In 1994, the average movie ticket cost $4.08, Tom Hanks had the world saying “Life is like a box of chocolates,” Netscape Navigator was released, “Law and Order” was entering its fourth season, and Janie M. Gonzalez opened Webhead’s doors in San Antonio.
What started out as a website development and hosting company has since grown into one of the top web, IT security and software engineering firms, and it is still headquartered in San Antonio.
In celebration of its 20-year run, the company hosted a Women in Technology event at Peer 1 Hosting on Sept. 24, where Gonzalez waxed on her beginnings, trials, and triumphs on her rise to Webhead CEO and President.
A San Antonio native, Gonzalez attended Burbank High School before receiving her degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, the first woman in her family to attend college.
It was while doing her study as an undergraduate that she was drawn to the school’s high-performance computing lab in UTSA’s Computer Science department. The department had recently received a grant to establish a website and server for its lab and Gonzalez was immediately intrigued.
“I would walk in and see, first hand, the computer scientists using Netscape as a browser,” she said. “It wasn’t exactly my career path, but I immediately fell in love with it. For me, it wasn’t the technical aspect I thought was sexy. It was that I knew that this was going to transform everything. I knew, specifically, that this was my calling, in some form or fashion.”
That form manifested itself in Webhead, a company she founded with her business partners several months after completing her studies. What started small – Gonzalez and two partners – is now a nationally-recognized company with employees across the country.
At the company’s inception, there were very few, if any, women and minority-owned tech companies. The field of technology was, and still is, a male-dominated field. The obstacles Gonzalez experienced running an IT company were ever-present.
“After doing it a couple of years, I was still not viewed as a technologist. I was still just the face of Webhead,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t going to change anytime soon, but I chose not to let cultural and society’s expectations dictate what my future was going to be with Webhead.”
Making a commitment to her company and her growth is part of Gonzalez’s philosophy of “staying in the game.” She said she feels strongly that women need to be constantly challenging themselves, no matter what their role is or which type of career they have.
“Don’t stop growing, professionally or personally,” she stressed.
As a CEO, wife, and mom, she continues to roll up her sleeves when it comes to improving her skills and hopes other women follow suit.
“Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. That’s what we did at Webhead, and that’s why we’re still here,” she said.
When it comes to the advancement of women in technology, Gonzalez is not one to just talk the talk. Webhead’s several management and leadership roles are held by women, something she’s incredibly proud of. She also devotes personal time to speak publicly on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives and opportunities for young girls in San Antonio. She also believes in promoting the power of being an entrepreneur.
“The best way to improve the quality of your life is by starting your own company,” Gonzalez said.
There has been a much-needed resurgence in entrepreneurship and technology in San Antonio over the past several years. “Women have redefined themselves through technology,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful, and programs like SA2020, Geekdom, and Codeup are all great. It’s a beginning, and it’s something that we, as a community, whether you’re involved in STEM or not, should support.”
After two decades, Gonzalez admitted she’s still “the face” of Webhead. “But it’s a pretty face,” she said, laughing.
And, it’s okay. From starting off in sales and marketing to becoming her own company’s CEO and President hasn’t been so bad. The past 20 years have been a whirlwind of bumps, bruises, accolades, and self-exploration, she said. There are no regrets – only planning for her next steps.
Gonzalez is expected to launch a project designed to help elevate Latinas in the business world, something she knows quite a bit about. It’s still being fine-tuned, and she said she aspires to have it ready by October.
The world has definitely changed in 20 years. The average price of a movie ticket is $8.15, there are several web browsers vying for your attention, “Law and Order” finally ended its ridiculous television run, and Janie M. Gonzalez’s Webhead is among the largest privately-held IT companies in San Antonio.
“It’s gone quick,” she said. “It’s been exciting. It’s not about the money. Tech transformed my life for the better.”