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2023 Empowering Women in Tech: Key Takeaways

Ecosystems hosted its second Annual Empowering Women in Tech Forum, featuring a panel of top female leaders in tech:

  • Kellie Capote, Chief Customer Officer at Gainsight 
  • Aditi Chhaya, Global Vice President, Inspire Value at ServiceNow 
  • Sahana Sarma, Global Managing Director, Customer Value and Transformation at Google Cloud 
  • Dione Hedgpeth, Chief Customer Officer at Sumo Logic 
  • Pam Ireland, Senior Director, Business Value & Strategy at Anaplan

Top 10 Takeaways

Below, we’ve included our top 10 key takeaways you can apply to your career. You can also check out our full recording here.

1. It’s ok to be emotional - things are not perfect all the time.

“There are going to be days and moments where things are going really, really great. And there's going to also be days and times where things are frustrating… [my mentor] was like, ‘You know, it's okay to cry.’ And so I just really appreciated hearing that from another female leader because things aren't perfect all the time.” - Aditi

2. Actively ask for help.

“Not just professionally but ask for help from your husband, your kids, right? I think we all are in the middle of so many things, we're typically in that sandwich generation of dealing with things with our parents, our kids, and work. And so actively ask people to help and, and do more. I've tried to do that with my kids as they're growing up, to take more responsibility… I think we could all ask for more help and support from the folks who care about us and want to make us successful.” - Sahana

3. Successful Leaders know how to build trust.

“The best piece of advice that I ever received was when I was a first-time leader… at Mercury Interactive. I had a one-on-one with the CEO and we were a pretty small company at the time. And he asked me ‘Dione, like what do you think is the most successful thing a leader does? What are the attributes? What do they do?’ And I threw out a bunch of thoughts. I was an early leader, and he said ‘Actually, Dione, it's successful leaders who know how to build trust.’" 

And trust - that has stuck with me for my entire career. And in fact, years later the president of field ops at AppDynamics had us all read this book, which I would highly encourage you to read. It was called The Speed of Trust, which I've also had my leaders read. It is life-changing, not just for ‘how do you build important relationships at work?’, but it's actually really helped me with my children as well.” - Dione

4. Be yourself.

“Let me tell you the story. It was about 20 years ago. I just got promoted to VP. There were not a lot of women leaders. In fact, I was the only woman on our staff. 

I was very career-motivated. I wanted to be successful so badly but I was really confused in terms of, ‘How do I present myself? What mannerisms do I need to be like one of the guys? If they go to a cigar bar, should I go?’ I was completely overthinking it.

A woman who was a VP of engineering joined our staff and she just owned who she was. When the guys wanted to go golfing at an offsite, she's like, ‘Dione, let's go shopping, it'll be so much better.’

Watching her, she was wildly successful as a VP. She did the work well. She was really intelligent, and hard-working. She stood up for opinions. She was a good person. 

I realized nobody cared that she was different. In fact, I really thought she stood out, she was special. And that just sort of released like all this for me and it was like I was free and I changed. I just did what I wanted, I was myself.

At the end of the day, you have to do the work, you have to be good at your job, right? But I realized you can totally just be who you are, own it, and as long as you crush it, no one remembers or thinks about it after a while.” - Dione

5. Expand your network and build cross-functional alliances.

“One of the key distinctions that I think really helped me in my career as a woman in tech was really distinguishing this concept of a mentor and a sponsor.

In your role today, get outside of your comfort zone even with respect to your function or team, build cross-functional alliances, [and] understand who has the power and desire to help you.” - Kellie

6. Take the initiative to reach out, ask for advice, and give something in return.

“The things that come to mind for me are taking initiative, reaching out, asking for advice, and then trying to give something in return. I do think maybe we're all a little hesitant to ask and then not be offended if people either ignore you or say no. 

You want to give people a bit of an out, but I think a lot of it is finding people to ask questions of and learn more. And many of those people are more than willing to share and then that tends to be the beginning of a relationship.” - Pam

7. Create work/life integration—build a schedule that works for you.

“I think about, ‘How can I be successful in my career while still protecting what's sacred to me outside of my career?; The way that I go about my day might not be your traditional 8-to-5 every day, but there are certain non-negotiables that I hold very close to my heart and set really clear expectations with my leadership team, my boss, etc. I've gotten better at that over the years. I think I was a little bit more timid about that early on.” - Kellie

“You've got to give yourself grace at different points in your life. You will think about work versus family differently.

Calendar management ends up being so incredibly important. I block out all important school times, playdates, the days that I'm going to go pick them up from practice… because, for me, it's as important as a meeting. Because I'm not going to do it for every soccer game or for every tennis match, but there are certain times that I want to be there. So I think putting that on your calendar and making that transparent to people is super important.

I also try to be flexible. I think [of work/life] integration, this idea of every day being the same just doesn't happen for me that way, right? I think you pick some days to be very heavy; other days you're going to try to be flexible.  - Sahana

8. If you’re struggling with self-confidence and negative self-talk, set aside time to make sure you feel prepared and practice.

Aditi shared three tips for how to build self-confidence:

  • Focus on the positive - Self-talk does not have to be negative.
  • Know your stuff - Be really prepared.
  • Practice makes perfect - Before any big meeting, practice your delivery so that your confidence is evident.

9. Architect your own career and play the long game.

“We own our careers, so it is important for us to be very clear on what's next for our path – really think about what it is that you want to be doing, not just one year out, but a few years out, and then figure out what is needed to take place to actually make that happen. 

Build those relationships because when the role opens or when the opportunity arises, they'll know you're a person who's ready for it. … Think about where you want to go and architect that much more proactively.” - Sahana

10. Have confidence in yourself and advocate for what you deserve.

“The first part is honestly getting around our mindset. I think we have a tendency to say, ‘Hey, I don't have all of these skills. I'm not yet ready.’

First, you kind of have to say, ‘Hey, I can do that role.’ You really have to have that belief in yourself that you can do it.

Think about the core strengths you have, whether it's leadership, great stakeholder skills, content knowledge of the business in a way that's different from other people, better skills around a particular solution, and think about your point of view. 

Go in with, ‘Hey, here's what I would do with this role,’ and it doesn't have to be a deck or anything like that, but it can just be one page, or here's what I think the team should be about, here's what I would bring to that role, and I think sometimes overpreparation helps us really advocate for ourselves.” - Sahana

I think very often it's just kind of expected that a male will negotiate and that, with a woman, it is kind of what it is.

It’s something I've really had to I guess force myself and encourage myself to do more of, and I've gotten much better at it over the past several years. Some of that is because of building those alliances with other women and sharing benchmarks and things across the team of, ‘Where should we be? What are you seeing within your organization?’ Use that as proof points to propel your compensation forward. And it's not asking for anything that you don't deserve.- Kellie

To learn more from our panel of top female leaders and other members of our Customer Value Community, be sure to join today.

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