In Celebration of Women

Advice for Women in Tech, From Women in Tech

The Women of 7Summits | March 8, 2019

The women of 7Summits would like to share the following advice with women considering joining or currently working in the tech industry. There are unique issues we face that cannot be ignored, but they can be overcome if we face them together.

To form this piece, I put a call out to my colleagues asking for their input. Just as the experience of each woman in tech is unique, all the responses I received tackled the topic of “advice for women in tech” differently. I present below lightly edited (for clarity) versions of their submissions. The name of the contributor appears below their contribution. I have grouped the submissions under four directional headers:

  1. Know Your Worth
  2. Always Be Curious
  3. Use Your Voice
  4. Find a mentor / Be a mentor

These are the words of real women with real experiences sharing their wisdom with you. Enjoy.
Curator: Bethany Perkins

Know Your Worth

Know your worth and show it. It can be really hard to do that in a male-dominated industry, but don’t underestimate what you bring to the table. Be bold! It’s so important to match your expertise with your confidence. It took me a long time to find my voice and be confident, but once I did, it was a career game changer.
Contributor: Kerri McLaughlin

Knowing your worth means knowing when to walk away and when to stand up for yourself. You should never feel uncomfortable at your job. It can be hard to speak up sometimes, but it’s so important to speak up when you feel that you are not being treated right. It might be scary and difficult, but standing up for what you deserve or speaking up about harassment will give you even more strength and will help other women in the long run.
Contributor: Amy Barts

Don’t measure success by somebody else’s metrics. Take ownership of your own career – define your own goals, the pace you want to achieve them at, and what success means to you. If you want to go at a slower pace, more power to you. If you know you can pick up the pace and knock out major goals, go for it! There is no right or wrong pace – what matters is what works for you.
Contributor: Suhasini Pashikanti

Do not be shy about speaking about your achievements and your goals. When you’ve put in the hard work to achieve a major goal, ensure you can tell a concise story about the impact you are having to your team and your company. You must be cheerleader #1 for yourself!
Contributor: Suhasini Pashikanti

Eliminate the word “just” from your professional vocabulary. You’re not “just” anything. I didn’t realize how much I used it to justify my position/role/speaking in general, until I made the conscious decision to not use it. Even though I started making this decision years ago, I still catch myself on the verge of using “just” as a crutch.
Contributor: Staci Salazar

Be brave and ignore the little voice in your head telling you that you aren’t ____ enough to be successful. If you love what you do, don’t give up on it when you experience a toxic environment; find a new environment, and use the old to learn what you will and will not accept in your career.
Contributor: Emalee Soddy

Never say no to an opportunity, until you know as much as you can about it. A job title does not give you the whole picture. Seek more information before walking away. You never know what is around the corner. And, don’t let someone tell you that you don’t qualify or have enough experience vaguely. Dig into details and find out what experience is needed so you can grow into it.
Contributor: Laura McCullum

I had been writing HTML and CSS regularly since age 11, and dabbled in JavaScript, PHP, and other web-based programming languages along the way. When I was in my 20s, I was working as a supervisor at a convenience store and I was miserable. When my then-boyfriend asked why I didn’t pursue jobs in web development, I told him it was because I needed to go back to school and earn a degree in it before employers would take my resume seriously. This was incorrect. Although I did go back to school for my Associate’s Degree, I started to apply for web development jobs, and eventually got started professionally in a small Milwaukee-based studio. After a few years, I moved on to 7Summits where I would have more opportunity for growth – and five years after graduating, I am now a manager of a development team.
Contributor: Emalee Soddy

 

Always Be Curious

Stay curious. Be open, and hungry to learn.
Be adaptable. Technology is constantly changing.
Stay humble. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Contributor: Taylor Greene

Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know,” but always follow-up with steps on how you plan on closing that gap and providing an answer to a question within a certain time frame.
Contributor: Suhasini Pashikanti

Be a problem-solver; at the end of the day, what matters is not completing a project. What matters is an important problem getting identified and solved. Ensure you can always tell your story in terms of the problems you are solving – not just the projects you are completing.
Contributor: Suhasini Pashikanti

Stop pretending you know more than you do. Instead of attempting to fake knowledge, ask for clarification. I’ve gained so much from being able to say, “I don’t know what that means.” I remember one time I asked a colleague to review an onclick javascript button I’d created in Salesforce. He expressed that he was surprised that I was able to create it. He wasn’t being rude or demeaning, but was impressed that I was able to create the button considering my current role. At first I was embarrassed to ask for his help. I thought he would see what I’d done and find endless errors. I thought he’d think, “What is she even trying to do?” But, I needed to learn and knew I could find support within my work community if I just asked.
Contributor: Staci Salazar

