian
December 13, 2013

As part of the recently launched Women's Leadership Program, we are starting a new blog series to highlight accomplished female leaders, engineers, and rising stars at Appian. The first women's leadership employee spotlight is Lang Ly, Vice President of Appian Business Applications. Lang has been working in the software industry for 17 years. She started her career as a Technical Support Engineer at MicroStrategy and quickly rose through the ranks to become a Vice President at the company seven years ago, before she joined Appian.

Could you share with us what attributed to your success and career growth?

[Lang] From the moment, I started my first job my motto has been, "I am going to work myself out of this job," which means to me that:

    • I'm helping make the systems, tools, or processes better to the point where I'm not needed.

    • I'm developing the skills of my team so they can take over.

    • I'm learning and am preparing myself for more challenges.

Oftentimes people focus first on title, money, or the scope of their ownership, but to me these things follow naturally when we focus on making a difference to our business, customers, and colleagues. The best legacy we can leave behind as employees and leaders is that the team can continue successfully without us.

You recently joined Appian as the VP of Appian Business Applications after a 17-year career at MicroStrategy. Why did you join Appian?

[Lang] Prior to joining Appian, I led MicroStrategy's Information Technology business unit. At the time, MicroStrategy had many home-grown systems, which were increasingly becoming too expensive and difficult to maintain. Additionally, I was considering how the team could seamlessly combine information from our business intelligence systems with the actions available in our transactional systems to reduce friction between insight and action. I started looking to reduce the maintenance burden and business friction, which led me to Appian. I believe strongly in the vision of our platform and the strength of the team so decided to join last October.

Could you tell us about the Appian Business Applications group and its mission?

[Lang] Appian Business Applications' mission is to ensure Appian runs every aspect of our business on our software by bringing business functions together through Appian-implemented processes, building on the latest Appian features to prove out the new software features prior to general availability, and making Appian software better through first-hand experience.

What are your impressions of Appian so far?

[Lang] I'm impressed with the level of intellect, inclusiveness, and tenacity of Appian's employees.

You studied Electrical Engineering (EE) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a concentration in physics and a minor in management. Why did you choose to major in EE?

[Lang] From a young age, I didn't play with new toys long before disassembling them to determine how they work. My most interesting project happened when I was about ten years old, when my friend broke her Atari and was going to throw it out. I asked her to allow me to have it so I could figure out how it worked and perhaps fix it, which she did. Two visits to Radio Shack and a day later, I was Jungle Hunting with my very own wood-paneled gaming console. I was hooked on electronics from that point on, so here I am proudly exclaiming, "You can't spell geek' without double-E."

What did you want to be when you were a girl?

[Lang] I wanted to be an astronaut, but didn't every young person of my generation? Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were people I read about and wanted to emulate, but Sally Ride was my first female role model. I was nine when she went up in space for the first time. Looking back on it, it didn't register how important it was for me, but now I know it had a deep psychological impact on my perception of what I could achieve.

What do you like to do after work?

[Lang] I enjoy being outdoors so I rock climb, snowboard, kayak, and hike. These activities challenge my body and focus my mind. Some people treat their bodies like temples, but I treat mine like a four-wheel drive jeep and use it to get me to fantastic and beautiful places. When I'm faced with my own mortality or with the vastness of nature, every other stress is insignificant. Because of my experiences with these activities, I've learned to keep calm when things go pear shaped. When things go wrong in life or at work, that is when you have be at your best.

How do you manage your time and priorities?

[Lang] I understand what is important to me so anything new is sorted into ranked categories and then within those categories into a rank order. We live in a world where everything seems to be important, but that is only a perception we impart on each other and ourselves. If an item has an unclear priority, I ask to ensure I rank it appropriately and give it the time it deserves. I try to remember that if we treat everything as important then we don't end up doing anything well.

What do you love about engineering?

[Lang] I love to solve problems and build things. The sense of achievement and seeing the fruits of my or my team's labor is what I love about engineering.

What are the opportunities you see for women engineers and future technology leaders?

[Lang] The sky is the limit on what we can achieve. We continue to push the perceived limits of the human body, the human mind, and the technologies that serve us. I am in awe when I compare my childhood Atari, rotary phone, typewriter, Commodore 64 days to my programmable Xbox, iPhone, and iPad, and MacBook Pro of today. I look forward to seeing what future and current engineers will produce for us.

What are your recommendations and advice for women in technology?

[Lang] Keep learning, keep giving, keep being authentic, and keep things simple.

Interview conducted by:

Cindy Cheng

Director of Product Marketing

Cindy Cheng