Michelle Tomallo has always brought her whole self to work: IT visionary, woman, member of the LGBTQ+ community.
The co-founder of Fit Technologies is all of these, and proud to be so. She’s also proud to have founded a company that exemplifies these values, where all employees can be their whole selves.
In today’s market where competition for talent is hot, this is essential, she says.
“It’s an employees’ market, and as people evaluate job offers, it’s really important to them to figure out how a company shares their life values. We hear over and over again from the people choosing to work at Fit that they like our values, that we have a clear non-discrimination policy and we are our in the community living our values, in terms of support for LGBTQ+ talent and others.”
Tomallo knows what’s she’s talking about. She’s a people expert. Last year, she transitioned to Chief People Officer at Fit, focusing on human resources and company culture.
Her focus is not just internal. Tomallo also serves on the Board of Plexus LGBTQ and Allied Chamber of Commerce and is an advisor on Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Equity + Inclusion board. Tomallo’s business partner and Fit co-founder Micki Tubbs is on the GCP Board, and Fit CSO Fred Franks is on the GCPTec board.
The emphasis on inclusion has paid off for Fit. Since 1999, the company has grown to 160 employees, 70% in Greater Cleveland, and clients in 28 states.
In the beginning, however, there were just two.
“Micki and I thought we were going to work for this new company for six to eight months and go back to consulting,” says Tomallo. That was 23 years ago.
The original business goal was to create software that connected home and school.
“Back then there was no way for parents or kids to check grades and the other things that are common now,” says Tomallo.
“We were ahead of the game because not only was nobody explaining what this web-based software could do for schools, we were also selling the idea that the internet was going to stay and change life as we know it.”
Soon, Michelle and Micki realized the need, and market, was greater than they thought for their services.
“As we started to introduce web-based tech, often times it would not work. Not because of the software, but because of the school’s network, or computers or memory.
“We had a group of engineers working with people … we had a whole team doing managed IT before it was called managed IT.”
Despite the hurdles of being a woman-owned business in IT, Michelle and Micki’s company thrived.
Eventually, the focus shifted from schools to IT, and the company moved downtown in 2006.
The move into the city prompted greater involvement in the community.
“In 2008, we won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and that brought us a lot of attention. Someone from Plexus reached out to me. I spoke at one of their networking nights and that was a gamechanger for me. I didn’t know there were all of these LGBT chambers across the country, and I got involved.”
Representation and outreach is important, says Tomallo, in regards to both her role on the board at Plexus and the Greater Cleveland Partnership.
“The work we are doing on the boards focuses on things like … how do we bring visibility to LGBTQ+ businesses, and share information and access and resources?
“How do we share information coming out of Greater Cleveland Partnership and COSE and get that to LGBTQ+ businesses and employees, and vice versa? How do we create systems where people operate in a state like Ohio?”
It’s not just about helping LGBTQ+ employees and businesses, however. Creating inclusive opportunity benefits everyone.
“We all want to work with good talent, so why work in ways that would limit that talent? We need to find a way to educate people about careers in tech, but also about organizations like GCP who are working to create organizations that are more welcoming to all talent.”
Her outreach work is a reflection of the people-centric culture Tomallo has created at Fit.
“We are in it together for the long-term with clients, not, project based. We want to develop a vision together and get their tech to go where they want it.”
Spoken like a true Chief People Officer.