Archive for category Mentoring
My daughter commented once that I define myself by my career. That surprised me. I grew up in a man’s world, had no concept of “career” and have always been primarily impassioned by my family and closest friends, followed by music and writing. My number one concern every day was the well-being of my daughters. As a divorced mom, I juggled a lot of roles. This is not to say that my daughter’s dad was absent in their lives. But in our day-to-day routines, I was both mother and father, the disciplinarian one minute and the comforter for the same child the next. Work was something I did – well, because I had to work to pay bills. In fact, I often think I didn’t choose my career. My career chose me.
I never really saw myself as a manager. My role model for work was more like my dad – a laborer who did the best he could every day in the beam yards of Bethlehem Steel. My work ethic, my curiosity, my yearning to solve and explain the incomprehensible to others – these are the things that drove me. My appointment to a leadership position was not expected. I had mentors (unknown to me at the time) who recognized my capabilities, helped me to groom my skills and who then sponsored me to management. I am eternally grateful to those men. (And – yes, they were men.)
And I have loved what I do every day at work as a manager – because I enjoy engaging with a team; I love hearing their viewpoints, listening to their ideas, learning what they know that I don’t know and piecing together disparate and new concepts into solutions. I love the collaboration. And because I care about my team, about my clients, I worked long hours while my daughters were growing up; I was available 24×7 if needed, and I have had the (unexpectedly) best work experience – one I could never have imagined as a young girl growing up the daughter of an immigrant mother and 1st generation father.
And, so, in some ways, yes my career did come to define me. The difference is this: I don’t define myself by my career. I am more than what anyone sees when they see me thru their lens. I can’t be put into a box all nicely, neatly categorized and fitting tidily into one file folder – either by my children, my friends, my colleagues, or my managers. And there’s the conundrum. When my children look at me, they evaluate me by the actions and words they see in their isolated interactions with me. They don’t understand what shaped those words and actions – where my values came from – how I grew up or what motivates me.
The problem is no different in the workplace – except that in the workplace we have a responsibility to understand and accept these nuances between each other. How difficult is that when we don’t have the same kinds of experiences or the ability to know what someone else went through on their journey to today?
When I look around at leaders who came before me, they are mostly – not all – white males that had different parents, different experiences, different education, different opportunities than I did. They have different home life experiences today than I have today. And their paths to success are paths I could not follow. (Pack up my family and move to a foreign country? Not in my realm of possibilities while raising two daughters.) And I think that’s where women and other minorities may have trouble crashing through the glass ceiling.
What I bring to the workplace is unique. And I think it’s incumbent upon me to help leaders understand – in somewhat the way I would help my children understand – what makes me different and why my differences make me stronger.
Let’s talk. You talk. I’ll listen. I’ll talk. You listen.
Don’t judge me by what you expect. And I promise the same to you.
We have come so far in this country in the spirit of diversity. But it really is time to confront the final frontier — that is, not just an acceptance of, but an appreciation for diversity of thought, character, leadership styles and work styles. There’s more than one way to create a fine bottle of wine. And there’s more than one path to leadership. Make a change. Let it start with us.
To my daughters: Hey, for all the things I have done in life, you are the best whine (er, that is, WINE) I have created.
A marketing campaign from the 1970s is being credited today with aptly capturing the spirit of today’s social media. “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…” I could not remember the name of the product the campaign advertised until I “Googled” it today – and that’s because it was the theme that resonated with me.
In everything we do personally or professionally, we build our reputation one brick at a time. The best university or the right degree might earn a “foot into the door.” Crowdfunding might provide the impetus to starting your own business. Having friends in the right places might kickstart a career. Credibility is what keeps you there.
Personally, I have been told “not to care so much” (about a project or other effort in which I might be engaged). Certainly, managing what you care about and when you care about it is an art. And there may be a fine line between knowing when to fan the fire and when to put it out. But I choose not to live in mediocrity.
Whatever we do should be done with passion. Passion is noticed. Passion can’t be ignored. Passion puts our own personal stamp on everything we do. Passion is memorable.
Today I have to refer to one of my favorite thought leaders: Seth Godin. Seth’s blog today is “Finding Your Peer Group.” I have to tell you that finding my peer group was pivotal to my success and to my level of satisfaction with and – yes – even passion about – my job.
