Via Madison.com : The Best Career Advice I Ever Received
No matter where you are in your career, it always helps to have a mentor, boss, or trusted colleague from whom you can learn. And while you’ve probably heard your share of advice, we Fools believe that there’s no such thing as too much guidance. That’s why we’re here to share the best career advice we’ve ever been privy to — and how it has helped us get to where we are today.
Do what you love
Daniel B. Kline: My grandfather built a very successful business that employs hundreds of people to this day. He was not a warm and fuzzy man, but he was supportive in an indirect way. So, instead of hugs or verbal support, I got a lot of critique of my pool and candlepin bowling game.
When I entered the working world, however, my grandfather never expected me to follow in his footsteps. Instead, he was supportive of me as a writer and talked about how he had to pursue the direction he did while I could follow my dreams.
He never directly said “do what you love,” but he implied it when talking about things he wished he could pursue. He also showed a willingness to support non-traditional careers as he served as a patron for my uncle, a lifelong artist, and my aunt, who danced before moving into business.
It was never a direct lesson. Instead, by not scolding me or telling me I was making a mistake, I always felt I was being told that following my passion was the way to go. And I’m happier for it today.
My grandfather, meanwhile, is no longer with us — he’s been gone for over 20 years. As a parent myself now, I know that while I hope my son achieves financial success, I’m more hopeful that he finds a job he loves where work never feels like work.
Don’t aim for perfection
Selena Maranjian: One of the best bits of career advice I ever received wasn’t really career advice. It came from an older relative who was talking about relationships when he said, “Don’t look for someone perfect. If you find someone who’s 80% perfect, that’s good!” That kind of thinking can serve you well in your career, too.
For starters, don’t knock yourself out looking for the perfect job as that can be very hard or impossible to do. If you find a job in a field of interest with good pay, chances for advancement, and friendly coworkers, that might be good enough — even if it offers a long commute or so-so benefits. Likewise, a job near your home with great benefits and satisfactory compensation might be good enough, too.
Sometimes, we balk at applying for jobs that look great to us because we don’t feel perfect enough for them. Tone down that tendency, if you have it. You don’t have to be a perfect fit for a job, and most applicants probably won’t be perfect, either. If you’re missing certain experience or a particular skill, you might still make up for that in other ways.
Few jobs are perfect, and many people in various jobs aren’t perfect for their positions, either. No matter what you do, just keep learning (such as by asking questions and reading) as it can make you better at your job — and better suited for other, more lucrative or satisfying jobs, too.
Follow your dreams
Maurie Backman: My first job out of college was great on paper. I had an impressive title, a terrific salary, and plenty of opportunity to network because of it.
The problem? I wasn’t happy. I worked at a financial company, and the atmosphere was downright toxic. Fist fights broke out regularly (thankfully, I never took part in one), and vulgarities were thrown around so frequently that at some point you would’ve sworn there was a secret cursing contest going on.
After working at that job for several years, I knew I was done. Not only was I tired of the intense, crazy environment, but I really wanted to move out of finance and into something more creative — namely, writing. I was dating my now-husband at the time, and he encouraged me repeatedly to go after a career I’d be happier in, even if it meant taking a massive pay cut. And that was some pretty bold advice on his part, seeing as how we were living together and sharing the bills.
But I took his advice. I gave up my cushy salary and benefits and instead taught myself to live on less as I worked to build my business. Eventually, I got to a good place, and now, I’m absolutely thrilled to be doing what I do.
Following your dreams isn’t always easy. It’s often scary, and in my case, it meant spending several years adjusting my lifestyle to account for my much lower earnings. But I had always wanted to be a writer (heck, I even studied it in college), and once I started down that path, I never really looked back.
Via The Irish Times : Twitter Ireland boss warns against outdated career advice
Sinéad McSweeney defends millennials and says mental health and wellbeing are priority
Young people today are being given slightly outdated advice in an attempt to encourage them into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, the head of Twitter Ireland has said.
“There’s a saying in terms of encouraging young women in particular and young women in general to look for careers in stem subjects, that you can’t be what you can’t see. To my mind that is slightly outdated,” Sinéad McSweeney said. “What we now need to encourage people to aspire to is to be something that right now they can’t even imagine.”
