Last night I attended the Super Women's Group panel discussion and reception and took a few notes to share. Before I get started, I am thrilled to say that it was standing room only. (The fire marshal had to turn people away.) It shows the growing number of women doing technology jobs and also the effectiveness of our marketing. Next year, we are getting a ballroom, ladies! Also, this advice can apply to any career and is relevant to all my followers.
Marie Wieck, GM Application and Integration Middleware kicked off the event and answered a key question: How do you get a seat at the table? Her advice was to do what you want and express your opinions based on clear facts. She said we all needed to earn trust and credibility and our actions needed to always support what we said. She talked about a story where she arrived early to an important meeting after hours of preparation and didn't actually sit at the conference room table but took a seat in the back corner of the room. Her mentor told her that she would not have been invited if he didn't want to hear her thoughts and contributions. It was a choice that she never made again. She concluded her introduction with the advice that complaints should also be accompanied by solutions and you also should be prepared to execute on them. "Be prepared and engage fully".
Judith Hurwitz, our moderator, likened her career to a series of building blocks and calculated risks. She said there are always roadblocks but you remove them and look at it as part of building your adventure. She listed the topics for the evening as taking risks, leveraging social business, building relationships, turning mistakes into victories and impacting the bottom line. After some introductions of the panelists, each got to talk a few minutes about what had the most impact for each for them.
Gina Poole, VP of Rational Marketing, gave advice on how to ask for what you want. Gina mentioned that it never hurts to ask for what you want and that if you can't communicate your wants, nobody else will be able to guess them. She also advised the audience to leverage the larger community to push your ideas and not get so hung up on the credit. Gina said there is often times she mentions her thoughts to a variety of people across the team so the idea takes roots and a life of its own. Dibbe Edwards, VP of Rational Development, went on to describe how important it is to take a risk and choose the harder path when you have options. She challenged the group to take the more difficult assignment when presented and as a woman, to also view the challenge or assignment as an opportunity and adventure for the entire family. Dibbe stressed that they need to be part of the decision and support network for you. Dibbe also talked about team transformation and helping to make technology relevant to current business trends. She felt the most important advice was to do what is fun for you and inject humor and personality into what you do.
Ritika Mehta joined us from Cisco Systems, where she is a director of a multi billion dollar product line. Her advice was to understand the core competencies of your business and your market and to then define and apply the challenges your organization faces in each area. She asked everyone to look beyond the issues to solutions and to define the impact to the bottom line with every decision. She also mentioned that innovation requires investment and you need to be able to balance and streamline your core business in order to drive the strategic initiatives. Ritika had looked for a lot of process improvements in her production lines to identify ways to streamline and make an impact. Her advice? Don't be afraid to make a proposal. "No" does not mean "never," and the bigger the company, the more inefficiencies there are that you can leverage. Ritika had some great parting words that we as women need to set priorities and identify our top three or four. She was confident we could be successful at driving towards those but needed to understand that we can do anything but we can't do EVERYTHING. The second customer panelist, April Bittner Slovensky, Principal at Deloitte, focused on making your contributions count for both the top and bottom line. April really brought family into the equation and talked about her personal experience coming back from maternity leave and coming to the realization that her sales job with travel was no longer a fit. She wanted to maintain a clear connection with revenue in her new role so she morphed a tools organization and changed the way they measured success. April tied the releases of tools to sales and delivery engagements. She also worked to do a lot of risk mitigation for projects and ensured her teams were recognized for their efforts toward the client's success. April advised the audience to surround themselves with people you trust and hire smart people with clear roles and responsibilities to ensure their success. a good team reflects well for everyone.
Our final panelist question was for Wendy Toh, VP of Rational Client Success. Her focus was on building relationships and the value of investing time and personal stake in getting to know both your customers on a personal level and your peers and teams internally. Wendy advised that you needed to be sincere and truly like the people you worked with. She highlighted her curiosity and ability to find things in common with each individual. She attributes the success of her programs with the fact that she gives each company a face and a name. Wendy also stressed establishing partners for success. She was passionate about ensuring that words and actions matched and that we all built credibility in everything we do. She also gave some key advice about when you knew you were ready for your next challenge. She said you can move on when you feel you have truly conquered what you set out to accomplish and have a job ahead that you can learn from and enjoy. Embrace the challenge.
We had some great questions from the audience that prompted these parting thoughts from the panelists and audience alike:
- All: Get as close to the bottom line as you can and get as technical as you can
- All: Ask for what you want with perseverance but not aggression. It never hurts to just ask and if you don't, you lose the right to complain.
- All: Realize every day you will be wrong at least once - and that is okay.
- April: Ensure it is okay for your team to fail and allow yourself to learn from your failures. Simply instill some safety nets so the team doesn't fall too far and allow those to help drive course corrections.
- Gina: Everyday do something that makes you think, laugh and feel.
- Ritika: Set your priorities and you can achieve them.
- Judith: Maintain your relationships. Invest in them both internally and with the customer.
- Dibbe: Get outside of your comfort zone and look to grow.
- Wendy: Do what you say and say what you do.
As the room cleared, we moved over to the Red Carpet Lounge for a great mingling event with food and beverages. I want to thank the executives for all coming to the reception and spending so much time with all of us. It was such a pleasure to be around so many smart women who are all going to do a little leaning in to help each other going forward.