For women in technology – for women in any field, really – finding your way and building your career is a wonderful adventure. But, what is a successful career? Well, it depends on what you enjoy and what you value.
“Whether they stem from business or personal situations, our relationships are what support us, connect us, and allow us to progress in all aspects of our lives.”
- Michelle Tillis Lederman, 11 Laws of Likability
First, find what you love. Take some calculated risks. Technology offers numerous roles to explore. Get your technical education, then find a fast-growing young company and try as many as interest you, even if they require some skills you don’t think you currently have. I’ve never felt truly qualified for any new role I’ve taken on, but a fast-growing company will give you the opportunity if you show promise and you ask for it.
Second, become an expert at something. You will work for 30 or 40 years and, over that time, you will take on numerous roles. If you have one or more solid bases of expertise, you can bring that to the new roles, in your own way. A Marketer, an Analyst and a Developer can all move to the Product stream. All can have great success but they will all approach their role in a different way.
Third, and most importantly, the professional relationships you build over time will help you progress your career, and the careers of others. As early as your first role in Tech, you’ll notice that certain of your co-workers stand out for their attitude, diligence, connectedness, communication skills, competence and ownership. Those are the people to learn from. They are the people who will progress in their careers. Your best work will be noticed, and when those you admire need help with a project, advance or move to another company, they will think of you. Over time, you will be the one recommending or recruiting those who have impressed you. When I am interviewing I always ask candidates how they got each job in their resume. If most of the answers are “A former co-worker reached out to me”, those are the candidates to seriously consider.
How does this advice apply to women specifically? Doesn’t it make sense for everyone? Yes! It does apply to everyone, but women can face a few additional hurdles. Many professional relationships are reinforced by out-of-work activities like golf weekends or lunches. As most tech leaders are currently men, this means you will often be less likely to be invited. This will change as the percentage of women in leadership increases, but in the meantime, focus on the basics above and you will more than overcome these challenges. Doing your best work in a role you love, from the base of your core competency, focusing on ownership, delivery and communications will enable you to build the professional relationships you need to have a long, diverse productive career in Technology.