Ms McSweeney used the example of her own career path, which has moved from politics to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána, to Twitter.
“When I left school in 1988, most of the jobs that I have done since didn’t exist. The technology that underpins my current job certainly didn’t exist,” she said, noting that the social platform was just 12 years old.
Ms McSweeney was speaking at an Institute of Directors lunch in Dublin.
She recounted some of the missteps in her own career, but noted there is “no such thing as failure”, describing it simply as a mistake, if there was something to be learned from it.
“We should never accept that there is such a thing as a wasted journey because every experience we have is something from which we can grow, and which we take learning and which we develop,” she said.
Ms McSweeney addressed the crisis that hit the social media platform at the beginning of last year, when the company was faced with headlines wondering if Twitter was over, following a significant redundancy programme.
“I had to take a team of people in Dublin through that and through the sense of loss and uncertainty who were worried they were going to be next to a situation,” she said.
However, the company has since had a “global turnaround”, she said. “The atmosphere and sense of energy and productivity and the site itself is a long way from where it was.”
She also addressed the characterisation of millennials, noting that Generation X were described as “cynical, aimless slackers”.
“Yet we were the entrepreneurs who drove most of the innovation from which we benefit today,” she said.
She also warned mental health and wellbeing needed to be a priority for business leaders, saying she was increasingly worried for millennials and the pressure they were putting on themselves.
“As leaders and managers I think we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re not adding to that but also that we’re helping them realise that it’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to enjoy the achievement that they have,” she said.
Via Forbes : How This Founder Removes Barriers To Global Women’s Empowerment
If there’s not enough room at the table, build one that’s bigger. That seems to be Virginia Tan’s pervasive mindset when it comes to creating paths to women’s professional and personal aspirations. Tan is the co-founder of Lean In China, a platform for more than 100K (and climbing) women across 25 cities and 50 universities in China. Tan’s experience as a successful finance lawyer for more than eight years gave her unique insight into the challenges women face in achieving their career goals—the need for solid mentorship, strong leadership and a community of support play just as crucial roles in women’s success as wage disparity and maternity policies. Lean In China along with Tan’s other endeavors–Her Startup, the first global tech entrepreneurial competition for women founders and Teja Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund investing in technologies and startups emerging out of the Her Startup competition—are systematically removing barriers to women’s advancement, serving as a powerful example of what’s possible when women are free to exceed their limits.
Carrie Hammer: Part of your on-going mission is to empower women to lead. What makes a strong, effective leader? Why do you think women hesitate to step into leadership roles and what role do you think culture plays in that hesitation?
Virginia Tan: I think a strong, effective leader is someone who can empower others to be their best selves, as well as also someone who can bring people together and build the bridges between them to pursue a common vision that he or she sets out, overcoming challenges along the way.
I also think that a great leader possesses conviction, compassion and humility–the ability to take on feedback (even when critical) and the ability to adapt to the constantly changing needs of your environment – while at the same time standing true to your values and vision. It’s a balance of holding on to your idealism as well as being pragmatic and effective.
I think there are a few key reasons why women hesitate to step into leadership roles. Every year Lean In China publishes a white paper on Women, Work and Happiness analyzing the challenges and needs of women in the workplace in China. Our 2017 white paper on the Impact of Women in the Workplace in a Digital Age (slated to be published on Women’s Day in 2018) shows a gap in leadership ambitions: 64.7% of men want to rise to the top leadership position compared to 42.2%. When asked why, the leading reason from both genders was “too much pressure.”
Our report shows a low prevalence of workplace gender discrimination in China: 58.6% of women compared to 23.9% of men feel that men have more opportunities in the workplace. Compensation gap, career disruption caused by maternity and social preference for senior male leaders are the three main reasons for this perceived gender bias. However, previous research conducted by Lean In China on the challenges women faced in the workplace found that the top three challenges were all linked to balancing the tensions within work and life. These obstacles did not arise out of discrimination in the workplace itself. Specifically, work-life balance becomes the top-ranked challenge once women ascend to mid and senior-level management. Unless society’s assumptions that women should bear the majority of responsibility for childbearing and household responsibilities change, it is easy to see why women hesitate to step into leadership roles.
