We wouldn’t be who we are without our people.
And it just so happens that a lot of our people are women. At Intersect, we pride ourselves on fostering a culture of inclusiveness and growth, but it’s no secret that women in technology face unique challenges. We asked some of Intersect’s leading ladies to share their experiences and keys to success in tech (and life). Here’s what they had to say.
On Becoming A Mother
Change is unavoidable. In the tech industry, things change quickly and often, and keeping on top of current trends, best practices, and keeping your skill set sharp takes work. When I knew I would be taking maternity leave, I immediately began to feel overwhelmed about my ability to keep up when I was away and once I returned. I knew that becoming a mom would fundamentally change my life and I anticipated a great deal of tension trying to balance everything.
The thing is, you CAN have it all (if you want). I’m now a “working Mom” in an industry that is predominantly male. I’ve never (ok, RARELY) heard of a man who is worried about being able to “balance” being a Dad and having a career. It’s not even a question. You don’t often hear the term “working Dad.” So why should I take the term “working Mom” to mean anything pejorative or negative? The main reason I had these doubts before I came back is because there’s still a stigma around career vs. family when it comes to women. But many have been able to manage it before, and many more will after me. I’m still trying my hardest and showing up to work everyday with my “business hat” on – which is exactly what is expected of me.
What Helped Me Get Through It
There are three things that have helped me stay on course (oddly enough they also apply to motherhood):
- Be flexible and open to change. Be the type of person who can accept change and roll with it. Seek ways to help yourself or your company adapt, or look ahead and plan for changes before they hit.
- Accept that you don’t know everything, and that it’s ok that you don’t. Ask questions. Ask for help. Ask if there’s a better or different way of doing things. Don’t resign yourself to tunnel vision or think that reaching out shows any sign of weakness. Being obstinate alienates you – being resourceful makes you indispensable.
- Listening and empathy are skills that will never go out of style. No one experiences things the exact same way and some people may struggle with things you find easy (and vice versa). Listen with the intent to understand. And empathize with those who are having challenges. If you are the type of person that can show these qualities, people will seek you out and look to you for help.
Silence The Negative
Everyone deals with Imposter Syndrome now and then – even genius people who seem to have it all. Remind yourself that you’re not a fluke and you worked hard to get to where you are. This wasn’t an accident, it was years in the making.
How To Succeed
- Create a positive environment for yourself. Set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with people that boost you up. Learn how to recognize and tune out toxic people.
- If you can’t find a mentor to physically show you the ropes, take the initiative to create a proxy mentor. Read a lot, watch videos, and follow people that inspire you. Always learn and soak it all in however you can. All of these little things contribute to a better version of you.
- Pay it forward. Don’t forget that someone probably looks up to you as well. Being a mentor for someone else is immensely valuable.
Success comes to those who work for it. This is what we all have been told but only a few of us truly realize the meaning behind it. Working hard is a virtue which when combined with doing it over a long period of time translates into success. There is a school of thought which undermines hard work and gives more importance to smart work. What they don’t realize is, that you can only become smart after working hard for a length of time.
Hard work gives you the platform for you to be able to do it smartly. Therefore, don’t fall into that trap of working smart from day 1 because there is no substitute for hard work. There will be challenges along the way but remember to follow the process each day without fail because no matter how darker the night is, sun will rise tomorrow.
What I Want To Tell Other Women
- You are what you are because of the sum total of your efforts and experiences. Don’t become complacent and try to learn something new with each passing day.
- Be resilient in the face of failures and adversity.
- No dream is too big if you have the passion, focus and dedication at the centre of your strategy.
- It’s all about attitude. Not the nasty or undermining kind, but the kind of attitude that people take notice of and respect.
- Be you. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas!
- Maintain integrity in what you do. Be willing to put in the necessary hard work, have the ability to truly listen, and above all, respect and encourage others around you. If you exude this type of attitude, you can accomplish anything.
