In her role as president and co-founder of Six Degrees Consulting, Molly actively oversees strategy, vision, marketing, professional services, human resources, and day-to-day operations. The company’s mission is to solve clients’ IT operational challenges and anticipate future needs, yet Molly has found that its true value to clients is the honesty and passion found in one of its key offerings: its network of bright minds

In this exclusive interview, Molly Rouch discusses her journey in becoming the President of Six Degrees Consulting, the types of projects that the company takes on, and the importance of innovation, purpose and diversity in achieving success.

She also shares a bit about her personal experiences with bias, overcoming challenges as a woman in a leadership role, and how her passion for non-profits enables promotion of diversity and equity.

Finally, Molly offers valuable advice to young women aspiring to leadership roles in business, and she reflects on the inspiring women in her life who have made a difference in her career.

Please share a bit about how you came to be the President of Six Degrees Consulting:

There were 4 original partners who formed Six Degrees in 2001. I was and still am the only female. Over time, 2 of the 4 partners were bought out. Prior to founding Six Degrees, I worked in various roles for a national value-added reseller (VAR). I was able to learn accounting, sales, marketing, professional services and project management. My original role of project manager at Six Degrees, and my varied background in the VAR business (being organized, thorough, and able to mitigate many challenges both technical and personal) quickly led to a role as President. My ability to effectively communicate, be assertive, and my strong ethical standards have enabled me to continue to be a leader in my industry.

What kinds of projects does Six Degrees take on and what do you like about your work?

We work with many different types of companies from enterprise to small to mid-size; both in the public and private sector. We have vast knowledge and experience in both Check Point solutions and Oracle Infrastructure and Cloud solutions. We offer services in these vast areas. Specifically, with our Check Point skillset, we have helped customers for many years with Endpoint and mobile security, enterprise security, network security and cloud security. Our knowledge has remained at the forefront of technology for the past 25 years and we continue to innovate and stay ahead of changes even as the field continues to expand and grow more complex. I love my job because we are continuing to innovate as some of the foremost experts in our field. I love working with clients to help them solve issues and I enjoy working with vendors to help provide value and success in each of our opportunities.

As you advanced your career, how did you set yourself up for career growth and success?

As a leader in my company, I am always defining our purpose: To be one of the best in our industry. To achieve this, I continuously work on our financial stability, while at the same time we have to continue with our clear direction and mindset. It is important to know who we are and what success looks like for us. We have to do what is meaningful and do work that fulfills us. I believe Six Degrees does all of these things very well and we have for many years. One other thing we work very hard on is innovation. We must stay ahead of the changes in the field by continuously educating ourselves and making sure we are doing what we love.

What mindsets and/or ways of thinking have you found beneficial?

I find some of my strongest attributes as a leader consist of my ability to take risks and courage. I am not afraid to fail or to make changes. I have learned over the years that personal growth in times of uncertainty or turmoil is actually what drives me most. Also, I am married to my business partner. We have worked together for the entire time we have known each other. I have had to overcome many people’s perceptions that as a wife of my business partner, I am less than or not better than or equal to him. This drives me to continue to prove that I do deserve to be the leader that I am.

You also serve on several non-profit boards. What has the experience been like and why is diversity needed on boards?

I think that the work I do in the non-profit sector is some of my most rewarding work. Most recently, in the past few years, I have worked to ensure racial equity and diversity within my local community schools and religious organizations. This work has fulfilled me and given me a great purpose and clarity in my life. I have also worked with women who attend Northwestern University and are members of the Propel Program (https://thegarage.noredu/programs/propel/). It really gives me energy to see these young women work so hard to achieve their visions and dreams.

Based on everything that you’ve seen, how would you recommend that organizations promote women’s representation on boards?

There is great need not only to promote women but people of color as well. I can speak specifically to my industry, Technology. We have to begin by eliminating biased hiring processes and marginalizing women, especially women of color. Changing culture is hard but it needs to be done. We have to be better at acknowledging this gap and begin to provide a more inclusive industry. We need to be better at working together to close this gap. We have to provide better resources and support so that all women can become successful in our industry.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing women in the workplace today, and what steps can companies take to address them?

The greatest issue is unconscious bias and lack of support and resources as well as not having enough mentorship opportunities. We have to stop being the only women often in meetings or board rooms. We need to acknowledge pay discrepancies as well.

What advice would you give to young women who aspire to leadership positions in business?

Believe you can do anything. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. In the beginning of my career, I never stood up to men who tried to minimize my abilities just because I was a woman. I would also say that being strong, independent and smart are incredible assets to bring to any organization. Do not let anyone undervalue your worth. It is important to also share your experience with other women to help lift each other up. Don’t wait for the path to be paved for you, make a path for yourself.

Tell us about some of the inspiring women who have made a difference in your life, either professionally or personally?

Personally, for me, there have been so many women in my life who have inspired me. In my family, I have 3 sisters and 4 brothers. All of the women, my mom and sisters, have inspired me each in their own ways. My mom is a very strong minded woman. Her strength is unmatched. She raised me and my 3 sisters to be independent and she always told us that we can do anything and we all have! Her love for us has never wavered. From early on in my life, I started my first business. I have continued to be an entrepreneur my whole life. My mom NEVER questions my ability and supports me always. My sisters have been a guiding light for me this past year. I have been battling cancer and their unparalleled love and support has given me grace and safety when I have needed it the most. Professionally, I look up to different women for various reasons. Here are a few: Katharine Graham: Fascinating, smart, overcame so much adversity. Carol Mosley Braun: She broke many glass ceilings and achieved success at the highest levels. Meg Whitman: She showed me that you can be successful in work and in your personal life.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with the executive-level audience?

Oftentimes I have been the only female in the room, on a client call, or on the phone. Embrace this and own your voice. Don’t be afraid to let people know what you are thinking.