Join Megan Holston-Alexander for an in-depth discussion in this video Impactful early career steps, part of Women Transforming Tech: Voices from the Field.
(light hopeful music) - Okay, great. Let's move on to the next question. - What were some actions you took that were pivotal in reaching the position you're in today? - That's something I want to weight in on. So, I've actually been in industry for more than two decades, and if I look back on it, I started off as a PhD with an advisor who was really, really, really focused on making sure we knew how to speak in public. I really increasingly feel if we want women to be seen, if we want to be represented, we need to be on the stages. Go get engaged in your communities, find ways to, like, even from the smallest meetup, or just stand up and say something when somebody asks a question, raise your hand. That level of visibility is actually super important, and kind of like the quality that is: learn to communicate. It's not just public speaking is not just being on stage, it's about learning things like analogies, learning how to use every other piece of creativity that you have. The story that, women are amazing storytellers, right? Bring that to the conversations and use that to connect audiences. And, so, to me, it's public speaking and community. Those things have transformed my life. - I think, for me, one of the things that I learned early on is that I didn't know everything. And I didn't know even the questions to ask, right? They say, oh, ask this person, ask that person, and I was so new and so fresh and so green that I was just like, I don't even know what to say. And so, I think, then the benefit of mentorship and reaching out to people who are in, you know, the role that you want to be in, comes in to play. And I think they can direct you and say, hey, you need to be thinking about this, you need to be doing that. And, so, getting a mentor is critical to figuring out where you need to be thinking about, you know, strategically doing in your career. - Yeah, for me, it was just developing that habit of continuous learning, right? Because most of us, when we are out of college, we think that we have studied for this role, and this is what we are going to do. - And we're done studying. - And we are done studying. Well, you know, let me burst the bubble over here. We're never done learning, right? So, for me, it was continuously reinventing myself, continuously learning new skills, upskilling myself. But that continuous learning is extremely important, and the sooner you ingrain that in your system, I think more prepared you are for the changes that happen in the job environment. - Yeah, I just want to add an idea what you said about the importance of storytelling, right. I truly believe women need to own their story, like from their experiences, whether it's their successes or failures. The second very important thing which I have learned started doing from mid of my career is self-reflecting, self discovery from time to time, like updating your skills as you said about learning, but self-reflecting, like, you know, how you handle a situation ten years ago, and how maturely you're handling, and make sure you're spreading that word and you're spreading those experiences to young women in tech and, you know, folks who are trying to come up in the career ladder. - Now, my moment combines a lot of what you said. I remember, I think my moment was saying yes. My mentor had said, "You're really good at translating research, people love it. You need to be the one on the stage telling others." And there was this large women's conference with 500 people, and she said, "I think you're the one who should do it." And I said, "No, I'm the back end person. I'm the one that does all the materials. I'm really good at that." And she said, "No, this is the time when you just say yes." And I said yes, and it has completely changed my career, and I don't think I would have proactively said, "I think what's next for me is being the front of the house" but I'm so glad I did. - Yeah, I think it sort of comes in to what you brought up, Shamla, which is getting comfortable in uncomfortable situations because that's where you're growth and learning really accelerates. Otherwise, if you're doing something you already know and you're really good at, you're the expert, but what's next for you, right? - The yes part of this, I think, is very, very important because leadership, women don't raise their hands for leadership roles. We think we need to be perfect. When someone says, "Who wants to take lead?" Say yes, because if you don't, the person who's going to take your place won't know half as much as you and you're going to regret it. - (in unison) Yeah. - And the rest of the part is don't think about whether you can, whether you will be successful in that role or not. Think about it as saying yes to an opportunity and then you'll be able to figure out how to be successful in that role. - Last thing I want to add, 'cause this is taking me somewhere. It's interesting because I think one of the worst feelings, you talked about raising your hand, and how you'll regret it if you don't. One of the worst feelings is when you have something in your head and you think about saying it, and you think about saying it, and you're like, meh, no, no. And then somebody else says it. And you're like, you know, the other person says it, and people are like, yes, that's a great idea. And, you're like, dang it, you know? I had it in my head, right. So, that's a really, really great point - just say yes. - We need that t-shirt, it's like, oh damn, I thought of that five minutes ago. - Just raise your hand and say yes and, you know, take that leap.