Hammer: What energizes you about the work women are doing in the tech industry/fields? What are some of the most rewarding aspects of both Lean In China and She Loves Tech?
Tan: The reward to me is considerable–seeing people transform in front of your eyes. Over the years, I have been particularly inspired by the young women leaders that we continuously train at Lean In China under our Young Leaders program – the first and largest national program to train college women as community leaders in China. To me, empowerment comes in baby steps. It’s especially rewarding when they achieve new heights, whether big or small: getting accepted into their overseas university of choice, getting a scholarship, interning for the United Nations, traveling solo for the first time, building their first startup or launching their first non profit project. Or when I see women entrepreneurs whom we have helped raise new rounds of capital, get featured on TV or by media like Forbes. Or when we have communities, organizations and individuals reaching out to us from across the world (in places we never imagined) wanting to be involved in the She Loves Tech movement by organizing hackathons, socials, competition rounds and mentoring. It makes me feel like the hard work is worth it.
Hammer: Where does the courage and confidence come from to launch these incredibly complicated and rich ventures such as Lean In China, She Loves Tech and Teja Ventures? How do you overcome your fears when you’re embarking on a new opportunity?
Tan: People often talk about being “fearless,” and I actually think that’s a great misconception. I was terrified when I first quit my corporate job to build these organizations full time. The fear is always there. But in many ways, it’s about what you do in spite of it. I think for me, it’s about learning to live with that fear, that constant uncertainty and insecurity. I think the one big difference between now and when we first started out is that I am a lot more comfortable with the fear and insecurity and living on the brink of that and possible failure, while at the same time doing my best every single day. I made a deal with myself a few years ago: if one day, after all the work that we have done we didn’t survive, or we failed to achieve all of our objectives, I would still think that the years we put in were worthwhile. Simply because we tried our best to move the needle forward.
Courage comes from the belief, or the knowledge, that you are doing the right thing. Confidence isn’t a natural gift. It comes from learning by doing and seeing that it is possible to achieve what you put your mind to. I think the ability to build these ventures and see them flourish comes from having the right team around me. I am very proud of the team we have built, many of whom come from our community and are as dedicated and passionate about what we do as I am; they are more capable and resourceful and have better ideas and bigger ambitions of where we can take this to.
Hammer: Why is it important for you to be a role model and what’s a role model to you?
Tan: Actually, it is the opposite. I never wanted to be anyone’s role model. I still don’t. I was simply determined to build up Lean In China as an organization because I felt that having a powerful platform for the empowerment of women in China was important work that needed to be done. I want women to be their own role models. It shouldn’t be about mimicking someone else’s path or success, but about defining what success means to you and pushing hard to achieve that.
There are many leaders in history that I admire for the great milestones they achieved: Aung Sung Su Kyi (for years of patience and focus while under house arrest); Dr. David Livingstone (for his courage and conviction to abolish slavery and how he was willing to pay the ultimate price); Saladin (for his generosity and compassion especially to his opponents) and more recently, Elon Musk, for never giving up, for believing that “if something is important enough, you will find a way to do it.” However, I have realized that some of the best role models I have are my immediate peers – many of them women dealing with the challenges of abuse, illness and broken relationships, or new mothers trying to balance their rising careers while raising their young children. I admire the way they deal with these challenges with courage, stamina and stoicism on a daily basis–strong and vulnerable, never losing their hope or joy. I also admire their formidable abilities as professionals and leaders at work. They always make me think, “wow!” I am grateful to have people like this around me as my friends and mentors, reminding me of what life really means and keeping me grounded always.
Hammer: Why do you think competition is healthy for women? What are you doing to change the way women think about competition in relation to one another?
Tan: I think competition is healthy in general. But it’s the way that competition manifests which is key. Are you always comparing yourself to others or comparing yourself to the person you were yesterday? Does competition make you happier or actually make you more stressed?
I think one of the key things that Lean In China is trying to promote is a culture of mutual support and mentorship for women in China. I don’t think cultures come about on their own. You have to work to create a conducive culture where people see mutual support, mentorship and sponsorship as something which is rewarding, which can add to their lives and to create a virtuous cycle. This means creating structures and programs that incentivize people to behave in a certain way e.g. the benefit of mentoring. I think it is also important to help people see that life is not a zero sum game. The pie is not a fixed one: if they share part of their pie, their share does not automatically decrease; the pie is constantly growing, and you can help to expand that pie so everyone benefits.
