ARA New York may be young, but let me tell you this…we are wise. Less than one-year old, our New York chapter of this dynamic mentoring organization for women in IT is providing lessons and advice for the ages. The most recent example of this was our October 20, 2015, Mentoring Forum during which leading female IT executives moderated roundtable discussions on today’s most critical IT career growth and development issues.
Over the course of a few short hours, attendees had the chance to explore and challenge leadership, salary, work/life balance and confidence issues with peers and industry leaders. As one of the roundtable moderators, I had the opportunity to discuss one issue—leadership development—with all the attendees. After seeing how many important lessons and questions that one topic produced, I decided it would be valuable to provide a recap of some of the most resounding insights each of the six topics produced.
Topic: Developing as a Leader
Moderator: Anna Frazzetto – SVP and MD, International Technology Solutions, Harvey Nash
I started off this discussion by emphasizing the importance having strong mentors in life. I shared the example of my first leadership mentor, my father. He emigrated from Italy, built a successful life and had four daughters all of whom he wanted to be independent, well-educated and career driven. After sharing my recollections of how he shaped my personal ideas of leadership and success, I invited the participants to share their views on what qualities make great leaders. The list we developed throughout the night is a strong outline for leadership excellence and a good roadmap for anyone looking to advance into management. Here a list of the most common skills and/or qualities valued by ARA mentors and mentees:
- Strong vision
- Clear strategic thinking and planning
- High integrity and ethical standards
- Accountability to all
- Open to new ideas and perspectives
- Approachable and relatable
- Charismatic, able to motivate and unite
- Generous with recognition and praise
- High EQ
- Pioneering and forward thinking
And though more qualities were discussed, it was agreed that the true test of leadership was whether or not a leader can maintain her character in hard times as well as she can in the good times. If a leader’s standards and strength waiver in tough times, they were weak from the start. Strong leadership, it was widely agreed, is consistent and true.
Topic: Navigating Your Career
Moderator: Sirouhi Mushegian – VP IT Customer Experience, NBA
Sirouhi began her session with a story about “seeing the signs of layoffs” towards the end of her 13-year career at Time, Inc. Rather than waiting to see what would happen to her job, she took control of her path at a challenging time and proactively looked for other opportunities.
She knew what she needed was a challenge and, after a long and exhausting search, she had two offers: one with Weill Cornell Medical Center and one with Ralph Lauren. Both jobs offered the same salary; however, the Ralph Lauren opportunity was much more intriguing because of how different it was from her previous roles. The thought of working with Ralph Lauren challenged and scared her bit, which she read as a sign—a sign that it was time to stretch, get out of her comfort zone and accept the offer.
As attendees shared their own stories of navigating career stops and starts, the recurring lesson was to be bold and to take charge of your own career path. Attendees agreed that facing career challenges is an important way to grow stronger as an individual and ensure you are not missing opportunities to grow and advance.
Topic: Challenges & Success in the Tech World
Moderator: Mary Kotch, EVP Global Chief Information Officer – Validus
To succeed in the tech world, moderator Mary Kotch shared that she has put her focus squarely on people. Over her career, she has seen how important it is to connect with people in order to learn how they perceive and engage the tech world. One example she gave from her own experience was texting. Mary has embraced texting not because it’s her preferred method of communication, but in order to relate and communicate with younger generations. Using tech tools and understanding their needs and perspectives, has made her a better technologist and business leader.
Topic: Negotiating Salary & Advancement
Moderator: Alisha Outridge, Head of Product, Reuters TV
When it comes to asking for more money, Alisha gave attendees a very direct and clear method for making a case for one’s work and value. She suggested that when asking for a raise it’s important to outline the work and achievements you accomplish on a daily basis. Her advice was not to be shy about going into your boss’s office to explain what you have achieved.
Over the course of the conversation on salary negotiation, several attendees discussed the importance of doing research in advance. Before any negotiating begins, research how much a professional with your skill set makes in the industry you work in as well as in other industries. From there, you can assess if you are below the market range. Armed with strong information, you will be ready to have a thoughtful discussion with your leaders about what you deserve for the work you do.
Finding a Balance between Work & Life
Moderator: Julie Edwards, Chief of Staff to the Global CTO, AOL
Julie’s roundtables often began with the participants joking that “work and life” balance is a myth. Something Julie understood as a professional who took a few years off to be with her children in their early youth.
Many participants shared how they felt in the IT world it was particularly challenging to focus on advancing in your career and still stay connected to your personal life. Some expressed frustrations with feeling that they have to work twice as hard as men do in order to both have children and a career. Others felt that many men were not supportive of mothers—or even women—advancing in the workplace. That said, part of ARA’s mission is to pull men into the conversation. ARA believes that participation in these discussions can help to create the change we need to make an impact.
While few participants felt they had mastered work/life balance, moderators and participants all agreed that all professionals should be unapologetic about doing their best to achieve success in their work and in their lives.
Topic: Building Confidence
Moderator: Laura Cruz CIO – MDC Partners
During this roundtable, Laura invited participants to share what confidence means to them. From “standing up for what I believe in” and “being able to ask for raises and promotions” to “being able to share my accomplishments without worry of being seen as arrogant,” many participants felt that confidence–or the confidence they wanted–was hampered by self-consciousness.
Laura’s advice to attendees was to set goals inside and outside of work and to start achieving them one by one. Whether it’s going to the gym or learning a new skill, setting and achieving new goals is one way to conquer fear and build new confidence. As Laura reminded attendees, allowing yourself to be afraid will only hold you back. She also encouraged attendees to set ambitious goals from time to time. Think of something they truly are afraid to do and go do it, she said. Without a doubt, overcoming a big fear or challenge will give you more confidence and make things like asking for raises and sharing your perspective most certainly enhance your level of confidence by miles.
Please consider this an extension of our ongoing mission to mentor women in technology. You can continue the discussion here, on LinkedIn or on Twitter at @ARAmentors where we invite you to share leadership and development lessons and challenges you think women in IT need to discuss.