Jul 19 2018 19 Ways to Find Success in Your First Year as a Woman in Tech
Like a ride on an unfamiliar roller coaster, my first year in tech flew by in a hazy blend of feelings: jittery anticipation, wild exhilaration and more than a few scary moments where I was 100% certain I was about to fly right off the rails.
I imagine, if you’re reading this, you’ve felt some of those things. You’ve likely experienced any number of other feelings that range between extreme euphoria and downright despair, too. I’m also certain that, if you’ve made it past your first year in tech, you can confirm that these feelings don’t stop.
I’ve found, over the last few years working with women in tech, that these feelings never actually go away. It doesn’t matter how high a level you reach or how much experience you get. You don’t freak out about the same things, in good ways or bad, but your pulse still gets racing pretty frequently.
My hope is that, in sharing the advice, insights and affirmations in this book, you’ll feel both comforted and inspired.
Do you identify as a woman who isn’t sure what to expect in her first year of tech? Here are some insights and advice from and for empowered women in tech on finding success in the first year of your tech career.
Keep Doing Your Best
You already have the skills you need to be successful, but you must choose to use them.
“I was given really solid advice early on, which was that there are some things that don’t take skill including: being on time, having a positive attitude, being responsive, being accountable, being a team player, having a strong work ethic, being tenacious, being curious, seeking out learning opportunities, and other non-technical skills.”
– Amy Bishop, Cultivative Marketing
First, persist. Regardless of what society expects of you or tells you to do, persist with your own vision of what you want to achieve in your life. The tailwinds of persistence will help you soar.
– Pratima Rao Gluckman, Enterprise Software Engineer and Author of Nevertheless, She Persisted: True Stories Of Women Leaders In Tech
Getting constructive feedback should be like rain: gentle enough to nourish your growth without destroying your roots.
“I remember one of my first performance reviews when I’d just started working after uni in New Zealand was with the head of the marketing department at the Yellow Pages (this was before we had Google!). He said: “Kim, one of your best qualities is that ‘people like you’ so they want to work with you.” I realized that you can have all the technical skills in the world but if no one wants to talk to you or work with you, it’s pointless. So, I’ve tried to really take this as a key strength and build on it throughout my whole career. Collaborating is key to getting to the best solution — so you need to get on with people.
– Kim Palmer, Founder of Clementine: a hypnotherapy app to help working women get a boost of confidence and reduce stress.
It can be challenging to identity when you are receiving feedback in environments that are full of debate and innovation. There’s constantly new ideas being tossed around, pushed back on, and changed. If you worked in another industry before tech, you might that think that all of that noise is feedback you need to take on — or may think none of it is. Try to find opportunities to talk with your manager about what is essential and needed compared to what is a concept to test out. You may save yourself a lot of emotional up-downs.
– Kari Fass, Career Coach & Recruiter, DBL Coaching
Never Stop Learning
What you learn after you think you know everything is what truly matters.
When I entered the tech industry a few years back, I never would have imagined I would have the opportunity to learn this much about the media and tech landscape on a global scale. Now, opportunities arise every day to invest in my own personal development simply by taking advantage of learning. I find it incredibly important to continue to challenge myself and ensure I’m taking advantage of the constant change around me.
– Emily Mourad, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Index Exchange
Women in their first year of tech need to start building a network sooner rather than later.
Later in my career, I was advised to establish a strong network from all aspects of the business — both internally within the company, and externally as well. These individuals don’t always need to be senior to you — some of the greatest learnings I have had in my career came from non-executives.
– VP of Marketing at Cisco, Michelle Chiantera
Find a mentor as soon as possible.
I see mentorship as a key ingredient to professional and personal development. I would have benefited from exposure to near-peer females who were working in technology. Also, I needed a coach to help me through the everyday challenges of working in a majority-male environment. Having a mentor early on could have helped me build stronger leadership amongst my male peers, and select professional development opportunities to facilitate my professional growth.
– Dr. Kristen Sosulski, Associate Professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business where she teaches MBA students and executives data visualization, programming and business analytics.
Be realistic about what you can do and still effectively manage your time.
As a woman, I believe it is in our nature to not want to say “no” or to want to take on as much as we can. One of the best pieces of advice I received from my manager is to manage expectations. When you get an email or a task with an assignment, don’t feel the pressure to act on it right away or say that you’ll get it done immediately. Prioritize the task according to your current bandwidth and give deadlines upfront. Coworkers and clients prefer honesty and being realistic and you’ll be able to effectively time manage the projects you have on hand.
– Ciara Hautau, Marketing Specialist, Fueled
Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you.
Communication is key! You are competent and capable. Need a raise? Ask for it. Looking for clarification or help? Ask for it! Overworked? Let them know. Present a different plan or a hiring strategy for an intern. If your team is unaware of your needs and wants, then how can they be addressed?
– Liz Whiting, Head Of Digital Marketing, DailyHighClub
A very wise man told me that if I were to put my heart and soul into something, that I could achieve anything. That is exactly what I did! I was absolutely confident in myself that I would be a leader one day, and wasn’t going to ever dial down my ambitions.
– Kathie Miley, COO of Cybrary
It is crucial to gain confidence in your own ability to contribute to a company’s success, but also never to think that the company couldn’t survive without you!
– Aimee Lessard, Chief of Analysis, Signafire
Like What You Do
If you don’t love what you’re doing and you can’t give it your best, get out of it.
