Women in Tech series: Leading Hexagon into a bright, sustainable future

Our Women in Tech blog series focuses on women who are leading at Hexagon in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Their stories give inspiration, encouragement and insight to any girl or woman interested in pursuing a career in STEM. 

As CTOs, CFOs and corporate executive leaders, women in tech are leading companies and divisions into explosive growth while innovating in their fields. This edition of Women in Tech focuses on women in leadership positions who continue to cast vision and move the needle with their teams. Explore their stories as they share practical advice below. 

Eva Carranza – Hexagon’s Head of Sustainability

Eva Carranza headshot

From a very early age, Carranza visited her mother’s job as an engineer in a crop yield improvement lab. “I realised early on that I enjoy understanding the ‘technicalities’ of how the world works. I was always excited to see how all processes follow some type of logic and how everything is connected and somehow fits together,” she said. She started in chemical engineering and worked in process industries until she realised she wanted to learn the science behind our natural ecosystem and the role human civilisations play. 

Since then, she’s introduced sustainability agendas to core company strategy in three leading industries – chemicals, building materials and technology. Today, she leads Hexagon’s entire sustainability vision and strategy, helping the company grow while ensuring improvements for people and the planet. “It’s very possible to grow a business while becoming more sustainable, especially as it’s a requirement for many of our customers and even their customers,” she said. “We improve our impact by making conscious decisions about resource reduction while championing and upholding human rights in our global value chain.” 

Carranza said giving more women and girls access to STEM opportunities means seeing women heroes who have contributed to STEM for generations. “Also, I believe society needs to adapt, as in most places, women are still holding most of the weight of the households,” she said. “We don’t need expectations about what women should be or do with their personal time. Girls and women should be allowed to pursue STEM with as much time and bandwidth as they want to put into it.” 

To girls interested in STEM or young women just starting their careers, Carranza said, “Believe in yourself. Many women I’ve met who are excellent professionals also have imposter syndrome. They don’t believe they’re good enough. I’ve experienced that, too,” she added. “But if you have allies around you, you can ask them if what you’re feeling is true. Find allies – they can help you decide if you’re truly unable to do something or if it’s just the imposter syndrome taking over. In many cases, the only thing holding you back is you. 

“With grit and mentors alongside you, you can achieve anything you dream,” she said. “In my experience, women ask for help less often than their male colleagues. Find someone who believes in you and can help give you clarity and energy when you feel burnt out.” 

Melanie Eakes – CTO and Executive Vice President, Hexagon’s ALI division 

Melanie Eakes headshot

Gifted in math since childhood, Eakes worked a summer job for the director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, when she was 16. She witnessed training for astronauts, including wind tunnel tests, buoyancy tanks for spacecraft maintenance and zero gravity preparation. “I was inspired and in awe of what these people were doing,” Eakes said. She was rehired for the next two summers, and many STEM professionals around her took time to help her grow. “Every year, the advice was the same across the board: I should get a math and computer science degree, and then I could do any of those jobs.” 

That’s exactly what she did. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made. With a career in STEM, there is always something new to learn and create that will excite you.” Today, her role covers everything from product management, software development, quality assurance, global support, product training, compliance and much more. “I still look forward to work – to the next challenge,” she said. “I love finding the answer to a problem that will make a difference in someone’s life.” 

At Hexagon, Eakes leads focused efforts to recruit more women into STEM roles. “Today, less than 30% of graduates in STEM areas are women,” she said. “That reduces the pool of people we have to choose from. We need a larger pool.” She said the goal is to communicate to girls early in education that STEM areas are exciting and provide fulfilling careers. She wants to see schools invest in STEM toys and activities, more field trips and more stories of women who have changed the world. “Our schools and homes should encourage more curiosity. Show them the art of the possible.” 

She quoted Gertrude Elion, who created the first immune-suppressive agent leading to a successful organ transplant in 1957 and developed an effective chemotherapy for leukemia. “Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you can’t do it.” Eakes added, “When things get difficult, that’s when life becomes the most interesting.”

Becky Harris – CFO, Hexagon US Federal 

Becky Harris headshot

Harris began her education with a lifelong love of STEM subjects but didn’t always see a clear path for her career. “I began undergraduate as a mechanical engineering major, but an advisor saw different potential in me and recommended an accounting class.” That’s when everything clicked for her. “Accounting made sense to me, and I felt at home in the subject,” she said. 

Before managing Hexagon US Federal’s finances, accounting, legal, contracts and IT teams, Harris was the CFO of Hexagon’s Geospatial division and VP of Global Financial Operations for Hexagon’s Safety & Infrastructure division. She helps teams thrive and individuals find professional fulfilment. “The key to helping any demographic thrive in an industry is visibility and mentorship,” she said. “We need to see more women in leadership positions across STEM fields and as experts and thought leaders. It helps young girls understand they can succeed.” 

