Chamber Insider Blog

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Fran Craig, Unanet

Thank you to Fran Craig, Founder of Unanet for answering a few of our questions!

Where were born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?

Born in Astoria, Queens, NYC, I grew up in Waterville, a small upstate village near Utica.  This spot fostered independence where I could walk, ride my bike, and ride horses.  Eventually, my family moved to Fairfax, Virginia.  Having lived in Arizona, Italy, and the suburbs near Pittsburgh, I eventually came back with by husband and children to Fairfax, Virginia.  When we decided to move Unanet, the company I started in my basement, we chose Loudoun County and decided to move our home there as well.

How long have you been in the technology industry and how did you get into this line of work?

After graduating with a math degree plus some chemistry, and physics, I wanted something that used those skills. A friend of my father (who passed when I was in my 3rd year college) suggested that I become a programmer. I said “What is a programmer?”  He said a programmer makes computers work.  I said “ What is a computer?”  That was in 1964 when computers were just breaking into support of commercial businesses.

AT&T hired me and sent me to IBM programming school.  After that, I worked at small and large computer technology companies including Carnegie Mellon, GTE Telenet and DHL.  Typically, I was in the breaking edge of computing which excited me.  I took positions as the leader in the group I was in.

Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that influenced your career?

Actually, I had no mentors.  Most of my jobs were working for men supervisors or CEOs.  When I founded my company, Donna Kilbourn, a good friend and Unanet team member through her collaboration and wise counsel provided mentoring to me.  Also, I hired a coach to help advise me.  Inspired by the initial lack of mentoring, I decided to participate in mentoring at some associations, and most importantly, to start mentoring programs at Unanet.

What is the best part of your job and why?

I loved working and never wanted to stop.  I retired from regular work in 2019.  I loved working with employees and watching them develop and grow.  I also grew with them.  We focused on sales skills, collaboration techniques, positive speak, and team building.

The mission of Unanet is to provide the best software for our customers.  My heart would jump with joy when a customer would say something like “Unanet changed my life!”

What is it like owning/running a business in Loudoun?

In Loudoun, Unanet focused on all the stake holders – employees, owners (Board and some employees), industry associations, and community philanthropy.  Our life was very full.  I am grateful that the new team at Unanet is following that tradition.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month reminds me of how far women have come and how far we need to go.  At ATT when I started, women college graduates were placed into Level 1 management with men high school graduates.  Men college graduates were placed into the JET program (Junior Executive Training) and made it to Level 3 management in two years.

Early in Unanet 1998, we tried to get funding and were discounted by the private equity companies. This is a common issue for women entrepreneurs. For example, nearly half (47 percent) of female respondents reported that they had not presented their question, idea, or view at their school or place of work to avoid possible harassment, discrimination, or unfair or disrespectful treatment compared to less than one-quarter (24 percent) of male respondents (Allgood et al. 2019). Similarly, 46 percent of women versus 18 percent of men said they had “not spoken at a conference or during a seminar presentation” to avoid those types of experiences. (citation here)

Learning and funding opportunities are clearly important to change the balance.  In my retirement, I contribute to women in technology and technology learning for all.  So STEM for Her, the Women’s Center, The new Northern Virginia Science Center, and mentoring women are areas where I focus my time.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?

My favorite things include golf, walking, biking, bridge, Machiavelli, eating, cooking, politics, and living life to the fullest!!