When Imposter Syndrome rears its head (and it will, over and over) use it to your advantage; it’s not that you don’t belong, it’s that you’re self aware enough to know your weaknesses. Use it to work on improving those areas. This will put you ahead of your peers.
Contributor: Emalee Soddy

Don’t be intimidated. STEM is changing, and more and more women are thriving in these areas.  Technology falls into this category and it can be intimidating, but have confidence in yourself.  Speak what you know, and what you don’t know, do research to know it.
Contributor: Mindy Ferguson

Embrace challenges. As women, we tend to be perfectionists, but there really is no such thing as perfection. If you come upon an obstacle, look at it as a challenge and set your mind to overcome it. The obstacle can be a coding issue, a problem with a co-worker, communications with clients, etc. Don’t let it bring you down and certainly don’t beat yourself up. Look at this as an opportunity: to learn, to grow and to change for the better.
Contributor: Mindy Ferguson

Use Your Voice

Be assertive and speak up. No one will give you anything unless you speak up and make your needs clear. I’ve been in rooms where CEOs won’t even look at me despite the fact that I’m the one who called the meeting and is running it, but I’ve learned that you can either cower with your tail between your legs or you can continue to speak up and command the room and eventually the people who try to make you feel small have no choice but to acknowledge you as a contributing mind.
Contributor: Amy Barts

Work isn’t personal. Working in an industry dominated by men and strong-minded women, you will have to learn to have a thick skin. When you stop taking things personally, you find that you aren’t afraid to fail and learn from mistakes, which is a trait that will help you succeed in the tech world. If you are too worried about your co-workers not liking you or trying to analyze their words and actions on a personal level, you will always lose and fall behind because they aren’t spending any time worrying about those things.
Contributor: Amy Barts

Once you get your foot in the door, you’ve landed that dream job – keep this one key thing in mind: do not take things personally. It’s business. Plain and simple. If you’re passionate about what you do, it can be really hard to not take criticism or change requests personally because the client or your boss or someone else is essentially questioning your work, right? Wrong. I say this as a person who has literally cried at work, gotten frustrated and wanted to quit my job on the spot because my designs were being challenged or because I was told to take what I thought was a beautiful work of art and make it into something I found to be incredibly hideous and unusable. This is such a valuable lesson I have learned over the years and it is one that drives me every day as I no longer take anything personally when it comes to my work being critiqued. I take it as a learning opportunity and motivator to do better.
Contributor: Karol Brennan

Assume positive intent. Sometimes a coworker or client can say things that may rub us the wrong way. One of my past managers (also a woman) taught me to always assume positive intent. Keeping this in mind, do your best to not take this type of dialog personally or with maliciousness; instead keep in mind that the person has a common goal of completing a job well done and wanting the best for all involved.
Contributor: Mindy Ferguson

Find a Mentor/Be a Mentor

Find a mentor. Find someone who is experienced in your field to give you advice and insight.
Pay it forward. Just as your mentor helped you, invest in someone.
Contributor: Taylor Greene

Empower each other. There are more women at 7Summits than any other technology consultancy for which I’ve worked, and that speaks volumes.  Some of my closest coworkers, go-to people, and friends are a woman at this company. We empower, mentor, support and cheer on one another.
Contributor: Mindy Ferguson

Find a mentor; whether it’s an old manager you admired or a peer who’s been in the industry for a while and gets it. There is a lot of invaluable information that can be gleaned from a mentor from the simplest of things (i.e. email etiquette) to having your voice heard in a room full of co-workers talking over you. They’ve been through the fires already and likely have some great advice of how to navigate these situations. They can be a great resource to bounce ideas off of and help empower you.
Contributor: Kerri McLaughlin

You will find mentors in the most unexpected places. Be open to different perspectives.
Contributor: Suhasini Pashikanti

Find that driven, smarter person and learn everything you possibly can from them. You don’t need to be a brown-nose and suck up to them. Just listen and watch and ask them for advice and guidance. A good mentor in invaluable and I would not be where I am in my career without mine.
Contributor: Karol Brennan

Learn to embrace fear. As a woman, fear will be part of every day in this industry. In order to succeed, you need to remember that fear will only hold you back and has no purpose. Fear will creep up constantly, but find those sources of strength and people you trust as mentors and reach out to them for support.
Contributor: Amy Barts

In closing…

As a woman in technology, remember you are charting a new course for women that come behind you. It is important to let people know what you do. Share your stories with young girls.  Seek opportunities to engage with youth in schools. Offer to mentor at local community colleges and universities. For too long girls grew up thinking there were only two tracks for them – education and nursing. The world is broken wide open and women offer unique perspectives in every industry.

My advice for you individually is to look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are changing the world by working in technology. Know that you have power and you are making a difference.  

Let’s celebrate each other!  Cheers to International Women’s Day!
Closing Contributor: Molly Steffen

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