This week I was honored to be recognized in the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Women of Influence Awards. Being celebrated alongside accomplished professionals from across a diverse set of private, public, and non-profit sectors demonstrates the tremendous impact that women have in leading businesses here in the Bay Area. While we have made great strides in advancing diversity in the workforce, there is more to be done. Generally speaking, I have been quite fortunate to not have experienced bias that has impacted me significantly through my career journey. However, there have been times when I realized that I was being singled out. I have learned much about personal resiliency and the importance of maintaining a leadership mindset – and so I’m sharing a few tips I wish I’d known as I entered the workforce.
Making your mark in a male-dominated tech environment
Often, people ask how I’ve navigated challenges and found success in the traditionally male-dominated technology world – and my answer is always ‘focus on your mindset’. Don’t linger on the fact that you stand out because of your gender. Always be yourself. If you believe someone’s behaviour is different towards you because of your gender, call them out and invite a respectful conversation. It may be unintentional, and the discussion may help them become aware.
Celebrate your unique talents and ensure you’re contributing to the broader team goals each day. Stay passionate, look for the growth opportunity in every challenge and never be afraid to voice your opinions. I believe that this approach can help both men and women in different stages of their career journey.
We hear a lot about growth mindsets, but what does it mean? To me, it’s about finding the opportunity in every challenge, the lesson in every obstacle. Taking on complex projects outside of your comfort zone will usually be where you find the most growth. I have committed myself to developing, and sustaining, a ‘can-do’ and growth-focused mindset.
Learning is a lifelong process. Last year, as the pandemic struck, our company like many others shifted to working remotely. I was asked to expand the scope of my responsibility and rebuild the global internal communications and engagement team. It was definitely a stretch learning to understand how to deliver authentic, meaningful communications in a very short timeframe. It dawned on me that my new role was a great responsibility because the lines between home, family and work had become blurry, and we needed to address it all. This realization served as our communications platform: we needed to make our people feel safe and help them feel connected to each other. Then, our teams were able to focus on contributing to the business and our customers. It was incredibly challenging, but this experience has changed how I think about leadership communications, and I continue to use what I’ve learned every day.
Leadership lessons – for all stages of your journey
Remember that you don’t need a leadership title to be a leader. It is about taking initiative and not waiting for someone to tell you what you need to do. It is recognizing the areas that you can contribute towards and make them better, and making your ideas known.
Leadership is about mindset – how can you influence, empower, and help others in your team? We can all do these things in big and small ways as we go about our daily tasks – focus on those, and you’ll naturally find your leadership responsibilities expanding as your career progresses.
I’m a big advocate of building your career with the 3-Cs. Consistency, conviction, and clarity of thought.
Show up every day with the desire to make a difference to your team. Don’t get caught up in perfection paralysis – aim for consistent, steady progress. Remember that failure is ok – it’s how we learn. But don’t linger. Brush yourself off and let your passion for the work you are doing keep you going. This conviction will see you through challenging times and give you the extra push you need to achieve greatness. More than ever in today’s busy world, clarity of thought is essential. Be clear in your goals, the small steps that will get you there, and return to those in moments of uncertainty.
Advice for my 20-year-old self
If I could go back in time and share some words of wisdom with my 20-year-old self, I would say “Be unabashed” which to me is being comfortable with who you are. Speak freely, ask a lot of questions and don’t be too concerned about being judged. I would also say “don’t second guess yourself – if it feels right, everything will fall in place.”
So, I encourage you all to be bold, take bigger risks and when opportunities come knocking at your door, take ’em!