Real, Valuable Career Advice from Female Leaders in Tech

22 Apr 2019

 

Career advice from women in tech
While women may still be a minority in tech, female executives in some of the industry’s biggest companies are using their power to battle inequality from within.

Below is some useful advice from technology’s trailblazing women that we can all apply in our careers.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty – “Growth and comfort never coexist. You have got to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable – it’s when you learn the most.”

When an opportunity for a significant promotion came Ginny Rometty’s way at IBM, she was hesitant to even go for an interview, and was eventually convinced by her mentor to go ahead and give it a shot.

During the interview, as she was being offered the position, she kept thinking to herself that this was a big job and that she would need a little more time to be truly ready for it. So she asked for a day to think it over.

At home, after having told her husband about the interview, he asked her “Do you think a man would’ve answered that question the same way?” And immediately it hit her – “No, a man wouldn’t do what she did.” She realized then that she would have to be brave enough to accept the promotion and all the challenges that come with it, even if it meant that she didn’t feel that she was 100% qualified for it.

 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – “Consistently choose to grow.”

Sandberg is the bestselling author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and certainly has a lot to say about empowering women in the workforce. As Facebook’s Head of Operations and an impressive resume that boasts experience in companies like Google, McKinsey & Company, the World Bank, and the U.S. Treasury Department, she knows a thing or two about how to build a career.

Young women often have an “all or nothing” attitude towards a job. In other words, if they don’t see a position being 100% aligned with their vision, they choose to pass. Sandberg has a different approach to the situation.

She urges women to ask themselves one question before rejecting a job that wasn’t exactly what they envisioned - “Would it help me grow as a person, improve my skills or grow my network?” And if the answer is yes, they should take the job. In time, they will have the knowledge, skills, and connections they need.

In fact, she attributes the best career advice she has received to the then Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, who told her “Stop being an idiot. All that matters is growth.”

Food for thought: Moving from the entry level to the C-suite, female representation falls by more than 50%.

 

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman – “What matters most is your family.”

Meg Whitman has held several coveted positions throughout her career. She was vice president of strategic planning at The Walt Disney Company, the CEO of eBay, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and is currently the CEO of Quibi – a new video streaming platform. Whitman has also run for governor of California in 2010, albeit unsuccessfully – an experience, which she says has helped her develop even thicker skin.

Her advice on working at a company whose values aren’t in line with your own is as relevant as it is valuable: My advice to young people is if you find yourself in a company where you’re being asked to do something that you don’t think is right or you’re feeling uncomfortable about the leadership and the direction of the company, run, do not walk, for the doors.

She also has strong opinions about prioritizing: Be clear what matters most. And what matters most is your family. There are tradeoffs that you will make, but remember, at the end of the day that is probably the most important group of people in your lives, and that has been true for me from day one.

Food for thought: In the US alone, approximately 43% of women quit their jobs to raise a family.

Co-Founder and CTO of Confluent Neha Narkhede – “Be the go-to person, who will resolve others’ pain points.”

When she was a software engineer at LinkedIn, Neha Narkhede helped develop Apache Kafka – a platform that is used to process and organize huge streams of data in real time.

Narkhede realized at the time that in a world of big data, Kafka meant big opportunity. In 2014, along with some of her colleagues at LinkedIn, she co-founded Confluent, a company that specializes in building Apache Kafka tools for companies like Uber, Netflix, and Goldman Sachs.

As a true engineer, she has a pragmatic approach to career advancement. According to a tweet by Narkhede, “[the] best way to spend your first 6 months on a new job/role is to get a series of little pain points resolved, without worrying about how big/interesting the project is. Being the go-to person builds credibility and trust, unlocking your growth.”

 

CEO of YouTube Susan Wojcicki – “Fix it.”

Not many people know that Sergei Brin and Larry Page co-founded Google in Susan Wojcicki’s garage. Soon enough, they offered her to become Google’s employee number 16, and it was she who advocated for Google to acquire YouTube in 2006.  Even based on this small introduction, it’s safe to conclude that one important takeaway from Wojcicki’s career journey is to embrace new opportunities and uncertainties instead of reflexively saying no.

Wojcicki also has some poignant advice when it comes to accepting a job at an established company by urging young professionals to act like an owner. “If you come into [a] company and see something is not working, fix it,” even if it may seem frightening and daunting to challenge the status quo at a place that has long-standing processes in place.

All in all, she believes that hiring more women is not just good ethics, it is smart. “There is a solution that has been proven to address gender discrimination in all its forms, both implicit and explicit: hiring more women. Employing more women at all levels of a company, from new hires to senior leaders, creates a virtuous cycle…They escape a cycle of men mostly hiring men. And study after study has shown that greater diversity leads to better outcomes, more innovative solutions, less groupthink, better stock performance and GDP growth.”

Food for thought: Study shows that companies with 30% female executives make as much as 6 percentage points more in profits. 

At Volo, we are committed to encouraging women to pursue careers in tech and creating a more inclusive work environment. Women comprise 37% of our workforce, as opposed to the industry average of 20%. Go to our Careers page for our latest openings.

 

 

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