This blog series is about women supporting women. In it, we ask women leaders from across our organization:
- How are you ensuring that you are your authentic self?
- Advice you’d give to women in their career – what would you tell younger women in tech to make an impact or advice on growing their career?
In the first two posts of this series, we heard from AllCloud’s Vice President of Marketing, North America, Katie Carmella, and AllCloud’s Global CFO, Heather Lipp. They touched on all-important topics like being supported in all your roles, seeing and living diversity, taking the ego out of it, and building your network.
Now, I’m honored to have the opportunity to share my perspective. As a woman leader in tech and a refugee, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of difficulties that stem from being different from those around me. But I’ve turned these differences into advantages and am proud of who I am and what I bring to the table. Here’s my advice to women on finding success and owning their identities – whatever that might be.
Your Voice Matters
Many times as women, we fear the punch that never comes. This fear holds us back from making an impact in our personal lives and our careers.
This became most clear to me when I attended the Dreamforce 2013 fireside chat with Marc Benioff and Sheryl Sandberg about her new book, “Lean In Circles,” which shed light on gender bias and the unfairness of labels attributed to women. When Sheryl asked the women in the audience to raise their hand if they’ve ever been told they’re “too aggressive” or “bossy” at work, I raised my hand along with many others. “Girls aren’t bossy, they just have executive leadership skills,” Sheryl quipped. Meanwhile, when she asked the same question of the men in the audience, only a few hands went up.
Later that evening, I learned that my leadership team, which was 95% male, was shocked that I raised my hand. So when we went to dinner, our CEO made it a safe space for me to share my experience. He said he knew I had something important to share and he didn’t want me to worry about how it might be received. The next day, he sent me a note that read: “Aggressiveness is a key behavior, especially when you are a learner like you are! Keep driving us.” Over the next six months, this same leadership team rolled out the company’s first Women’s Inspiration Network (WIN) as part of a DE&I initiative.
This experience taught me that my voice matters. Under the right leadership, it can make an impact. I have been speaking up ever since.
Wield Your Imposter Syndrome
I didn’t know the culture or speak the language when my family came to America 30+ years ago. Growing up as a refugee, I felt like an imposter and got lost in translation a lot (I still do). But over time, I learned to embrace my imposter syndrome in every aspect of my life – including building a successful career as a woman in tech. I did this by leaning into the same habits I formed as a child.
To fit in, I learned to observe, to ask questions and to listen with an open mind. I adapted like a chameleon does to their environment. The more comfortable I became with being uncomfortable, the more confident I became in my own skin. And as I did, I started to bet more on myself and my ideas and became skilled at exploring new technologies.
My feelings of imposter syndrome turned me into a lifelong learner, which became a superpower I lean into today. If you can work through the fear of feeling like an imposter, you will find the strength to accomplish more than you ever thought possible.
Give Yourself Grace To Create Space For What’s Most Important
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is rest.
I was a patient advocate and caretaker for my grandmother for many years, and during that time I learned a lot about patience, empathy and how hard it is to succeed at work when you’re overwhelmed at home. What was most important to me was that I had the stamina to show up for my loved ones at home. And I learned that it’s okay to give myself the space I need to recharge. Every time I did, I came back refreshed and was more creative and productive at work as a result.
As a leader, I try to lead by example. I’m grateful to be in a culture that supports me so I can show up for my colleagues and encourage them to take time off regularly. With everything going on in the world right now, it’s more important than ever to give yourself and your colleagues grace, in all of our roles, whatever they may be.