Women in VoIP: Switchvox She-Ra
When people in the VoIP industry hear the word ‘Switchvox,’ most of them associate the name Tristan. Tristan Degenhardt, Switchvox Product Line Director for Digium, works tirelessly to actively promote and further Switchvox products. Switchvox’s good name and reputation comes from the boundless work of Degenhardt, which can be seen all over the web, and beyond. And also in honor of the newest Switchvox appliance, the AA300, which can support up to 150 users, let’s hear it for Tristan.
How long have you been in the VoIP world?
I got my start in technology in 1999 at MP3.com, where we were essentially delivering bits through that pipe known as the Internet. After that, I co-founded Switchvox in 2003 and that was really my first experience where those bits were voice, instead of music, but I really don’t see a huge distinction. Switchvox was acquired by Digium in September 2007, and it has been a transition that I’m really excited about.
What is it like working as a woman in the VoIP world?
People find it easier to remember my name, so that’s one benefit. Trust me, if a purple guy walked up to the podium at a crowded conference session, introduced himself and started talking about SIP, you’d remember his name. Now, technical women in VoIP are not as uncommon as a purple guy, but you get the idea.
But seriously, I imagine it’s very similar to being a man working in the VoIP world- we’re in an exciting field that’s experiencing tremendous growth, and I’m having a blast. Especially at Digium, there’s a feeling that with Asterisk, we’re helping to build a technology that is fundamentally changing business communication. And we’re doing all of this in a cooperative way with the developer and user communities. I think it makes us so much stronger when we’re competing with proprietary solutions, and that really appeals to me.
How did you become interested/introduced to VoIP?
I became interested in VoIP in sort of a roundabout way. I’m really into usability and interface design, and when we were looking at Asterisk for our own phone system, it became really clear that it could use help in the UI department. So I really started learning everything I could as fast as I could about VoIP, but there’s so much more to learn, and it changes every day.
What are some of your networking/marketing methods?
Well, I’m really proud of Digium’s products and technologies, am a huge proponent of open source, and love to get into discussions with people everywhere I go about this stuff. I find that a lot of people are curious about open source and don’t necessarily have a good handle on what it’s all about yet, so I love hearing their thoughts and opinions. And of course, Switchvox is really important to me. I know the product like the back of my hand, and so when I’m presenting and giving demos to groups, I often like to let my audience describe their real life communication roadblocks and then try to solve them in real-time. For example, they might say that their sales people don’t have enough information about callers before they answer the phone, and so they spend too much time gathering data up front. So they might throw out a problem like that, and then I show how Switchvox can solve it- not just talk about it, and say, “yeah, Switchvox can fix that,” but to actually flip some switches and make some calls and actually show them live, exactly how the technology can work for them. It comes back to bite me every once in a while where someone will stump me, but nine times out of ten, I can come up with a solution that works, implement it in a minute or two, and make the call live, and I think people are naturally very impressed by that.
How is it working with men in VoIP?
I can’t really say that there’s anything different about working with men in VoIP than in any other technology field. I’ve met some really bright and talented men, and women, for that matter, that are attracted to working in such a dynamic space. It’s very fast paced and lots of fun.
What do you see for the future of women in VoIP?
As far as the future of women in VoIP is concerned, I think that you’ll definitely see more and more of us in all sorts of different roles. I just have to look around at the smart women I work with every day to know that I’m right!