Career Lessons & Advice from Women in Tech

While there are certainly many notable champions of the women’s empowerment movement of years past and as late, there are females in each of our organizations who step up to change the status quo, step down to reach out a hand and step over hurdles – each and every day.

In advance of Episerver's co-sponsorship with Microsoft Retail of The Girls' Lounge at NRF 2019 in New York City, we're sharing lessons and advice from women in technology (including myself). We hope you join us to hear how women are rocking retail as well as get insights from our own SVP of WW Marketing, Jessica Fardin, when she takes The Girls' Lounge stage on Monday, Jan. 14 from 11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET to discuss how female leaders can succeed in male-dominated industries. Also consider adding "Mentorship all Around" to your agenda in which Shelley Bransten, Corporate Vice President, Retail & Consumer Goods Industries at Microsoft, joins others in providing advice on how to find a mentor, be a mentor and how to build relationships that will the key to success. 

Providing Counsel, Doing “You”

~ Shelley Bransten, Corporate Vice President, Global Retail & Consumer Goods at Microsoft

“I was never very successful when I tried to be  whatever other people wanted. Or even what I wanted  but wasn’t.

When I was just starting out, I learned the hard way. Sometimes I’d go into meetings and say what I thought the boss wanted to hear or prepare materials I thought the boss wanted to see. And I didn’t have the impact I wanted.

What I know now is that I was keeping them from hearing an important perspective: mine! Your boss may not always agree with you, but you were hired for your judgement and counsel. So be respectful and speak your mind when it serves the company and its goals.

My advice is to be yourself - everyone else is already taken.

A survey was done of nursing home residents and a question was, “What’s your greatest regret?”

An answer that kept coming up went something like, “I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to win other people’s approval. I wish I’d just been myself and lived the life I wanted to live.

I only know how to be me and each of you only really knows how to be yourself. So, my advice? Just do you.”

Rocking Out, Negotiating Up

~ Jessica Fardin, Sr. Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Episerver

“Many of us are guilty—myself once included—of holding back our true selves in male-dominated industries by hiding our feminine side, keeping quiet or letting men take credit for our work. We don’t have to play the ‘man game.’ I can be myself, wear high heels if I want to, speak up and present my own presentations. It’s a hard lesson, but it is fulfilling to start being the real you based on your individual skills and not stereotypical roles. Go and grow with your authentic self   and bring up other women with you.” 

“Self-doubt can trickle into every aspect of a female’s professional life – from the risks she doesn’t take to the raises she doesn’t ask for – and that’s a career unfulfilled. My advice is to negotiate for yourself by understanding how you are contributing to your own success and your organization’s success. Arm yourself with tools to succeed whether that’s data to drop in a meeting or headphones to play Beyonce’s ‘Run the World’ before walking on stage. Run your own world   by knowing your professional worth and using it to empower yourself and others.”

Sticking to the Path, Speaking Up

 ~ Gavriella Schuster, Corporate VP, One Commercial Partner Organization at Microsoft

“I learned early in my career about the importance of helping others be their best. We all have our own personal expectations and yardsticks to measure success. But I discovered I can’t achieve the level of success I desire without help   from others. And when I spend my energy to help clear the path for others to do their best work, everyone wins. Even when we’re doing our best work, if we’re pushing the boundaries and not playing it safe, failure sometimes   happens. Failure is a part of success. When it happens, you can’t take it personally. And when others stumble, you help them get back on the path to success.”

“Speak up! So often, I look around the room and see women nodding or shaking their heads in approval or disagreement, but they don’t say what’s on their mind. Your opinion matters. Everyone’s does. You were invited to the meeting for a reason. Show up with an opinion and share your perspective. And if you lead a team, look for the quiet observers and bring them into the conversation. I’ve always found better results and more interesting discussions come from creating an inclusive environment where everyone contributes.”

Overcoming Obstacles, Avoiding Assumptions

~ Virginia Frazer, Chief People Officer at Episerver

“I would not be here today if it not been for an intimidating and difficult manager I had early on in my career. I overcame that challenge by finding gifted mentors, studying psychology and obtaining a master’s degree, which ultimately led to a rewarding career in Human Resources. I learned to rise above the immediate frustrations and find solutions that offered hope and opened up opportunities. Being empowered provided me with the freedom and the confidence to move on.”