Fourteen years ago I joined our company’s Information Technology (IT) project to deploy new Human Resources software from SAP. To say I couldn’t even spell “SAP” might be an exaggeration, but trust me, I knew nothing.
How I made it thru the project and onward to manage the support team has everything to do with the my peers: people I worked with on the project — the consultants who taught me what they knew, my office colleagues who patiently answered every one of my tedious questions about business processes and the countless other SAP users I met thru an organization called America’s SAP Users Group (ASUG).
What I learned thru my peer groups was that many people had the same questions I had. Others had questions that I could actually answer! My peer group encouraged me to talk about what I know, to write about what I know and to accept a nomination to the ASUG Board of Directors. My peer group agrees with me. And my peer group feels equally challenged to disagree with me. And – you know what? – I appreciate the honest, open feedback, good or bad.
Real business friends will tell you you’re wrong one minute and shake your hand or hug you the next minute.
I was not a born leader. Well – not in the typical sense. I was not raised by parents who led me to aspire to being the President or even a manager. I wasn’t even strongly encouraged to go to college (although I wasn’t discouraged either). I was raised by parents who provided enough guidance to make good choices, and then let me try and fail and try again. When I entered the workplace, I entered as a secretary. (These days, we call these bright and invaluable experts “administrative assistants.”) When I received my college degree, I did it at night, while working full-time and while raising my daughters. I did not have aspirations to be a manager. I aspired, rather, to do interesting and intellectually stimulating work. I thrived on relationships I built in the business community and in learning about their thoughts, ideas and experiences.
Over the years, however, I found that my natural curiosity seemed to inspire others to dig deep, to find the right answers, to stop and question their own thinking or the way in which things were always done. And, ultimately, I was asked to lead.
I am enormously proud of all I accomplished. But – trust me – I didn’t set out with a personal roadmap. And perhaps because of that I am more aware of the possibilities that exist when individuals and organizations refuse to allow perceptions, sterotypes or expectations guide choices.
Forbes recently conducted an interview with Angela Yochem, CIO at BDP International. The title of the article is “Former Musician Turned Board Level CIO, BDP International’s Angela Yochem’s Unconventional Path To The Top Of IT”. The headline is attention grabbing. Why? Because we remain fascinated and surprised, when a declared right-brained person excels in a left-brained world.
The fact is that diversity of thought is essential to business success. Diversity of thought will not arise from hearing the same voices repeatedly.
Leaders — those who can guide others thru transformational change — come in all shapes and sizes.
“The collection of capabilities that a CIO must bring into that role is so much broader than it used to be” Angela Yochem says and continues “If you’re a technology leader, you’re the one proposing transformational technology opportunities.”
Transformational technology. Transformational implies an innovative and creative culture. I’ll have a second helping of that, please! And please serve it with a surprise side dish of mixed milieu.
“How Design Thinking is Making ERP Software Better” is featured on Page 78 in the May issue of CIO REVIEW. After proudly posting this picture on Facebook, one tech friend (@MicoYuk) tweeted in response “YES!! I LUV to see women on top of their IT game. Congrats to @SherryanneMeyer for bng featd in @CIOReview p 78 #WIT http://www.cioreview.com/magazines/may14/SAP2014/ …” I realized – remarkably – that the publication was a bigger deal than my byline. I went back into the magazine to check the conributors. I counted males and females. I was one of only 3 women who contributed to that issue of the magazine.
I want to be clear: I do not think the lack of female contributors is because the editors overlooked female candidates. I think it’s because women who are willing to put themselves out there are harder to find. I have a sense that when women draw attention to themselves it is not well received, and that therefore, women avoid opportunities that may shine too bright a light on them. Being vocal as a female is a fine art requiring delicate and adept balance to avoid inciting resentment among one’s peers. (I don’t know that I have mastered that art yet.)
Mico’s tweet to me made me sit up and take notice to how many of us are not leaning in to speak our minds on the broader technology platform. Nearly everything I’ve been taught has come from textbooks authored by men. Nearly every speaker I have had the pleasure to hear at a technology event has been male. And I checked who I follow on Twitter, and – GUESS WHAT!? – of the individuals I follow (not organizations), the majority are men.
Why is it that women don’t step out, say more, get quoted, write, speak, or publish more? Is it too risky to “Lean In” to put your thoughts in writing? Are we too busy being wife, mother, friend and tech genius all at once?
My Point of View: We need to be heard for the generations of young men and women who follow.