Chico State alumni disregards double standards and dominates different careers

Rhonda Shantz

Rhonda Shantz

Rhonda Shantz was sitting in a computer science class at Chico State in the ’80s surrounded by men sitting at large pre-internet era computers. She walked into class and was one of only two or three women.

Shantz is now the chief marketing officer at Centrify Corporation. She has worked at Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Rocket Fuel and International Business Machines. Shantz has been managing director and partner at Porter Novelli and the vice president of global marketing at Symantec.

“Chico was where I had an opportunity to become who I am socially and where I found my passion for technology,” Shantz said. “I was a bit of a nerd. I was a little shy, but I made like-minded friends.”

Shantz graduated from Chico State with a bachelor of applied science, in computer science in 1985. At the time, Shantz said she saw Chico State as the top of its class in computer science with companies like Apple and IBM scouting for talent on campus.

Growing up in a blue-collar family, Shantz said she believes it instilled a hard work ethic. She pursued different jobs and eventually scored an internship at IBM while attending Chico State.

While in the tech industry, Shantz said that prejudice against women was something she noticed early in her career but was not something she felt affected her on a day to day basis as a programmer.

“There might be 10 people in a room, but only one or two of them were women,” Shantz said. “Your value as a computer programmer was more about what you know and what you are contributing.”

Shantz’s career changed directions before leading her towards the world of marketing. Shantz explained seeing herself moving from the technical role of programing to a sales and storytelling role as a product manager and advertiser. When Shantz transitioned into managerial and executive roles, she began to break through barriers of prejudice.

“I started to feel the issues as I became an upper-level manager and an executive,” Shantz explains. “You could see clearly the stats that 9 out of 10 of the jobs I was looking for would go to men.”

Shantz used the barriers she faced as the drive and passion to rise up into higher positions in her career. As Shantz broke through these barriers, she described feeling responsible to help others through as well.

Lisa Rodriguez is a partner at Seismic Marketing. Shantz was her former boss at Porter Novelli. Shantz helped her succeed while Rodriguez had a child in an industry that can make it hard for new mothers to return from maternity leave.

Rodriguez said Shantz worked on “setting an environment around her and in our agency that allowed women to return from maternity leave and be set up for success (during the time of Rodriguez’s pregnancy).” Shantz, also a single mother, recognized the importance of spending time with her own child and developed a stronger sense of empathy for her colleagues. Shantz accommodated Rodriguez’s schedule and helped her get caught up on her work when she came back from leave.

“Rhonda was at the forefront of enabling women in a male-dominated field. For her, there was no double standard,” Rodriguez said.

Shantz started out as a self-proclaimed nerd through her time at Chico State. Her career moved on from tapping code into keyboards to executing large strategic marketing campaigns. In a few instances these included celebrities such as David Hasselhoff and the making of the movie ‘Cybergeddon.’

“I had 10 different jobs before I decided to focus on marketing, and I moved through a technical role to a product management and product marketing role,” Shantz said. Shantz urges students to find what they love so they can succeed to their fullest potential. “It’s Really important to recognize that you are in college. Let yourself try different things. Try different jobs.”

Nicholas Feeley can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.