Archive for category Women In Technology
Success isn’t single. We pride ourselves on our individual accomplishments. In reality, I can’t think of a thing I achieved completely on my own. Those who taught, coached, encouraged, collaborated, helped, or led all contributed to any accolades I received or joy I found in my work.
At work, as in life, these relationship tips never fail.
1. Opposites attract because they find something exciting in each other. Keep an open mind to the possibilities in every seemingly “half baked” idea you hear.
2. Two-way communication is key. And although technologists expect that all future communication will take place with thumbs typing on a mobile device, most young people entering the workforce today actually acknowledge the value in making a telephone call or stopping by someone’s office in person.
3. Show some appreciation. Everyone feels more motivated when the work they do is valued. And a valued co-worker is so much more likely to “pull out all the stops” when the team really needs it next time.
4. Accept shortcomings. We’re all human and come to work wired and programmed in unique ways. A failure is an opportunity for an enhancement; not a full blown system outage.
5. Leave room for growth. Most people want something more than what they are currently getting in their position at work. It may be increased challenges at work that puts the sparkle in someone’s eye or it may be opportunities to achieve better work life balance or it could be a combination of the two. Look for chances to make growth happen.
There isn’t only one path to success. There isn’t only one right way to achieve success. Your path to success is your own. But it won’t be travelled alone.
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.
I recently completed a 3 year project which – according to client requirements – should have been done 2 years ago. Hey, I’d like to say that good things take time! But the truth is that sometimes life – and IT project execution – is just unpredictable. And painful. But – ever the optimist – throughout the three years, I tried to find the sunny spot in the gloom of our basement project room. And today I’m asking myself “what did I learn?”
You cannot deliver on something you do not know.
Seek out experts, get training for yourself and your team. Classroom training is not enough. For me, I learned the most from my network of connections I had built over the years through my engagement in a professional community – the Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG). Collaboration with others outside of my own usual comfort zone – across companies and within my own company – helps me to shift paradigms, and, in this case, helped me to question my own design and to rethink the possibilities.
Expectations are sneaky.
Expectation – noun – a belief that someone will or should achieve something. We IT people like things that are concrete – you know, “If x, then y, else z…”. As Project Managers and Business Analysts, we follow plans and processes, carefully sequenced and timed. We define scope and lock it down. What is impossible to manage are the expectations of a variety of stakeholders – each with different concerns. In my case, Legal wanted the solution delivered fast. Business areas didn’t want productivity disrupted. Administration wanted something that would require little manual intervention (add time to the project plan here!). Human Resources wanted a solution that employees would like (add more time to the project plan). IT, of course, wanted us to stay on time and within budget. I understood all these expectations. What we missed was how difficult it would be to keep those expectations from creeping back into the project even after we had all agreed some things would simply not be done within the parameters of this project. There’s only one way (in my humble opinion) to prevent being sidetracked by expectations: that is, have one single person as the ultimate decision maker.
“Failure is delay, not defeat.” – Denis Waitley.
Despite your best laid plans and past successes, sometimes you simply fail to meet everyone’s expectations, the timeline or the budget. But I refused to admit defeat. We missed the two scheduled release dates. We went over our original budget by a significant number. Despite the pressure from management on those two points, our team persevered in finding the right solutions. With my sense of integrity intact, I suggested a redesign of the solution – thereby removing many of the hurdles that were getting in the way of expectations — some of which were pretty important expectations. No one applauded or sent bonuses my way when we were done. But I have the satisfaction of knowing I did the very best I could and that what I delivered really did remove potential issues for our buisness.
Denis Waitly said “Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” I don’t think I can be accused of any of that. The entrepreneurial spirit in me still prefers to challenge the status quo, longs to innovate, and is okay with taking a calculated risk. I have raised two daughters who were at times scared to fail. And everyday, with every new decision they faced, I would say, “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if you try that?” I have never received an answer to that question from either one of them. And so now I am going to take a page from my daughter’s playbook at Blondes Have More Run and leave us all with the following.
Excuse me now, but i have to keep going!
In Dr. Janice Presser’s blog that I posted yesterday, she said “I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of diversity.”
She is right.
