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June/July 2003
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Angela Head directs tech services at Keynote
She oversees the customer services and training departments, and has profit and loss responsibility for the diagnostic services business
Keynote Services tech services director Angela Head: "I have great people to help me."
Keynote Services tech services director Angela Head: "I have great people to help me."

Her computer classes didn't catch her attention. But when Angela Head had her first real experience with computers in the Army, it turned out she had a lot of aptitude for the work. "I was shocked," she remembers with a smile.

Today, as director of technical services for Keynote Systems (San Mateo, CA), she's presiding over a new diagnostic service that she guided to break-even status in just one year.

"I'm really proud that my team put together a product that's set to be profitable very soon," she says. "I have great people to help me."

Life at Keynote
Keynote Systems calls itself the Internet performance authority. The company's 223 employees serve more than 2,300 corporate IT departments and 16,000 individual subscribers. They help the clients manage their e-businesses by providing services like benchmarking, diagnosing, testing, and infrastructure management both inside and outside the firewall.

Client businesses access Keynote online services to evaluate the ability of their software and hardware to meet e-business needs in speed and reliability.

Inside tech services
Head oversees the customer services and training departments, and has profit and loss responsibility for the diagnostic services business.

She explains that diagnostic services provides root-cause analysis of problems. "We fix customers' problems right away, of course," she says, but the diagnostic analysis is intended to avoid the reoccurrence of trouble.

Head has two managers and thirteen individuals reporting to her - a lean, mean force due to recent downsizing. "I am fortunate that they are willing to cross over into each other's responsibilities when we need it to get things done," Head says.

From basketball to the army
Head grew up in a small Texas town as the only girl in the family, and went to college on basketball scholarships. Her experiences developed her competitive edge: "I can fight with the best of them," she declares.

She majored in business and played basketball at two different colleges, but left after three years to help at home when her father got sick. After his death, she was "looking for something a little different.

"It was not my plan to go into the Army," she remembers. But she had taken the armed services entrance tests in college and scored high. Recruiters continued to call, and she decided to sign up.

Working for DISA
Because of her business courses the Army started her as a systems analyst, then moved her into computer systems. Her ability fueled her interest, and she was soon working for the Joint Forces Command Defense Information Systems Administration (JFC-DISA).

She started at the Western Hemisphere information processing center at Letterkenny Army Depot (Fort Ritchie, MD), working in systems engineering in an MVS environment. Then she went on to DISA's Site R, an underground communications center near Waynesboro, PA.

She worked with a StorageTek 4400 automated cartridge system and robotic data silos. "That was really fascinating, a lot more hardware work than I had done before," she says.

During the U.S. Base Realignment Commission's re-examination of Defense Department facilities in the 1990s, Head was part of the team managing Site R's direct access storage device (DASD) farms. "We were migrating a lot of the smaller DISA sites and some of the smaller processing centers for the armed forces over to ours," she explains.

She helped migrate from the StorageTek system to the newer Iceberg technology. She also created the first helpdesk for the eight-site Defense Megacenter.

The Army gave her experience with cultural and racial diversity that she had missed growing up in Texas. "It was so many cultures and people," she says. A woman civilian became a role model and mentor: "I learned so much of my leadership abilities as a woman from her."

Head had signed on for seven years, but the Army was downsizing and offered her a discharge after three. She could have stayed on as a civilian, but opted to return to Texas and the private sector.

Learning the financial industry
At First Educators Credit Union (Houston, TX), Head was brought in as a systems admin to move the small bank's systems from a VAX to an NT platform.

When the migration was finished she took on multi-duties, running all the processing of personal banking accounts, doing quarterly dividend and Federal Reserve reporting and running the clearinghouse at night.

"It was a really good experience to learn how the financial industry worked," she says. "It taught me to be very meticulous because one mistake could really mess things up."

On to a larger bank
"There weren't many places to grow at the credit union," she notes. So in 1996 she took a job as call center service manager at a larger bank. For two years she supervised financial apps ops at Bank United (Houston, TX, now Washington Mutual, Seattle, WA). The center received over 700 service requests a day, and Head found that she liked the customer service aspects of the job.

She became an Oracle admin at the bank, liked it, and moved to Novistar (Houston, TX), which had a huge Oracle shop. Unfortunately, they put her to work on fairly routine Y2K stuff.

Over to Keynote
Head had decided to move away from development, so when a Keynote recruiter mentioned a customer service position it appealed to her. "I had no idea that Internet technology was where I wanted to go," she says.

At Keynote, she soon became manager and then director of tech services. "I laugh with the guy who hired me," she says. "I went in insisting that I didn't want any management responsibilities yet. But it's worked out wonderfully well and I'm really happy with what I'm doing."

Keynote recently enrolled Head in the Menttium 2000 program, which provides a year of cross-company mentoring for top women performers. She was paired with a VP from Oracle. Her mentor's advice has helped Head cope with the morale problems of downsizing, and learn to manage in a performance-based company.

After work
Another plus of her Keynote job is the company's location in the California Bay Area. Head loves to play softball and take her Australian shepherd dog on hikes along the California coast.

She's also on a Keynote team that helps out at Samaritan House, a homeless shelter. And she's participated in weekend workshops for high school girls in San Francisco's Mission District.

One day she thinks she'd like to be a Menttium mentor herself. "There are different questions you can ask a woman," she says.


– Kate Colborn & Christine Willard