She said women should try to find mentors wherever they can. “As women, I feel we have both the opportunity and obligation to help other women establish and grow networks, engage in continuous professional development and provide personal guidance on the challenges we’ve already navigated.”  

Harris believes girls and women should work hard, be dedicated and get comfortable standing up for themselves in STEM careers. “You may be the only woman in your class or on your team. Don’t be daunted by that. When you put in the work, you are just as deserving of a seat at the table.” At the same time, she emphasises the importance of being a team player. “I would never have come so far without the teams I’ve worked with. Careers are long journeys, and it’s easier to succeed if you don’t have to do it alone.” 

Through all of it, she thinks women should be true to themselves and their values. “Knowing who you are will help you stay centred and focused no matter the circumstance.”  

Kalyn Sims – CTO, Hexagon’s Safety, Infrastructure & Geospatial division 

Kalyn Sims headshot

As a teenager, Sims watched an exhibit featuring women codebreakers hired by the military during World War II to break enemy codes. “These women made great contributions during the war and advanced the field of cryptology using technology,” Sims shared. “I became enamoured with tech after learning that.” 

Sims has worked in technology her entire career, first interning several summers on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. She moved on to start her own company, Denali Solutions, which grew into a successful business and was later acquired by Hexagon.  

When deciding to sell Denali Solutions, Sims wanted to find a good home for her employees. She knew Hexagon would be a good fit and figured she would stay on for a year to help with the transition for her team. “And here I am twelve years later. That’s a testament to how much I love my job and the people I work with.” 

Sims wears many hats as CTO, describing her role as “everything innovation.” That means defining strategic vision, incubating new products, formulating go-to-market strategies, fostering partnerships and supporting customers relying on mission-critical products. “We develop public safety systems supporting emergency first responders as they work tirelessly to ensure their communities’ safety. Knowing I’m working on tasks that support global public safety every day is very rewarding.” 

And while she’s proud of her many accomplishments, she said her greatest achievement is managing a challenging career while raising five boys. “I have three biological sons, and I adopted two orphaned babies from Guatemala. Maintaining a balanced work/home life is what I consider my greatest accomplishment.”  

She’s most proud of having been a classroom volunteer and tutor while attending nearly every game, swim meet, piano concert and school event for her sons while keeping things going at work. “And this is my message to young women entering a STEM career: You can have it all! It’s about organisation, time management and balance.” 

She strongly encourages women and girls in STEM not to hold back on their dreams because they’re afraid of being unable to do it all. “You can have a life outside a tech career. We’ve also come a long way with inclusion and diversity in the workplace. Be confident, be fearless and follow your passion.” 

Penny Simpson – CFO, Hexagon’s Mining division  

Penny Simpson headshot

Simpson focuses on the financials for Hexagon’s Mining division, including planning, forecasting and analysis. Yet Simpson wasn’t always headed towards a future in financials. 

“My undergraduate degree is in engineering and applied science,” she said. “But I struggled a bit in my college career and felt a little burned out by the end.” That’s when she discovered that finance was a way for her to use the problem-solving skills she’d gleaned from engineering classes. “I saw I could take those quantitative analysis skills and apply them to something I had more passion for. The first things I found that I liked were tax law and accounting.” 

After working in real estate for 20 years and now thriving in the mining technology industry, Simpson still enjoys working on financial models. “For a long time in my career, I didn’t manage people,” she said. “I was an individual contributor. It was challenging for me to step into managing teams. Yet by the end of my first role as manager, almost everybody on my team came to me and said, ‘I did so much more than I thought I could because you believed in me. It made me believe in myself.’ I consider that my greatest achievement in my career.” 

As CFO, she doesn’t believe any work is beneath her. “I try to say yes to as many things as I can. My job is to help the division. Whatever that is, if it will help the division, that’s my job. I think of everyone internally as my customers so I can always operate with a customer-centric view.” 

She advises young girls to find something they’re deeply interested in and stick to it. “To be great at anything, you have to put in more time than anyone else. You can only do that if you are really interested in what you’re doing,” she said. “Don’t try to force yourself into something that isn’t for you.” 

For women already in STEM careers, she encourages them to focus on the job in front of them. “Just nail that. A lot of people get caught up in how quickly they can get to the next promotion and where they’re going next. But I say take something and be excellent at it. Build trust, and you will be given opportunities to get where you want to go.”

Hexagon celebrates women in STEM careers, and our Women in Tech series showcases some of their amazing stories. Read more about women innovating in mining and forestry, geospatial technology, customer success, software development, cybersecurity and reality capture.