Diversity is more than meeting quotas. Diversity is more than gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. And diversity does not mean that you have to agree with the other person’s point of view, speak their language, or accept their lifestyle. It does mean that we have to be open to seeing the possibilities in every person we encounter. It does mean that we need to make room in the workplace for people who have differet values than ourselves. It does mean we have to realize that not everyone we work with had the same parenting, education, background or experiences that we have had. It does mean that we should embrace the fact that women are, indeed, very often different from men – just as my colleagues from India are very different from my colleagues who were born and raised in the United States. And it does mean that we have to embrace the fact that the differences between each of us are vital to a successful organization.
That means we have to work harder within these differences instead of attempting to press everyone into one common cookie-cutter mold.
I and many others (including The Washington Post) wrote about Max Schireson, the chief executive of database company MongoDB, who stepped down to a less demanding position in the company in order to have more time for his family. In The Washington Post’s column On Leadership, Jena McGregor writes: “Perhaps the best part of the blog post is Schireson’s public recognition of the double standards and differing expectations that male and female executives face. He acknowledges that while the press often asks female CEOs (GM’s Mary Barra, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi) how they do it all, no one’s ever asked him a similar question.”
The fact remains that we have different expectations for men and for women in the workplace. This extends to the hours we work to the leadership positions we hold, to how we speak, and how we manage a team. Personally, I have received feedback (through third parties) regarding my communications style – both what I say and how I say it. The reality is that while part of my communication style is deeply embedded in who I am, I learned my my work communication style at the foot of male managers. And so, after several years of receiving the same feedback, I finally said to my manager, “Please give me specific examples. The next time you hear me say something wrong, pull me aside immediately after and help me – tell me what I did wrong – because I think I say the same things you would have said.” That made a lightbulb go on for my manager and for me.
I realized that sometimes I judge the delivery of messages too. And really, as leaders we need to be looking beneath the delivery of the message to the nugget of value in what is being said. Communication is a two way street: Speaker and Receiver. Both parties put their own “spin” on the message being delivered. Both parties bring different backgrounds, parenting, experiences and knoweldge to a conversation. In a diverse workforce, we strive to hear it all.
And so, I encourage us, as individuals and as leaders, to listen more than speak, to attempt to understand the differences and why they exist, to ask questions for clarity and to make no assumptions about how the message was delivered or even about what was said. Hold back your immediate, innate reactions. Look deeper for insight and allow yourself time to process the diversity of thought.
I would like to introduce you to a colleague and friend of mine. Dr. Janice Presser is the architect of Teamability® – a technology which directly measures the way a person ‘connects’ to the needs of the team: not just to other people, but to the team itself as a living entity. I met Janice at an American SAP Users Group event where I had the good fortune to share dinner with her. What she had to say about how the most successful teams are built and how leaders thrive in our post-industrial, social media connected, global workforce was intriguing and really hit home for me. I hope you enjoy her thoughts as much as I do. The following blog was published previously on Dr. Janice Pressor’s WordPress Blog. I am privileged to share it with you here.
Not a Born Leader? So What!
By Dr. Janice Presser on February 20, 2014
I was not born a leader.
When I was born (and this was a very long time ago), there were serious defects in my leadership blueprint. First, I had two X chromosomes at a time when one Y was needed in order to be a leader. Actually, nobody knew what a chromosome was back then, so 42 Extra Long was the preferred measure, and I didn’t reach my full 5’2” until I was 25.
Although I had no choice in the matter, I also ended up with two loving parents, neither of whom was an entrepreneur or executive. It would seem hopeless.
Now, in 2013, diversity is desirable. My dear friends in executive search tell me that they are under the gun to produce diversity slates for the high level positions they are engaged to fill. A diversity slate, one told me with his typically charming sense of irony, is one that includes at least one woman and one non-white.
When pressed to explain, he went on to say that this configuration positioned the first runner up to be the feel-good candidate while there actually would be no danger of hiring a person other than someone who looked like the rest of the executive team.
I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of diversity.
What if, instead, we looked at people from the viewpoint of the organization? What if, instead, the organization (as a living thing itself) were to provide the want-list, instead of the typical laundry list of job specs written by HR? What if we actually treated organization’s needs with respect and consideration?