Hammer: Describe one of your proudest moments to date.
Tan: When Didi, China’s ride-sharing giant, launched their internal women’s network in early 2017 – a first for a leading company in China. In their press release, they mentioned the work of Lean In China and a quote I had provided in a video I created for its launch on the importance of encouraging women to achieve in the workplace. To know that our work can have a magnified impact in society, that it can inspire and engage others, especially companies, to take action and create real change for their employees is something that I am incredibly proud of. I hope that Didi can be a role model for other Chinese companies to follow.
Hammer: You’re working to empower, inspire, and uplift women across many fronts. How do you see your efforts impacting young girls, the upcoming generations of “Virginia Tans?” What can we be doing better to create a stronger “girl culture” on a global level?
Tan: I sincerely hope that our efforts will enable more women to find the courage and confidence to pursue their hopes, dreams and ambitions. I do think that a first step is what I call the “revolution within.” This involves helping women become more conscious and confident of their potential and using structures (such as supportive networks) and practical incentives (such as increased opportunities for funding, incubation, education and employment) that become institutionalized. Societal change will take longer. It is important for women to be inspired, and to know (from practical perspective), from role models, media, mentors and peers of what is possible for them. I strongly believe economic empowerment is key to the “revolution within.” It is hard to try pursuing your dreams and ambition if you are struggling to meet basic needs.
I don’t think it’s about creating a stronger “girl culture” per se. I think the question is what kind of culture are we creating for future generations of human beings – both men and women? What kind of society and future do we want to have for our children? Is it one which enables all of us to be our best selves? Is it one that allows men and women to both be powerful and vulnerable, to make life choices based on love and passion and not on obligation and to be able to support each other without succumbing to societal pressure of what we think we must conform to.
As we delve deeper into our work, I think it is actually harmful to focus all advocacy and research into women. I think the game changer is how we engage men and the rest of society to work with us to empower women together. Our 2017 White Paper on Women, Work and Happiness shows us that men feel like their needs for work-life balance have not been addressed and is one of their top professional challenges. Addressing the evolving needs of both genders could help to close the gender gap – both in our minds and in the workplace. It is important that change happens on an institutional level and that also means engaging decision makers who have the power to do that. Many of these decision makers are men, and I think it is key to gain their support as allies. This can be a slow process – often a one on one process – but absolutely key. I have all the patience in the world.
Hammer: What do you know now that you wished you had known as a young woman starting her career in finance?
Tan: I wish I had known that things gradually work out, that life somehow helps us find our way as long as we keep going. I wish I had known to be less terrified, stressed and worried about the future all the time. I think that still applies now!
Via Forbes : 15 Biggest Challenges Women Leaders Face And How To Overcome Them
While the world is evolving, women are still lagging behind when it comes to leadership roles in business. Today, only 26 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up 5.2% of the female population, according to a report by Pew Research. The stats stay virtually the same for women CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies at 5.4%, showing that there is little movement of women making up these high-ranking positions as company leaders.
With women still pushing to reach the top, they are faced with a range of challenges that many of their male CEO counterparts don’t have an understanding of. It is these issues that are preventing many women from achieving their goal of becoming a leader at their company and diminishing their ability to get ahead in business.
Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share what the biggest challenges their female clients are currently facing and provide advice for women leaders everywhere.
1. Being Treated Equally
One of the biggest challenges my female clients are currently facing is equality in the workplace. My advice for women leaders everywhere is to go for what they want in their careers and not to give up. Hone the skills necessary to give you those opportunities, such as your communication skills, leadership development, and emotional intelligence. Raise your hand in meetings. Speak up, and be heard. – Valerie Martinelli, Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC
2. Building A Sisterhood
The biggest challenge my female clients face today is garnering support from other women. My advice to women worldwide is to support and empower each other, starting with our basic principles of who we are — our morals, values, integrity. We must be just. Be humbled, show togetherness, passion, excellence and enthusiasm toward laying the foundation for our progress through our work. – Nadidah Coveney, CTM Consulting Group LLC
3. Generating Revenue
One of the biggest challenges my female clients currently face is growing their revenues. Money solves everything; it gives you freedom and choices. My advice is to focus on what generates revenue wherever you are. After all, if you don’t have revenue, you don’t have a business. For entrepreneurs, that’s called a hobby. – Christine Hueber, ChristineHueber.com
4. Being Confident
One of the biggest challenges I see when I speak with females is their confidence. I tell them they need to get comfortable knowing that people will always try to take you off of “your game” or dislike you for no apparent reason. But if you go in knowing this, if you are clear on your purpose and on what you are trying to achieve, then you will be successful in getting what you want. – Francine Parham, FrancineParham & Co.
