As I think about this blog series what stands out to me the most, is that it centers around women supporting women.
In the first post, the focus of the series was set around women leaders across our organization, sharing the perspective of women leaders in tech:
- How are you ensuring that you are your authentic self?
- Advice you’d give to women in their career – what advice would you tell younger women in tech so that they can make an impact or guidance on growing their career?
As a CFO, my career function being in finance is often one that can be very male dominated. Finding ways to navigate that has meant surrounding myself with a community of women and like-minded leaders to build each other up. I hope that women in tech today will have the courage to be vulnerable and take the time to focus on how we can embrace the women around us. Here’s the advice I’d give that led me to those breakthrough moments in my career.
Taking the Ego Out of It
It’s important to pause and ask yourself regularly, do I like my job? It sounds like an easy question, but it’s such an important one – fundamentally, taking away the title, status and expectations – do I like what I do on a day-to-day basis? When I do this check-in with myself, I try very hard not to go after the ego portion of my job. What looks good on paper, or what others may expect from me, may not always mean that’s what will make me happy. Happiness is extremely important to me, and a great place to start is by ensuring I’m doing things on a daily basis that I enjoy.
As a part of that, I often consider goal setting. When we think about what we are doing in our current job, we often ask ourselves, what’s the next thing? It’s easy to get caught up in what you think is the next best role, such as thinking ‘do I want to be a CFO one day of a billion dollar company’? My current answer to that question is… I don’t know, do I? At the end of the day, would the actual job itself be something I’d like doing? Far too often I see people take positions or get promoted into positions that make them absolutely miserable. But pride or ego (or both) keep them from admitting that the role isn’t a good fit for them. By all means, stretch yourself and be challenged, but being miserable is never the goal. At the end of the day, for me, no matter how good the role sounds on paper, if I don’t like my job, then I simply cannot be my authentic self.
Making it All Work Together
My family is extremely important to me and so is my work. At times (a.k.a. most of the time) my work schedule can be extremely demanding of my time, which doesn’t always leave me ample time to spend time with my family. For me, there has to be a grounding amount of family time in my life and a family element to really be authentic and successful in my role. Work life balance is a tricky term, and I don’t know if true work life balance exists. Instead, I think of it as you have to make it work all together.
When it comes to time with my family, I prioritize quality over quantity. When I am with them, I do my best to really be present. Not half talk to you while I check my phone every five minutes present – but really present. For example, recently, after a week-long business trip, I sat down with my daughter and spent hours (literally hours) helping her with her new Mysterious Benedict Society puzzle book. No phone, no laptop, just my daughter and I hanging out, working on quirky puzzles. If you are only half there, then you’re not really there. Am I always successful at being fully present when I am with my family? No. Do I sometimes sit on the couch and play a game of sudoku while my son pretends his legos are fighting in an intergalactic battle? You betcha. No one is perfect all the time, but I do strive for the spending moments with them that count.
Furthermore, making it all truly work together can also often mean being comfortable with saying no. Work will always be there, and if you allow everything to be urgent, there will always be something urgent for you to do. Work cannot always be the top priority. Draw the line and prioritize the elements, like family, that are important to you and make you yourself. A few months ago, after my first day back after several weeks of travel, I was asked to join an important call during our normal breakfast time. I politely told the organizer no. I’ll happily be available at a later time when my kids won’t be home, but our breakfast time was off-limits as I had to put my family time first. And so that morning, I had breakfast with my family, the call was scheduled for a later time, and guess what – the world did not end.
Build Your Network
For me, having a mentor has been a game changer. I have been extremely fortunate to have found an exceptional female mentor who has an amazing resume, but more importantly, has been willing to be honest and open with me about her career path and where she has struggled along her journey. Her vulnerability has given me meaningful context and feedback on the things I needed to do to achieve my goals and the confidence to push myself further.
Having or being a mentor doesn’t always mean being a senior executive in a company. If someone is too far ahead of you in their career and life, that mentorship may actually have too much of a gap to fulfill the guidance on the steps you need to move yourself forward now. Even if you’re young and just starting out, you can be a mentor to someone earlier in their career. Pay it forward. Embrace other females and the value of building a community to build each other up. It can be an informal chat once or twice a year over coffee or a Zoom call. It doesn’t have to be structured, or that often, just keep the conversation open. If you are a mentor to someone, be vulnerable, we need to hear more than just work hard and plow through it.
Lastly, I think my breakthrough really came from networking. My primary rule of networking is give more than you receive. You have to add value to each relationship and that means reaching out to others when you don’t need something from them. For example, anytime I see anyone in my network hiring for a finance/accounting position, I proactively reach out and offer my help or advice on everything from the job description, how they’re approaching the hiring process, to my thoughts on their final candidates. I don’t do this because I expect to receive something in return (although a glass of wine is always nice ☺), I do it because I genuinely want to use my knowledge and expertise to benefit those around me. Being willing to help and share has created a community for me of authentic interactions which are really validating in my career.