This would truly represent a revolutionary change in the way we look at leadership and organizational dynamics.
It turns out that organizations – small, medium, large, and Fortune list huge – all have similar fundamental needs. The people who fill those needs best are the ones who feel, deep inside, a connection to the specific organizational need they are serving. This is what gives a person the sense that they are making meaningful contributions, more so than anything else they could be doing.
People may do various kinds of work similar in focus and thoughtfulness, but they experience different kinds of work in different ways; each aligned with the specific need of the organization that they are filling. This has especially important relevance to leadership.
There are those who are drawn to create big visions, as an entirely new product, or service, or level of awareness. They start an organization as a way to draw other people in to make it happen. In the language of Teamability, they are Founders.
There are those who bond to the vision of the Founder and lead the strategic process of putting it on the road to realization. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Movers.
There are those who take the drive and activity of the Vision Mover and shape and form it into a more elegant, efficient framework. This transforms the team as well as the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Formers.
There are those who adapt big-picture strategies into action. They are the heroes of their teams as they lead them into the fray. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Movers.
And there are those who make sure that every detail is in place, been accomplished well, and that the project is not closed until everything is done. They are extraordinary project managers, no matter what the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Formers.
All are leaders. All are essential. If you want to lead, and you feel comfortable in leading, one of these Roles probably resonates with you.
But there are five more needs that organizations have, and without them the organization is incomplete and structurally flawed. If you fill one or the other Roles, you may not be automatically seen as a leader. However, that does not mean you can’t lead. It may very well be that your organization needs you for a special kind of leading that only you can do.
We’re all in this together, and all people were born to serve. Whether your leadership is recognized or not is less important than your desire to contribute. It is really a matter of finding the right niche.
Here are some tactics you can try along your way to becoming a leader:
- Start, or take a leadership position in, an organization that does something good for people. (I was involved in several parenting nonprofits and learned the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ‘well worth the trouble.’)
- People often make snap judgments based on how you look, and they’re often wrong. But, the more you tune into how they see you, the more you can influence their ideas about you. Ask a friend for feedback. (I will be eternally grateful to my BFF Margot for getting me to stop dressing like a mom, even at business meetings.)
- I have to give credit for this one to serial entrepreneur and investor, Vincent Schiavone. He told me his secret in two words: Get Famous! (I have been working on it ever since. Blogging is a good start!)
- Ask yourself why you want to lead. If your answer is to make more money, there are probably easier ways. If your answer is to change the world (or some part of it) start figuring out how you’re going to do that and, more important, who you’ll need to team with in order to get there.
- Finally: don’t give up. Remember that times change and you will change with them. What is impossible at 30 can be possible at 40, probable at 50, and inevitable at 60. (Just remember as you get older to stay young in your mind, your heart, and your body.)
Leadership is, after all, quite simple… and has nothing to do with being ‘born with it’. All you have to do is be the person other people want to follow!
For more of Dr. Janice Presser’s thoughts read @Dr Janice, Thoughts and Tweets on Leadership, Teamwork and Teamability and visit The Gabriel Institute online.
The best job I have ever had — that is, the one in which I have felt most rewarded — was in being a mom. But I want my life to be insightful and impactful and intellectually stimulating outside of my home. The difficulty has always been finding balance between the two “M” words – Mom and Manager.
The expectation that a corporate work week is routinely more than 40 hours is challenging for any parent. Yet, I willingly give those hours because I feel passion and a sense of commitment to my colleagues and to the successful completion of work that enables a better workforce via technology.
I am not leaving the best job I ever had. But for MongoDB CEO Max Schireson, stepping down to do LESS and allow someone else to step up to do more was crucial. There is no shame in this – and I am personally applauding his choice — and his integrity and passion for life and family.
The question for each of us is how we will make personal balance work for each of us. And the realization we must all achieve is that the question is not just for women.
It is my hope that Max Schireson’s choice will not only inspire more dad’s to chose worklife balance, but more, that it will make it increasingly acceptable for women to be able to shift temporarily into a lower gear in order to achieve Mom-Manager happiness. Can we all “lean in” to that idea?
Earlier this summer, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mom and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.
While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:
* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York…
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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.