5. Speaking Up
It’s not enough to be in a role or to sit at the table. One must also speak confidently, regardless of odds faced. Women leaders fear being ostracized or rejected; however, respect comes when one’s voice is heard. I coach leaders to share their voice and perspective because it can help shape policy, the workforce and perspective. Make your presence known as a leader and collaborator for good. – LaKisha Greenwade, Lucki Fit LLC
6. Building Alliances With Decision-Makers
My female clients come to me because they’ve been put down, pushed aside, or told they don’t belong at the table. It’s not easy to be bullied, but there is a way to get past it. I suggest women build healthy relationships with advocates, create a strong personal brand, establish guidelines before each project, position themselves as experts in their field, and communicate with confidence. – Christina Holloway, Christina Holloway
7. Becoming A Member Of The C-Suite
Women everywhere are making auspicious moves in the workplace. They are taking more risks and preparing themselves to take on more challenging roles. That said, one of the greatest obstacles they face is making their way to the C-suite. My advice is that they take the bull by the horns: Know what you want and be relentless in your preparation. Equivocation will always be your worst enemy. – Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq., WordSmithRapport
8. Asking For Money
For over 32 years, I have led women entrepreneurs to their next levels in business, and often the challenge is sales and anything related to income — not charging enough, being afraid to ask, underpricing, marketing, promoting, “bragging” to establish authority, and giving away services for free. My advice is to learn to master sales and get confident in your skills so you price properly and gain respect. – Tracy Repchuk, InnerSurf Online Brand & Web Services
9. Standing In Their Success
Some women leaders shy away from speaking on their accomplishments for fear of being boastful or conceited. Women tend to think that it’s needed to shrink themselves to seem non-intimidating. I advise clients to gain the confidence to know that if they’re in the room, that means they deserve to be there. Shrinking does nothing but delay your voice from being heard and taken seriously. – Niya Allen-Vatel, Career Global
10. Tackling Imposter Syndrome
The biggest challenge my female clients face is an inability to internalize their accomplishments. We first get to the root of why this belief exists, then adjust their locus of control by making accurate assessments of their performance, then get feedback from other leaders to confirm their strengths. By tackling imposter syndrome, they are able to better develop their leadership. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC
11. Overcoming Perfectionism
Many of the women leaders I coach get paralyzed by their perfectionist tendencies. I often recommend reflection for clients when they get really stuck. It might be a shorter pause, such as a few deep breaths or short meditation, or a longer activity like a walk, journaling exercise, or a Brené Brown book excerpt or TED Talk. All of these approaches have worked well to help manage perfectionism. – Jill Hauwiller, Leadership Refinery
12. Trusting Their Own Voice
In conversations with leaders, there is one recurring theme that haunts me. It is the virtually inaudible question I hear women asking themselves too often: “Who am I to…?” What I tell my clients is that right now, they are among the wealthiest, most educated and powerful women on the planet. They have not risen to their current title by accident. They must trust and use their own voice! – Susanne Biro, Susanne Biro & Associates Coaching Inc.
