Join Megan Holston-Alexander for an in-depth discussion in this video Building confidence early, part of Women Transforming Tech: Voices from the Field.
- Our next video question is from someone who is just about to begin her tech career. - As an intern and a woman hoping to enter the tech field, what is your advice on how I can build my confidence to achieve a leadership position in a predominantly male industry? - That is such a great question, because I think what's being said is, how do I learn the rules of the game? And it feels like the rules of this game aren't familiar to me, and yet I know I need to learn them, and I think that's the most important thing, is to remember that there will be rules of the game, some of which are really different than what you learned in college, and the most important thing is to learn them, and I think one of the hardest ones to learn is that in team meetings it matters that you speak up at the table. So that's what I wish I had known when I was entering my career. - Yeah, and I also heard somewhere that if you don't speak up within the first 10 minutes of a meeting, you tend to not speak up throughout. - So I call it sit in to stand out. Sit in meetings to stand out, and especially as, as new entrants into the industry, sometimes you get these opportunities to sit in for your managers when they are not available to give status updates and be a part of other meetings where other leaders are going to be there, and many of us, and I made that mistake early on in my career, I would just focus on my little piece, give the status update, but would not use that opportunity to kind of put out my ideas around things. And I realized that that's very, very important, so use those opportunities when you are sitting in for somebody to stand out amongst others. - Yeah, and I think coming from the venture capital space, this is totally right up my alley. It's very male dominated, very white male dominated, and so I think when you come into a space like that, you have to figure out what's important to this group of people in order to be heard? Is it that I know the lingo, right? And I know in VC that's a huge thing, so I was like, I'm about to lingo the lingo, out-lingo all of them, and learned kind of what the rules of the game were. Or is it important that I bring in at least five deals a week, right? Find what is valued in that space, and make sure that you're consistently bringing it, and then eventually you'll work your way up to that leadership role, or feel confident enough to say, I can do this on my own, and go start your own thing. So I say come in, assess the situation of where, you know, importance and value is placed, and make sure that you constantly bring that. - Yeah, totally, I think the presence is very important. Like, you know, sit in to stand out is so important, even if you are the only female engineer, or the female manager in the room, making sure the people around you feel your presence, even if it is a one-sentence, two-sentence, like, don't miss that opportunity. You know, even in group chats, or whenever the ideas, don't think, I will give it tomorrow, it's okay, maybe I need to have a validation. Often that's what keeps on going early on in the career, but I think it's very important to build that personal ground, have your presence felt, very, very important. - And here I would like to add on, because after I wrote my book, many people kind of reached out to me, many woman leaders reached out to me and said, well, our ideas get stolen all the time. Like, we would say something in a meeting, and then somebody else would repeat it, and then, how do you keep that idea your own? And part of it is how you lead that conversation, so when somebody repeats your idea, you just very politely say, that's great, thank you for repeating what I said five minutes ago. And here is how you do it, because somebody can steal your idea, but only you have thought through the plan. So, bring it back, bring that conversation back, and kind of it's, it's learning the rules, right, what resonates with this team, you know, what is of value? How can you bring the business value? And articulate your idea in such a way that you speak the lingo, if you will, of the leadership team, and what matters to them. - And even more important than finding out, like, what is valued and important, is finding out what is not, because you can run yourself into the ground doing things that you think, this is going to get me seen-- - [Woman] Busy work. - Busy work, this is going to get me noticed. - Emotional labor, 101. - And nobody cares about, you work, you know, super hard on this 30-page report, and you bring it in, and they're like, okay. - Yeah, that goes back to the self worth thing. Nothing demotivates you like having work that you've done devalued. When I was a student, that was when I went to Grace Hopper the first time, and I remember seeing this panel of women who had worked on, like, the NASA era of thing, and we were asking them, because we were students, like, what's your advice to us? And I remember this lady, she said, when you like something, just pretend it's yours already, and keep doing it, and before long, people think that is your expertise, because what starts, and back to the point of busy work, convert busy work into the critical thing that people need. People will think, when it's busy work, they will give it to you, but if you find meaning in the busy work, then that is yours when it becomes important. That has stuck with me again and again, especially because this industry changes so fast.