- Surround yourself with people that inspire you and that you can learn from – not only in tech but in anything you want to know or learn about.
- Don’t ever sell yourself short and always respect yourself.
- Always be helpful and encouraging to other women around you.
- Remember you are your own “brand”.
Find Your Tribe
I have always worked in male-dominated environments and have learned to grow a thick skin in order to move forward in my career. Working in the midst of a “boys club” is not easy and can be de-motivating, but it’s something most successful women learn to navigate over time. The key is finding your tribe; the brave, inspiring, smart, and supportive women (and men!) who will not only share your experiences but mentor you and become a part of your journey. Yes, we have to face inequality as a daily reality but we don’t have to put up with it or go through it alone.
What I Want To Tell Other Women
- Find your tribe. Talk to your peers about your experiences. Ask for their guidance and support. Find a mentor. Be curious.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you experience any kind of inequality, sexism or harassment of any kind, say something, or, if you don’t feel safe, tell someone. You’re not alone and you’ll be surprised to find out others have experienced similar situations. Be brave.
- Be patient. This is something I practice on a daily basis. Some days it’s not easy, but practicing patience – especially when the shit hits the fan (and it will) – is a lesson in itself.
- Be a good person. It’s easier than you think. Know that everyone is human, everyone makes mistakes, and not everyone realizes they have even made one. Have compassion – for others and yourself.
Always Validate Your Assumptions
People tend to make assumptions and jump to conclusions about me. When I was in elementary school, I skipped grades to learn Math. I did so because I was practicing teaching myself at home, but people commented, “She’s good in Math because she’s Asian.” When my friends noticed that I’m the only one heading to UW, they concluded, “You’ll be all alone with no friends.” As a tech consultant working onsite at a client’s office, I was mistaken for being the CIO’s “new cute receptionist“ by the CFO. The man that said that hadn’t realized that in this growing day and age, there are female tech consultants (the CIO went on to tell him, “She’s too expensive to be my receptionist!”).
When I gave birth to my two kids, I decided to park my career and dedicated roughly 3 years to focus on their growth. During that time, the salary gap between my husband and I widened even though we were on similar grounds right after graduation. My father-in-law commented, “He’s supposed to make more money than you.” My mother-in-law tried to comfort me by saying, “Girls can take it easy.” While she has the right intention, I believe there is nothing wrong with wanting to not “take it easy”. I enjoy family life and coming home to my kids brings tremendous joy to my heart, but I also enjoy working. Becoming a mother did not change my passion for technology. I disagree with the older generation’s male vs female family obligation projections wholeheartedly and my husband makes more than I do because I purposely put my career on temporary hiatus. Plus, he’s a great programmer and his company recognizes his value.
What I Want To Tell Other Women
- Anyone with dedication and discipline can achieve things others might think they can’t.
- Accept yourself for who you are and let that drive you to be special and unique.
- Let people’s misperceptions fuel your growth.
- Don’t feel guilty for wanting to have it all. Family and career can be equally important.
You could say I was at the right place at the right time when I was approached to work at Intersect. I look at it as seizing an opportunity and taking a risk by having the confidence and ability to succeed in such an unknown industry to me. What caught my attention in tech was the fast-moving processes, a unique culture, and the constant opportunity to learn. I am still learning A LOT and loving it!
Being in such a fast-paced environment you never know what’s coming your way. Sometimes you can prepare and expect things to go smoothly, but that’s not always the case. Other times you just have to roll with the punches, be flexible and open to change. Things will usually work out as long as you put the effort in.
What I’d like other women to know:
- Don’t let other powerful women intimidate you. Embrace them and even ask to learn from them.
- Always do you. Speak up for yourself and what you believe in. You shouldn’t act differently to please others, so don’t add that emoji or exclamation mark if you don’t want to.
- Do not let your kindness be mistaken for weakness.
- Seek opportunities for yourself and practice negotiating.