13. Shifting Their Word Choice
Women share the challenge of reconciling an internal conflict between being perceived as a respected leader versus a bossy woman. Professional women can resolve this issue and own the respected leader role by shifting from judgmental to neutral words. This subtle transition positively influences the way a listener digests the message and perceives the speaker’s authority and leadership. – Elaine Rosenblum, J.D., ProForm U®
14. Dealing With Negative Thoughts
One of the biggest challenges my female clients face is they allow for the negative thoughts that arise in their mind to take control of their life. My advice for women everywhere is to take control of their thoughts by becoming consciously aware of them and to either replace them with more positive and encouraging thoughts or to accept them and decide to move forward despite them. – Pam Ortiz, Pam Ortiz International LLC
15. Re-Entering The Paid Workforce
Relaunching a career after a long hiatus as a full-time caregiver for children or aging parents is challenging. It requires combating ageism, rebuilding confidence, reconstructing a network, dusting off old skills or developing new ones, and catching up on technology. Women leaders — help these relaunchers advance themselves, even if your path was different and didn’t include a career break. – Carroll Welch, Carroll Welch Consulting
Via YourStory : Lessons from Randi Zuckerberg on gender diversity and being a woman in tech
In 2005, Randi Zuckerberg’s younger brother asked her to quit her much-loved advertising career to join a then-fledgeling Silicon Valley startup. Little would have Randi known then that what her brother Mark Zuckerberg offered was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In less than a decade, Randi became a media-tech entrepreneur, role model, and activist for gender diversity in the technology industry. But for her, this was not a matter of mere chance. She noticed the challenges that she and others like her faced – the challenge of being a “woman in tech” – and then, she decided to do something about it.
Over the years, Randi has spoken passionately about this topic. We dived in deep into her keynotes and interviews to find the lessons from her story on how the technology industry can get more inclusive and what women themselves can do to enable it. Here are some of them:
Speak up if you want your voice heard
It could not have been easy for Randi to speak about the problems with the dude-bro culture of Silicon Valley because at the forefront of this culture was her own brother, Mark Zuckerberg. But she recognised her individual opinion and agency and spoke unabashedly about exactly what she thought of this culture and how much it needed to change and become more open to women and other minorities. Speaking up is the first step towards a more inclusive industry and Randi has done it relentlessly. In such interview, she said,
“I loved working at Facebook – to be in the centre of innovation like that – but at the same time, I also felt really conflicted about Silicon Valley. I can’t tell you how many times I was the only woman in the room for 10 years. I thought ‘Where are the women? Where are the people of colour? Is it only white men who get to make all the decisions?’”
“I think these companies fall victim to group-think. Everyone on the board is of a similar ethnicity and background, and I think bringing in some diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity would be a very positive thing.”
“I joined Facebook in 2005. It was still very much kind of a ‘brogrammer’ culture, if you will; very, very few women, especially in senior positions. And it was definitely a bit of a fight, especially as a nontechnical employee, to be heard at the same level in Silicon Valley.”
Collective effort is needed to uproot the stereotypes
Like every other successful woman in tech and business, Randi also believes that for gender diversity to become a norm, women need to proactively include and support other women in their field. She doesn’t just say it, she is doing everything she can to make this norm more widespread.
“Being the only woman in the room for so many years in Silicon Valley opened my eyes to issues around diversity, gender equality, and the value of bringing different viewpoints to the table. Now in my own business, being a champion for gender and ethnic diversity is hugely important to me and impacts everything from how I hire to who we partner with.”
“You can change the career and life path of another person by taking a small amount of time from your day, so encourage others to come to you with any challenges they are facing. There are so many ‘nos’ already built into the business world, especially for women. If you are a woman, help foster the talents of other women so that eventually those barriers will be so broken they no longer exist.”
Seek mentorship – wherever you can find it
Navigating male-dominated industries and workplaces does not come naturally to all women, especially when they are made aware of their gender and gender roles often. Randi believes that the strongest antidote to this is seeking mentorship and guidance from women who have done it all. Speaking of being a star mentee, she says,
“Communication is key. Ask more questions, give more answers, and always listen to both. Most people are honoured by the request to be a mentor, so don’t be afraid to aim high and ask the person you admire most if they can help you with a bit of advice. But before you go out and snag that dream mentor, don’t just think about what they can do for you. Make sure that you are helping them in return.”
That being said, Randi also believes that given that there are already very few female role models in the technology industry, mentorship, and guidance may not always come from them. Speaking highly of peer mentorship, she says,
“Rather than look for that one mentor who unfortunately won’t have the time for you because she’s probably too busy watching her own back as a woman in tech, find a peer group where you can all share experiences, get advice from one another, and rise together. It took me a while to realise that the very best mentors are your peers who are right there next to you.”
