Relus Women In Technology: Success Stories, Challenges & Triumphs

Moving into a leadership position can present many challenges, and being a woman moving into a leadership role in the IT industry is no exception to that. Women in technology face many challenges not only from a career standpoint, but also from a social standpoint in that they are typically expected to play many different roles in their personal lives. Though strides are being made to increase the number of women who work in technology fields, there is still a long way to go before we begin to see a major shift in the typical demographic of the technology industry. Women moving into leadership roles in this industry are presented with even more challenges still, due to these leadership roles historically being filled by men. Groups like Women in Technology help promote female leadership and provide women with a network of support and encouragement that helps them to further develop in their careers through the exchanging of advice and sharing of resources. At a recent WIT event, female leaders from the technology industry spoke about their successes and struggles in the industry, and gave advice on how to develop as a leader in the field. They addressed many important aspects of leadership, and discussed ways to overcome some of the challenges that one might face when moving into a leadership role. As a woman in a leadership role at an IT company, these challenges have become apparent in my career. Attending this forum and hearing that others have also faced these challenges and turned them into success provided great insight for me. Though there were countless pieces of advice that I took away from the event, here are a few of the takeaways that I found most important:

What is a Leader vs. a Manager?  

A manager by definition has subordinates and their power over others is a formal authority. A leader by definition has followers leaders do not have subordinates. Many organizational leaders do have subordinates, but only because they are also managers. When they are leading they are not authoritative because to lead is to have followers, and following is always voluntary. Leadership is the art of inspiring others to follow them without authority.  

Decide what inspires you and be proactive in getting there

It's important to be proactive about your career.  You can't wait around for someone to offer you that promotion or new job, you need to go after it.   Find people in your desired career path and ask them questions about how they got there and the work involved.  Success doesn't come without hard work,  don't let that discourage you.  You also have to have self-knowledge.  Know your strengths and weaknesses.  It's easier and you will better serve yourself to build on your strengths first and work on your weaknesses secondly.  Your strengths will have a faster payback vs a weakness that could take years to change.   And finally as in any relationship, mentorship is a two way street,  you need to be prepared to bring something to the table and give back to your mentors.

Sometimes it takes a village

I've had a lot of mentors throughout my career.  Some I haven't talked to in years and some that I talk to on a weekly basis.  Having a good support group to bounce ideas off and get advice is crucial to growing as a person and in your career.  While it's important to self-reflect,  having an external point of view can help us adjust when we have blinders on.  I also believe that we learn something from everyone we meet.  While we admire and try to emulate the great leadership skills we see we also see not very good leaders that show us how not to act in situations.  Good or bad,  everything is a learning opportunity.

You need Sponsors!

While it's important to have mentors it's also just as important to have Sponsors.  Sponsors are people who can help put you into those career enhancing opportunities to help get you where you want to go.  Without sponsorship it's difficult to get to where you are trying to go in your career.  I wouldn't have gotten where I am in my career without Sponsorship.  Those mentors who truly believe in you can help give you that opportunity to grow.

Don’t be afraid of failure

Some of my greatest growth moments in life have been through epic failures.  You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to failure.  If we never took risks and failed, we would never aspire to get where we want to go in life and in our careers.  Through failures we learn from our mistakes and become more humble human beings.  Some of the most wise down to earth people I've met have failed a lot.  The key is to learn, get right back up, dust yourself off, and carry on.  

Listening to such strong female leaders in the technology industry talk about how they struggled with these things until they came to accept them and find ways to turn them into factors for success gave me ideas about how to turn my own struggles into success. Everyone has their struggles in life, but what separates truly successful leaders from everyone else is their ability to find a way to turn problems into solutions. Being a part of WIT, having a network of support, knowing what it takes to be a leader, and understanding that failure happens are just the first steps to a successful leadership career. Listening to the advice and stories of others helps provide valuable information for emerging female leaders. The most important advice that anyone has ever given me is that years from now the people you interact with will not remember what you said but how you made them feel. I keep that in mind with every interaction I have. What is the most important advice that anyone has ever given you? Share it with other emerging female leaders and help become part of their success story to create a brighter future for women in technology.