Lyft event: Things women should know about climbing tech’s career ladder
By LISA M. KRIEGER of MercuryNews
Decades after women began entering the tech workplace, relatively few have made it into corporate management.
What’s it take to reach the top? At a Monday night panel discussion at Lyft by its UpLyft Women employee group and organized by a San Francisco-based organization of professional international women called The Expat Woman, leaders discussed their journeys to success in the tech industry, the gender gap in senior leadership roles and advice for women in ways to forge ahead in their fields.
What they said: Women need to get better with self-promotion and personal branding. They need to build strong networks outside their company, not just inside. They should seek out many mentors, not just one. Learn new skills. Enjoy risk. Setbacks? Failure? Bounce back.
The conversations steered clear of recent revelations about Uber detailed by Susan Fowler, a software engineer who exposed a culture of sexual harassment and sexism.
Rather, the leaders offered practical suggestions to young women in tech — a new pool of candidates who tend to be ethnically diverse and have grown up in a digital world. There is competition for these women as tech companies are under growing pressure to broaden and diversify their workforce.
Specifically, they offered this advice for how to rise through the ranks of technology firms:
• Be visible, said Nolwenn Godard, director of pricing product at Paypal “Make sure strategic people know your impact, know your influence…And you need to be known outside your company, outside your immediate circle. This requires networking. Most of the opportunities will come from your network.”
• Mentors – keep it casual, said Anisha Mocherla of market operations at Lyft. “Guys don’t have official mentors. They don’t ask: ‘Will you be my mentor?’ ” she said. “Just approach co-workers and say: ‘I’m thinking about this — what do you think?’… Don’t just have one mentor. Different people are good at different things — find them. Find multiple mentors for different topics.”
• Take risks, said Maire Sogabe, chief of staff to the chief security officer at PG&E. “For instance, try to take the opportunity to manage people early in your career … and hone those skills. Be persistent — you may not always get the opportunity that is put forward. Sign up for (online) courses through Udemy or Coursera. Use that knowledge to reinvest in yourself and the brand that you want to be — not just what you are right now … Keep at it. You need to work at what you want to do and who you want to be.”
• A career is a jungle gym, not a ladder, said Yvonne Chen, head of marketing/senior director of marketing at Udemy for Business. “Think in terms of the long game — build a skill set. Not always is each step a step up,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a step to the side. But you’re learning something new or different.”
• Raise your hand, said Iliana Quinonez, director, solution engineering at Salesforce. “Women tend to be on the shy side. Don’t be,” she said. “Build your brand. If your boss has a project and is super overwhelmed, say: ‘I can help with that.’ Just go for it.”
• Build a three-minute elevator pitch — about you, said PGE’s Sogabe. “Say who you are, what you want and what you expect from your career. That’s key.”
• Communicate your business impact, said Paypal’s Godard. ” Women tend to receive less constructive feedback, are less exposed to ‘stretch opportunities’ and get fewer special assignments. Feedback tends to be less factual and more focused on communication styles.” To counter that, describe your results for the business.
• Volunteer. But only do things that add value to your own career, said Godard. “Don’t volunteer to take notes. Volunteer for something that is recognized,” she said.
• Compartmentalize, said Salesforce’s Quinonez. “Maybe you didn’t get the opportunity on this project. That doesn’t mean … there aren’t other projects,” she said.
• Pick the right partner, said PGE’s Sogabe. “I would never be able to devote myself to my career if my husband did not do the laundry, dishes and help out,” she said. “Find a real partner.”
Do you have any advice for other women looking to shatter the glass ceiling covering the Tech Industry? Give us your tips in the comments below!