“I spent so much of my career searching for that one mentor that was going to guide me. I’ve only realised in the last year or two it’s kind of a waste of time to look for that mentor. The best mentors are your peers. They’re going through the same things, they have the time for you, and you’re all going to rise professionally together.”
Education is the cornerstone
Much like Ursula Burns and other successful women in tech, Randi believes in the power of education to bridge the gender gap. She is a very vocal advocate of including more young girls in STEM education.
“There are no women or minorities or diversity at the table. Somewhere along the way, we went horribly wrong. This is a multi-prong problem that will require big upheaval in our education system, and we’ll need to start introducing these STEM or STEAM fields earlier and make them more accessible. It takes an effort to round out your ranks with women and people of colour, but it’s worth the effort and has a huge impact on the bottom line.”
However, beyond a degree, Randi also believes that to survive in the technology industry, continuous learning is crucial. She says,
“Make sure you never get too comfortable or complacent – because in tech the landscape is changing every two to five years and the skills you have now are not necessarily going to be useful in five years. Make sure you’re always learning, keeping up on your skills, and just because you’re graduating with a computer science degree, don’t think those skills are going to last you 50 years in the workforce.”
“Stay hungry to learn more. Take advantage of the continuing education and training programmes that are out there.”
Wear your achievements on your shoulder
It is hardly news that women don’t like to tout their achievements in the workplace. They are known to go through their careers often relegating their skills and achievements to luck, chance, and coincidence. Randi believes that for more women to occupy corner offices or get funding as entrepreneurs, they need to start speaking about their achievements. Because if they don’t, they will most likely go unnoticed. She says,
“Ladies, we need to get better at promoting ourselves and screaming about our successes.”
Start them young, and get creative with it!
The lack of role models for young girls to get interested in the STEM fields is a serious challenge. Pop culture – think shows like The Big Bang Theory and Silicon Valley – has characterised the technology industry as being a place for predominantly white men. Randi believes that deep changes in Silicon Valley and in the general mind-sets of both men and women in the industry can come from pop culture. Similarly, pop culture has a role to play in giving young girls STEM role models to look up to.
Randi is trying to achieve just that, with TV show Dot. and even her restaurant, Sue’s Test Kitchen. Speaking of the need for pop culture to become more inclusive, she says,
“For girls, I think it’s from the lack of role models – where’s the female Dexter’s Laboratory or Jill Nal the Science Gal? Girls need to see someone that looks like them to want to be like them. It’s also very important that both parents and teachers have the proper learning to teach STEM skills, to begin with.”
Think about the business impact
Randi believes that for anyone pushing the gender diversity agenda, the key message needs to be about business impact. There is nothing noble or nice about gender diversity. It is a business need, Randi believes. In her words,
“It’s interesting because when you look at a company like Pinterest, Pinterest didn’t grow out of super-tech users in Silicon Valley. It didn’t grow because the traditional investors were throwing money at it. It grew because it hit a nerve with women in the middle of the country. I think in a situation where you have more female investors, female engineers, women in more powerful positions in Silicon Valley, they’re poised to better identify opportunities like that first, and help expand them more quickly. I do think we’ve seen a lot of progress in the past few years on seeing more women step into leadership in entrepreneurial roles. And you’re starting to see the traditional male VC firms taking a look at companies that are more traditionally targeted to women.”
“When you start to introduce women in powerful positions into the mix and when you start to introduce minorities in powerful positions into the mix, you suddenly start getting this much richer ecosystem of startups and consumers that you can reach.”
Bring the media to test when they falter
It is 2018, and mass media organisations still believe in gender roles. They are responsible for shaping the narrative around women in tech and normalising gender diversity in the industry. But according to Randi, they have not been doing a very good job of it.
“The media really dumbs down tech when speaking to women. I refuse to talk down to women about tech.”
“A lot of content pieces that talk about tech are either very in-the-weeds or super dumbed-down. It’s time we grow up.”
Over the years, Randi’s interviews and keynotes have been full of lessons not only for women in tech but everyone who can make a difference to gender and ethnic diversity in Silicon Valley. For those who think she’s just a lone voice in a sea of fleeting discourses, think again. It is women like Randi who have upheld the conversation and light on women’s participation in tech and roped in more women to join their ranks. All of this makes her a role model for young girls and aspiring women to look up to.