My Advice for Women in Tech
- Posted by Andrea Berlin
During Apple’s recent WWDC, Jennifer Bailey, VP of Apple Pay, took the stage. In so doing, she became the first female executive to speak to the crowd in WWDC history. Bailey was later followed by Susan Prescott, Apple’s VP of Product Marketing, who presented the new iOS News app.
Of course, two women giving a talk at a conference shouldn’t be a notable event; however, their appearance became one of the most talked-about aspects of WWDC 2015. That’s because there’s a certain reality we–everyone–have to face: The tech world is dominated by men. While women comprise 51% of the U.S. population, only 26% of the positions in science and tech are filled by them–which is actually lower than what it was in 1990.
For me, a woman in tech, growing into a role of technology leadership at Fino was an organic but intentional process. As Head of Product, I help build great teams who make powerful technical solutions for clients and partners. However, I don’t spend much time wondering how or why I was able to break the status quo and achieve this role. Rather, I spend more time wondering why more women in general aren’t able to.
That’s a complex question. I’m not sure I can unpack it fully here, but I do have some advice for women looking to enter or thrive in the tech world.
- Embrace new challenges. There’s not a single job I’ve ever taken that I felt 100% qualified for (even if I actually was). Women are more likely than men to avoid applying for or accepting jobs that require a steep learning curve. But I don’t look at my prospects this way. I think about what I bring to a job, not what I lack. I think about my unique skills and perspectives, and I appreciate that I’ll have a chance to learn new things as I go. In other words: Establish credibility about the things you know, and be willing to learn more about the things you don’t.
- Build solid relationships. This works on several levels. I’m not an engineer and I don’t write code; I rely heavily on the architects and engineers I work with to help and advise me. But I’ve also built strong relationships with my colleagues at every level of the organization–and this enables me to negotiate a wide range of scenarios and situations. My words of wisdom here? It always helps to have allies.
- Communicate with clarity. Whether you’re talking to your boss about taking on new challenges, to your team about projects and priorities, or to HR about scheduling options, make sure you come to every conversation ready to engage. You should project confidence, choose your words meaningfully, and prepare yourself ahead of time with potentially relevant facts or ideas. It’s amazing how far articulate, well thought-out discussion goes–both in life and in the workplace.
- Choose wisely. Many of the above tips are best used by employees, but employers should also take note. There are organizations where these things matter, and others where they don’t. It’s important for companies to foster the type of environment where new challenges, solid relationships, and good communication are possible, and it’s vital that employees be able to seek these things out and enjoy them.
Working at Fino has made things easier for me. It’s an environment that’s inviting to everyone who works hard and innovates, regardless of gender. After I joined, I could see immediately my individual growth was valued and I’d have lots of opportunities to learn and contribute.
Too many women in tech don’t get to experience a working environment like that. Many women don’t get to experience a professional tech environment at all. Hopefully, though, my story will no longer be the outlier–and it won’t necessarily be news when two women take the stage.Tell us what you think @finoconsulting or by email.