Being a woman in tech and engineering comes with a unique set of challenges.
Earlier in my career, I didn’t have examples of female leaders to model my management style after. So, I created my own. I decided that I wanted to be honest and direct, saying hard things to employees and other managers when I believed they needed to be said. I still always give my perspective, even if the feedback is unpleasant—though I do my best to give the unpleasant feedback in the most pleasant way possible.
My path of advancement was only possible because I was willing to reframe my mindset. I used my failure to gain a managerial position I felt I deserved as an opportunity to go into coaching, learn key managerial skills, and increase my self-confidence. I put those years of removing myself from leadership behind me, and I moved forward using the skills I gained. After observing why men around me were advancing, I started taking more chances, and my fear of failure and not being up for the task disappeared.
Here are four behavioral models I found useful:
Don’t let failure dictate who you are. Shake it off and move on.
Take every opportunity to advance. Be willing to take a chance at a less successful or less stable company, knowing you can use the experience to look for another position if this company goes under.
Don’t wait for someone else to tell you when you are ready to advance.
Don’t hesitate when offered a position that is more challenging than what you’ve done before. Believe you can do it.
The loneliness factor
Being a woman in the tech industry can be quite lonely at times, and that loneliness often gets worse as you advance and have fewer female peers.
One of the best ways to deal with this loneliness is to find a community of women who understand what you’re going through. If possible, connect with other women inside your company. You can meet for coffee or have more formal discussions about the problems you’re facing with being a working mom, discrimination, missed promotions, and more. Build each other up, encourage each other, and stand up for each other in meetings and everyday conversations whenever you have a chance.
You can also join external tech communities – Baot (Israel’s largest community of women software engineers, doctors, scientists, and researchers), Women Who Code, Elpha, Tech Ladies – among others – to connect with a much larger group of women. These communities also have opportunities for training so that you can keep moving forward in your career. Together you can work on your struggles with self-confidence or imposter syndrome. These tech communities can help in every stage of your career.
As we grow in our careers and help other women succeed, my great hope is that we will be less alone at the top. This is one of my life’s missions: to have more women at the top supporting each other.
What do you want to be?
We tend to think about roles as a strict list of qualifications and responsibilities we must fit ourselves into, but another way to look at it is to shape our role by doing more of the things we excel at, are moved to do, set us apart, and allow us to drive the most impact. In other words, you can shape your career trajectory by the unique combination of qualities you possess, rather than the other way around.
As you climb the ladder in tech, you’ll see there are many opportunities and directions your career path can take, whether it’s in a big company like Dropbox or a brand-new startup or something in between. In addition, there are opportunities for mentoring and consulting outside of your official job.
No matter how driven and focused you are, always have multiple things going on in your life so that if something falls through, you will have a safety net. Prior to writing Woman Up!, I was working as VP R&D on demand, serving as a temporary leader while companies who recently lost their VP searched for someone to take the position. I usually stayed for around three months and I learned a lot while I was there—all about the organization’s architecture, its main problems, and the lessons they’ve learned. Now I am working on my own startup, while also:
Giving lectures to women in tech, especially women in R&D, about my career, my mistakes, and lessons learned.
Mentoring women in tech.
Consulting CEOs and CTOs regarding various R&D issues.
Consulting with an angel investor about his investments, which has given me an eye-opening look at how startups pitch their ideas and how investors decide which ones are worth investing in.
Yes, you will face challenges, but you can be brave, and by doing so you can be the role model that the next generation of women look to. We no longer need to be isolated in a male-dominated industry.