I would say the most important thing is liking what you do. You don’t really need to LOVE your job, liking going to work and seeing results from your actions is enough. If you like your job, you’ll also be able to perform at a high level and become more and more involved in your work.”
– Alexandra Cote, Digital Marketing at Paymo
Best Advice received in the first year of career: “Get some international experience, become a world citizen.” My collection of international experiences continue to matter: Kinestral is a global business with a factory in Taiwan and joint ventures around the world.”
– Anna Brunelle, Kinestral Technologies, Inc.’s CFO
Knowing what you need to do is not enough, you must take action.
The best advice has come from getting involved in organizations and to surround yourself with person’s who have already created success in areas you are looking to succeed in. Always be open to learning from other and build relationships with people who inspire, not bring you down. Interfacing others will help build confidence, challenge and better speaking and communication skills, and build relations with others who might be an influence in your future. You can’t sit around and let opportunity knock on the door; you have to go create it.
– Jennifer Yosowitz, co-owner of Audio One
Talent and energy are nothing without persistence in the face of fear.
Most Founders have difficulty balancing how and when to raise vs. how and when to build. My advice to them would be start with building. Create a product that works and that you have early signs people will want it. Only then should you approach investors. Try to meet with as many as possible. But DO NOT PITCH THEM! Just understand what they’re looking for, what metrics they’d want to see, and test out if they like your idea. Pick 3–5 investors who love your idea and keep them posted in your progress. (Hint: they will let you know when they want to put in money).
– Cooper Harris, CEO of Klickly
As a female CEO, I have been motivated to work harder than my male peers, in order to gain the same recognition. This has only motivated me more. I have learned that while it is hard, it is worth it. The career and path I have chosen has not been easy, however, I would not be as knowledgeable as I am today without the challenges I faced.
– CEO & Founder of Media Frenzy Global, Sarah Tourville
Support Other Women
We are all in this together, and you don’t have to be an army of one.
Though there are not many women in the field, when you do have the opportunity to work with another woman “Women help Women” should be a part of your natural working mode. It is not a competition. When you inspire, assist, and mentor other women you are helping all.
– Keenan Skelly, VP of Global Partnerships & Security Evangelist, Circadence
Because women remain underrepresented in the tech industry, it’s even more important to become your own advocate both inside and outside of your organization. Women should be proud to promote the importance of their roles and ensure leadership is aware of their work, as well as the work of their female peers. Doing so can help move the needle for women in tech.
– Dana Simberkoff, Chief Compliance and Risk Officer of AvePoint.
Many women in tech came up in their careers through predominantly male team environments. Only later in my career, one of the female executives talked about reaching out to other women for help and advice. I think sometimes, we — women — forget that we are not alone and don’t seek advice proactively — we are lucky if we stumble upon great mentors. I would have appreciated this piece of advice early in my career.
– CEO of Romanoff Consultants, Inga Romanoff
Many thanks to the amazing contributors who appear in the book with their thoughtful insights (in no order whatsoever):
- Crystal McFerran, VP Digital Marketing, Velo IT Group
- Katelyn Coghlan, General Manager of In-It VR, a subsidiary of The Glimpse Group
- Liz Badenhausen, the Software Engineer at BeyondPay
- Minuca Elena, Content Marketing and SEO
- Melissa Eldridge, Consumer Product Engineer
- Chaviva Gordon-Bennett, Copywriter and Editor
- Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
- Eva Tsai, CMO of Algolia
- Denise Dumas, Vice President, Operating System Platform at Red Hat
- Carrie Dolan, Metromile CFO
- Anna Spysz, Web Developer
- Jessica Underbrink, director of engineering at WP Engine
- Gigi Johnson, Exec. Director, UCLA Center for Music Innovation
- Annie Eaton, Founder and CEO, Futurus
- Founder and CEO of Meethappy, Joana Gutierrez
- Nina Brentlinger, Product Marketing at Puls Technologies, Inc.
- Sheri Byrne, Director of Digital Accessibility, Albertsons
- Sonja Amundson
- Stacy Caprio, Founder, Accelerated Growth Marketing
- Taylor Covington, Content Marketing Associate, The Zebra
- Angie Giese, Web Developer
- Courtney Herda, CEO of Smarter Searches
- Fiona Adler, Founder of Actioned.com
- Victoria Bastide, CTO at Lifesum
- Bretzner Leyssa Gonzalez, CEO at Go Tribit
- Elaina Ransford, Content Strategist, NewtonX
- Banyan Hills Technologies CMO, Deanna Salas
- Annika Scott, Marketing Coordinator, Buttonwood
- Lisa Barone, CMO at Overit
- Stephanie Caudle, Owner and Founder of Black Girl Group
- Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, founder and CEO of Connecthings.
- Jamie Muskopf, Knowledge Strategist and Digital Workplace Transformation Consultant
- Slisha Kankariya, Four Mine
- Anna Rubio, Head of Marketing for iLovePDF
- Odelya Holiday, Software Engineer at Lightricks
- Hamna Amjad, Community Manager at Ridester
- Sarah Zurell, Co-Founder of Pavemint
- Anne Bonaparte, CEO of Appthority
- Maja Jakobsson, User Experience Designer at Mentimeter
Special thanks to Unsplash and the photographers whose images I used: NeONBRAND, bruce mars, Thought Catalog, Kobu Agency