Join Megan Holston-Alexander for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting strategic in technical roles, part of Women Transforming Tech: Voices from the Field.
- Our next question is from Amy. - How do you continue to advance technically while also starting to think strategically? - Yeah, that's a really great question. Technology moves so fast. I think the biggest thing is, finding out where your industry is going or think about where your industry is going and take some continuing educational classes. There is no shame in continuing to take courses that are going in the direction you want to go. So for example, I work in venture capital and we look at a lot of technology companies. And so I said, how can I be more in tune with the entrepreneurs and the engineers and the folks that I think are building really great products, and I said, let me sign up for this Python classes at Stanford. And so, really being proactive about where the industry is going, I think, lets you, be more technical and stay on top of that innovation, but also being strategic in your career, because you know, that's what you're going to need to continue to grow. - More often than not, when we need to pivot, the problem we have is all the people we know tend to know the same things we know. And when you get out of your comfort zone and try something new, it kind of connects you to this whole new set of people that give you new ideas - Like right here - Right right here - [Unison] Yeah. - So I think that and then that allows you to start getting ideas within one of the most important things I found is like creative things like, so much emphasis is growing up or like read and study Math and Science and all that. And this time, I'm like, the Arts really makes me rethink things like you find new ways to think about storytelling was one thing. So, to that perspective, I think is super important like sometimes just try something new, you kind of get a whole new network that you can connect to. And that gives you opportunities. - Absolutely. - Yeah. And also keep a tab on your sponsors, like where they are moving in the industry. Most of the times, the leaders that you look up to are people who are going to be your sponsors, are going to have the power to move you into those roles. And so, prepare yourself to be in those roles beforehand. And being where I am, it's breadth of the knowledge that matters as opposed to the depth in a particular field. - We did this one really cool research project where we went to senior leaders of a tech org and we asked them, can you define technical competence that's needed for promotion. And we found these hundred people didn't agree what that meant. And so strategy based on how you define technical competence can be very different. Some defined it as deep knowledge, that you're the expert, that gets called on the answer questions to anyone that has them and so, strategy for that person might look like figuring out how the questions around your expertise needs to guide the company forward. And others defined it as cross functional expertise, like the ability to work across all the different needs and make sure that technology matches it. And so, strategy for that might be understanding a wide range of concerns and being able to integrate them in. So I think like growing technically and growing strategically, also depends on how you're going to define your technical confidence. And there's not one right answer is what I learned. It's like, how do you want to build your own platform and then be strategic based on that? - One thing I would like to add is what I felt just not in my career as I mentor and coach other young women in tech is, go to conferences, for two reasons. One is you will be surrounded by people who have solved either similar problems or thinking the same problem from a very different angle, right? Second is if you're in a very highly cross functional organization, try to see if another team in your organization has solved or is facing the same problems. Don't try to solve in silos, because often what happens we are so deep in the trenches and you know, tactically trying to solve the problem, we don't reach out for help. We don't seek for, you know, collaboration or like, let's look at it at a different way. So I highly have, you know, recommended the women in tech, like go for conferences, build networking. - It also show us how you're thinking more than just your team and your own project where you're trying to solve something. - There is a conference every week in San Francisco, how do you pick the right ones? How do you decide on what's going to provide the most value for you? - Have short term and long term goals and okay, this year, I'm going to go deep, attend two conferences in Machine Learning or AI or you know, cloud computing, and then pick one or two in that year and go deep into that, right? I think that would be my approach and advice. - More often, like we all said it right? Most of the learnings is already online, so the real value in a conference, in a physical event, is the ability to connect to people. So, maybe to like understand what is the opportunity to meet someone that you would not get anywhere else? - I think that's such an important point because as an introvert, sometimes it's really hard to take advantage of the networking part of a conference and one thing someone said to me was, don't focus so much on what am I going to say or what am I going to get but to be curious. I give myself permission just to meet one person because when I say it's just one person then I feel like there's not this pressure to be someone I'm not and if I get to know one person really well then I'm completely happy. - It's also a good way to think about it if you're sort of prepping yourself to speak.