Advice and Encouragement #WomenInTechnology

Last week I attended a panel discussion setup by our local Salesforce #GirlyGeeks Chapter. Our #GG leader, Courtney Swayze, had managed to nab the one and only Brooks McCorkle (President of Partner Solutions at AT&T) along with a panel of her female colleagues to provide advice and insights to success as a Woman in Technology.

I took copious notes and even had a chance to dialog with Brooks a bit afterwards about work/life balance as a mom. She is SO incredibly down to earth and engaging it is not hard to see how she has shattered the proverbial glass ceiling. When we spoke about how she managed when her 3 boys were younger and in school, she candidly admitted that she wasn’t involved in the PTA or those groups. Her husband was retired so he did most of the ‘school’ duties, but she balanced that with pointed, deliberate time spent with her kids, with no work allowed.

I’m also a part of a mentoring circle called Women Who Salesforce. It is a mentoring program where a small group of women at varying stages of their Salesforce career meet virtually every few weeks to ask questions, support and encourage each other to reach their goals. We’ve had some awesome sessions so far and I was up to lead the next meeting!free advice

I decided to present the advice I had learned from Brooks and the panel. We could talk about the advice, then add to it with advice we’ve been given. It was a really awesome session and I now have a fantastic list of advice and encouragement and intend to keep these forefront in what I do!

So without further ado – let’s get to the advice from both the panel and the mentoring circle:

1. Be the best – whatever it is! Be a gold star junkie! – this was Brooks’ first piece of advice. She related it back to getting a ‘Gold Star’ as a child when you completed a task. I love the idea to always ‘be the best’ and put forth your best effort, but in our mentoring circle we also talked about not relating your effort to what you’ll get as a reward! Do it whether or not you’ll get a gold star! Don’t be too much of a gold star junkie that your expectations are too high!

2. Get to the essence of an issue and keep it simple! (Boil it down to customer benefits) – This is applicable all across the board – don’t over-complicate things. If someone wants details, great! Give it to them, but most often people want to cut to the chase. What’s in it for me? Or as I like to say: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!

3. Raise your hand! Volunteer for things! – Don’t be afraid to take on a task because you don’t know 100% what you are doing. This one always trips me up. I’ve always been the type of person to volunteer. If we are in a room and someone asks for volunteers and no-one raises their hand I usually agree to take things on – this is how I got into PTA in the first place! Their mantra was always ‘If not you, then who?’. But we had a running joke at PTA meetings about this: ‘Don’t have a helium hand’ – know when you have to sit on your hand and NOT volunteer. I actually asked Brooks specifically about this tip – how do you keep from over-doing it? She said it goes back to the very first tip – ask yourself, “Will I be able to give it my best with everything else I have going on?” if the answer is anything but yes, don’t volunteer. Partner with others or provide advice, but don’t do it if you can’t do it 100%! I love this and am learning to live by it!

4. Invest in relationships! – Send an email to a colleague just to say Hi. Schedule a lunch. Email an article that made you think of them. This is hard as people get busy but that is when it is MOST important – you build your own support community!

5. Make it fun and personal! – business doesn’t have to be boring and all work/no play! People who feel like you are invested in them will invest in you! Make time for fun with both colleagues and clients – it is important not to miss the connection and is relationship building. Don’t be too busy for it – the benefits are too important!

6. Eat a Twinkie and get over it! – this was from one of Brooks’ colleagues. I cringe a little as I type it. I understand the premise – don’t let small setbacks hold you back, you have to learn to shake them off and move forward. But I wonder if the ‘eat a twinkie’ analogy might be a bit sexist?

7. Ask for what you want! Follow your gut! – we had a great discussion about this in our mentoring circle including examples of when it worked! Bottom line – you never know until you ask. Kids have no problem asking for anything and everything (at least mine don’t) but I wonder if every time I give them an unequivocal ‘No’, I’m grooming them to stop asking…something to ponder on for sure!

8. Take action, get results and there is natural gravity to you! – sometimes you have to prove yourself, no matter how many certifications or degrees you have. Go for the low-hanging fruit, show results and people’s confidence will rise!

9 . Be passionate about the business, don’t make it personal! – this came out when talking about dealing with emotions in business – one of the panelists said “Don’t appear so chaotic that people don’t think you’ve got it.” You have to compartmentalize those natural emotions a bit – remember, in general it isn’t about you, it’s about the business!

10. Figure out what applies to you and what doesn’t – it’s all about balance! What works for one person might not work in your situation, so don’t obsess about it.

11. Focus on others needs and where you can help meet those needs! – this, to me, is how you end up with a fulfilling career. When you are meeting the needs of a team or a person or a company, the resulting satisfaction is indescribable!

12. Assume you belong!!! – this is one of my favorites that I heard from Kieren Jameson, who has been fearlessly sharing her knowledge with the Salesforce Community. Some call it Imposter Syndrome – where you feel like you couldn’t possibly fit in with the people around you. That you aren’t ____ enough. Banish those thoughts and assume you belong!

13. Don’t over think it – jump in! Roll with what life brings and keep rolling! – sometimes it is too easy to ‘wait and see’. Be brave. I’m not an ‘in your face’ religious person, but I believe in God and I think that sometimes He waits for us to take the first step. Sort of a leap of faith that it will all work out in the end. I’ve seen it happen in my own life. Now I’m not saying it isn’t hard – it’s super-hard, but it is so worth it!

14. Sometimes you need to spend time waiting and listening! – “Put a bookmark” in the ideas in your head while you engage with others! Don’t talk to fill silence. Refer to #2 above. Don’t get ahead of yourself – slow down! Put space in between your words. The space controls the focus of your sentence. Sometimes the simple act of slowing down, forcing yourself to think/speak deliberately will put more meaning into what you want to get across.

15. Develop a personal board of directors. People who you can bounce ideas off of in every aspect of your life. People who aren’t afraid to tell you you are smoking crack and aren’t afraid to tell you to go for it! You don’t have to be in this alone!

16. Finally, Be here now. Be present. Don’t wait until Sunday. If not now, when? – this is one of my favorites! It applies to both my business and personal life. I need to work on this one – the years seem to be flying by and before I know it, they’ll be gone!

adviceOK – that is a lot of stuff! You don’t have to do it all now. Pick a few and work on them. Write them down and tape it where you’ll see it regularly.

Which of the advice above resonates with you? Which do you need to work on? Any you would add to this list?

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About Nana

Mom. Wife. Salesforce Administrator/Developer. Employee. Volunteer. Friend. Artist. Craftswoman. Passionate about my kids and their future! I am a Salesforce MVP. For more information on the Salesforce MVP community, visit: http://www.salesforce.com/mvp/ . Salesforce, Force, Force.com, Chatter, and others are trademarks of salesforce.com, inc. and are used here with permission.
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