“My advice is to stop making assumptions. Assuming you know the best way to handle a task, for example, closes you off from others who may approach and view the same challenge differently. If you are humble and open in any situation, you can learn from a wide range of people and experiences. Don’t assume you won’t like a concert, a new book, a different sport or a new place. Try anything once, because you just never know what you might learn or enjoy when you stop   assuming.”

Showing Confidence, Using Your Voice

~ Christine Bongard, President of The WIT Network

“A hard lesson for me over the years was to learn how to flex my confidence muscle. Growing up as a young woman in tech meant I was very often the only woman at the table. Many men did not take me seriously or talked over/around me.  I had to learn how to stand up to them in a professional, non-emotional way to prove my right to be at the table. Oftentimes, I knew more than the men, so how unfair is it that I had to work twice as hard to earn their respect? This taught me a valuable lesson to not be intimidated by a room full of men. I always prepped thoroughly for each meeting, proofread my work three or four times and practiced my presentations, so I would portray confidence before, during and after the meeting.”

“My word of advice to women in our industry is to find your voice and use it. Do not be afraid. Research shows that outcomes of meetings, problem solving, idea creation is better with more diverse points of view. Although intimidating, it is   important to speak up and add your contributions. Your thoughts or feedback might just be what’s needed to land a new product or client. A voice shouldn’t be only used for business outcomes, but also rightness and fairness. If you see something that isn’t on the up and up at your company, speak up. Seek to have diverse audiences in meetings, flexible work schedules, and ensure that promotion and bonus criteria is fair for all. Work with your manager and HR to ensure you understand their diversity strategy or volunteer to create or change one. We can’t wait for ‘somebody’ to do something when we can act on what we preach in our own organizations.”

Being Confident, Balancing Day to Day

~ Karen Chastain, Sr. Director, Global Alliances and Partners at Episerver

“Your voice is important, use it. In the technology industry, oftentimes you find yourself as the only woman sitting at the table. This can be intimidating. As I have found more confidence in my experience, I have realized that I need to speak   up more often, share my opinion. Don’t be afraid to be questioned or to say something controversial. You may encounter objections – listen to those objections. Be confident in yourself to address the objections based on your expertise,  experience and knowledge.”

“No matter who you are or what you have outside of work, re-define what you consider work-life balance. It’s not a balance but a continuous day-to-day evaluation of what is important. Each day we need to set expectations and shift accordingly. On some days, we may need to work a 12-hour day to get a project done; but another day we may stop work early to go to a school performance. The important thing is to realize you need to shift each day based on what is important.” 

Becoming Your Own Mentor, Your Team’s Leader

~ Sue Bergamo, Chief Information & Chief Security Officer at Episerver

“Over the years, having a good leader to mentor me and help as I shaped my career was hard to find. Many managers I encountered along the way shouldn’t have been in a leadership position; they had been promoted but were clearly not   being coached on how to manage. At one point, I had to ask myself what was the difference in being labeled a bad manager or a great one and found a simple answer – don’t try to be something or someone you aren’t. Be respectful, be  confident, know your craft, walk the talk and be transparent when you don’t have an answer. When you can conduct yourself with these qualities, you will earn the respect of the team and will be considered a leader.”

“Why is being a good manager important? Because it’s not all about you, it’s about your team and leading them through successful situations, as well as supporting them when things don’t go right. When the team can trust their leadership, they will take chances and stretch their limits. Goals are set to help the team be better and when they succeed, you will have also succeeded.”

Be a Champion

While there are clearly noticeable themes among women who have learned to champion themselves and others, it’s also apparent that females can change their own course at business by speaking up, being themselves, trying something new, helping others and more. Now the question remains, how can you do more for yourself and your peers to ensure you have a seat at the table or are presenting your own ideas?

Join Episerver and Microsoft Retail at the Girls Lounge at NRF from Jan. 13-15.

See The Girls Lounge schedule, here.