The growing force of women in tech: 5 tips to advance your career

Carrie McIlveen

07 March 2019

For many years, I admired tech industry leaders like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s Marisa Mayer, and HP’s Meg Whiteman. Coming from a banking background, being in a male-dominated world was not new to me. Much like these women, I wanted to do my part to elevate women.  

In 2017,  I was named to the top 25 Mobile Marketer’s Women to Watch. Being new to the tech industry, I felt humbled and honored to be recognized for this award among a highly talented roster of executives from the world’s leading brands, retailers, agencies, technology platforms, and publishers.

Today, I’d like to honor International Women’s Day by highlighting five tips I’ve followed in my career. I’ve also incorporated advice from some of my fellow tech-savvy women at Metia and lessons they’ve learned along the way.

1. Be supportive and inclusive of other women
In an industry whose workers are predominately men, you can feel isolated and may not be receiving the training and guidance you may need. Engaging with a community of like-minded individuals is one of the best ways to stay inspired and build relationships with peers. Consider joining or starting a group that supports women in your company. Or look at outside sources with online forums, monthly meetups, or organizations that specifically support women in tech and help increase female participation in tech. 

For example, Girls in Tech is a global organization that started in 2007 and has online programs.  Another example is a company in Seattle (where I’m based) that started the WiT Regatta, a gathering to connect women in tech to mentors, peers, and resources with events in Seattle (coming April 2019), Vancouver BC, and Amsterdam.

“Remove criticality from your vocabulary for both yourself and others and you’ll reap the rewards both for your self-worth and seeing the support you receive in return.” 
Amber Whiteman, Vice President

“I have many women to thank for offering their guidance and support, whether it’s in the throes of a project or over a networking coffee date. I demonstrate my thanks by always taking the time to pay it forward to other women.”
Kate Pluth, Metia Lead Content Strategist

“Business is all about relationships, all of them, at every level. Be kind, and intentionally seek out opportunities to build the people around you up; acknowledge their contributions and celebrate successes. large and small.”
Sally Vilardi, Account Director

2. Focus on your goals
Your own personal evolution is a choice. It’s dangerous to rely on a job description to tell you what to do or to wait for direction from your boss. It’s more valuable and satisfying to be aware of what you are passionate about and what you love to do—then do it! 

Work hard to continue to build your knowledge, be relevant, and evolve your skill set towards these goals daily. Turn yourself into a learning machine and feed on the best information and experiences that will help accelerate your growth. Stretch yourself, boost your confidence, be your own biggest advocate, and remove distractions that are roadblocks to your advancement. As you reshape your behavior, it will become second nature to focus on what matters—your goals and learning with a purpose.

“Never cease learning. It is typical for women in tech to get intimidated at the pace technology is evolving. As a senior software engineer, it is very important for me to always be updated on new tech and new ways and concepts of developing software.”
Renu Lalwani, Sr Web Developer

“If you don’t know the destination, then how will you know how to get there—I don’t believe that goals always need to be big, but I do believe that everyone should have at least one to get started.”
Desi Lopez, Account Director

3. Seek opportunities and adapt
If your job isn’t giving you room to grow, make some. 

To forge your own path, you may need to shift your mindset. As a child, I went to 13 different schools—partly because I was part of a military family, but mostly because my parents were hippies (yes, this included many sing-a-longs, flowers in my hair, and bell bottoms). Through this nomadic lifestyle, I found myself meeting new people, discovering unique personalities, and experiencing new cultures and environments. I frequently asked myself, “How do I fit in?” “How do I adjust to these new surroundings?” and “What are the new possibilities?”

These experiences provided me with a deep-rooted belief that we all have an opportunity—and maybe even the responsibility—to contribute and adapt. These same questions can be applied to your career. Don’t settle and never allow yourself to become complacent. Challenge yourself to take on a difficult task, be assertive, and focus on the business outcomes that will make an impact. Test, learn, and develop your capabilities to improve efficiency and usefulness.

“When I look back on the last three careers I’ve had, all of them started from a conversation with an acquaintance or even a stranger.  The best feedback I can give is that authenticity and passion to what makes you happy will lead you to the opportunities that are the best fit for you. It’s okay to want to reach and grow, but to quote my favorite entrepreneur, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), “If you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back.”
Kiyomi Kimura, Content Strategist

“Tap into your intuition more often in your strategic planning and with your people, be mindful of yourself and be constantly curious of others, and great things will happen.”
Sally Vilardi, Account Director

4. Find a mentor, then be a mentor
Everyone knows that mentoring is an important factor. However, being a minority in the tech industry undoubtedly can impact a women’s comfort level, and it’s easy to imagine that your struggles are unique. But many others have gone through similar experiences. Surround yourself with the right peers who will advocate or champion for you publicly within the organization. 

An emotionally intelligent mentor can help connect the dots and increase your access to high visibility work and opportunities for career advancement. Identify someone who shares your values and you can trust to learn and grow from. They can provide tips, strategies, and networking connections that offer pathways to new opportunities that enable your full potential. 

Then pay it forward. If you are not helping others, you are not adding enough value. No matter what your level, consider becoming someone’s mentor. By sharing your career aspirations with other women and encouraging others, you’ll notice you can get as much out of the relationship as you give.

“When looking for a mentor, make a list of 10 people that you want to connect with. Find them on LinkedIn and see if you have any mutual connections.  If you do, ask your mutual connection if she can make an introduction.  Make sure you have as much background information on your mentor as possible prior to meeting her.”
Kiyomi Kimura, Content Strategist

“You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. So, follow the golden rule and support others the way you would want to be supported.”
Miriam Günther, Sr. Account Executive

“My initial mentor is now my equal. I wouldn’t have been able to have the confidence to do the work I do now without her support. We’ve been in direct competition with each other and it never affected our relationship. My advice is support and nurture each other as it’s amazing what can happen when you have someone else who believes in you.”
Victoria Gunn-Forbes, Designer

5. Demonstrate your value 
You may know your worth, but do others? It may feel like you are contributing in every project that comes your way, connecting with your colleagues, making efforts to over-deliver, and never missing a deadline. So why does it feel like you’re not making progress in your career? 

There may be several reasons, some of which you might not have control over: lack of visibility to management, priorities changed for your team, or your boss isn’t noticing.  What you do have power over are developing your confidence in your abilities, challenging yourself to reach your highest potential, and remaining relevant. Keep up to speed on the current trends in your industry through reading articles and books (recommendation: Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever), connecting with peers through industry events, taking online courses, and continuing to navigate your career path. 

Then find opportunities to raise your voice on projects or present to senior leadership: don’t just deliver work—deliver outcomes! With a clear idea of how success will be measured, you can take the initiative to contribute meaningful solutions that affect the bottom line—and, at the same time, advance your career.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
Magdalena Pudo, Office Administrator

“Take chances and risks—don’t be afraid of failure. Women often doubt their capabilities and hold themselves back from taking chances, sharing their viewpoint in meetings or team sessions. Women are equally capable and often have better ideas and solutions, the only thing they need to recognize is bridging the gap and develop courage and confidence to be more vocal.”
Renu Lalwani, Sr Web Developer