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How Women Can Succeed At Every Stage
Nancy Harris, businessinsider 300 Times 165 People

The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.

Concurrently, the aftermath of James Damore's Google diversity memo and Emily Chang's investigation into "Brotopia" exposes the prevalent sexist attitudes within the tech community. Sadly, when it comes to women in executive roles, the number of male-only executive boards increased in 2017.

Nancy Harris spent 30 plus years in the tech industry witnessing its evolution and growth. Here she shares her approach to leadership and provides some helpful insight as to how women working in tech can achieve success as we call for a more inclusive tech community.

Entry-level: Examine your passions and determine the right fit

Nancy found tech through her love of writing. She had an opportunity early on in her career to become a technical writer, and she jumped at the chance to combine her skills and passions. She had the good fortune to work at a large firm that afforded her solid professional training, coupled with a varied career path that led her to a passion for marketing and ultimately inspired her to get a second degree.

If you are an entry-level professional, she encourages you to find an environment where you can pursue your passion but also one that encourages professional development. Consider how fulfilled you are in your current position. Do you have room to explore your interests?

Trust your judgment when assessing your growth potential. It's also never too early, nor too late, to try something new. Once you identify your passion, determine how it fits into your aspirations and future career trajectory.

Middle management: Be flexible and do not succumb to unhealthy competition

In tech, as with most industries, there can be a culture of competition in the workplace. Women ages 25 to 34 are leaving tech all together due to "unsupportive work environments," with 56% of women leaving at the "mid-level" point.

While a certain degree of competition is healthy and productive, it must be fostered in the right manner or it can become toxic. It is more effective to marshal resources and energy toward winning as a team, rather than turning one's team against each other. One key tenet is that "the enemy is always on the outside."

Managers set the tone for their teams. Identify the strengths of your colleagues and allow your team members to play to those strengths. Foster healthy competition, but also focus on collaboration. Have your leadership team take a styles inventory test, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or 5 Dynamics Human Performance System, to identify how your team tends to meld (or not). Work with each team member to ensure you're allowing them to play to their strengths and excel.

Just remember: You are in charge of cultivating the kind of work environment that is inclusive and conducive to their success.

Executive level: maintain confidence and humility as you evolve as a leader

One of the most impactful pieces of advice given to her over the years came from someone on her team. She was managing an enthusiastic group, full of fresh ideas, who resembled a band of renegades at times. It's a great problem to have, but focusing the team was a challenge. She also wanted to overlay her ideas onto theirs and in retrospect, this stifled the team's creativity. In a heated discussion with a team member defending his position, he frankly stated, "You know, Nancy, not everything is black and white. You need to see more grey." While it may sound fundamental, it was eye-opening. It reminds one of the saying, "Do you want to win or do you want to be right?"

To best lead a team, you need to listen. That bold truth helped her to reflect on her leadership style and focus on what was most beneficial to the team. Part of creating inclusive environments is fostering a community where a team can be expressive and feel safe doing so. Figure out what kind of leadership style works for both you and your team, and what will be conducive to achieving overall company success. By creating a workplace where all employees can thrive, you can build a defense against the disorganized or competitive environments.

Regardless of where you are in your career, always examine how your presence and influence can cultivate a more inclusive workplace. The year 2017 exposed the fact that sexual harassment, gender bias, and unhealthy workplace environments surround us.

Undoubtedly, 2018 is the year to demand change. The technology industry praises itself for its innovation and problem-solving. Now is the time to tap into that creative energy at all career levels to build a stronger, more inclusive tech industry.


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