I delivered a talk yesterday to women in tech for the Ada’s List Conference 2017. Many thanks to Ada’s List for inviting me to deliver it.
First, I should say that I met such extraordinary women at the conference. It was heartening to learn of some fantastic initiatives, engage in great debate, and be optimistic about the future – the women in the room were incredible!
Secondly, delivering a keynote – much less an opening one – is always a delicate task. I focused my talk on five central themes:
- Know your limitations. This requires deep introspection and having an honest conversation about what you can do, what you’re good at, or not, and what you’d like to do with the talent and gifts you’ve been given.
- Complacency kills. My grandmother always used to say, ‘know when to cut your losses’. If you’re in a role where you’re not enjoying yourself, your learning has stagnated, you’re bored, you don’t get the respect you’ve earned, or you work with a team, who aren’t ambitious enough and don’t push you, cut your losses. Leave. Refuse to be complacent. Refuse to accept the status quo.
- Great leaders are vulnerable. I’ve had some amazing managers, and some god awful ones. I’ve had just as many bad women managers, as I’ve had men. But I learnt a ton more from the bad managers, than I did from the good ones. Leaders are human. They are vulnerable. They are often scared, they have weaknesses, they don’t have all the answers. The good ones, I’ve learnt, admit this and work collaboratively with their colleagues – those they report into, and those who report into them – to solve problems. The bad ones ignore their humanness and let their egos run wild. I’ve had women managers say to me: “My career progression was made hard for me, so I’m going to make it hard for you”. Don’t be those women!
- Be Bold. Be Brave. Take Risks. If you are given a role, an opportunity, a promotion, invariably the self-doubt kicks in. When I’ve faced situations like this, I often ask myself: “What’s the worst that can happen? If I do this, and it fails, will I be ok with that?” And if I am, which I’ve come to learn over the years, is completely ok, then I do it.
- Be yourself. I’m a huge fan of the Oscar Wilde quote: “be yourself, everyone else is taken”. So true. Why compromise yourself and change who you are, to fit a circumstance, a team, a boss. If you can’t be true to yourself, and be who you are – because lets face it, it’s taken you a while to figure that out (and I still am, tbh) – what was that exploration of self, all for then? Authenticity is a power tool in life and at work – use it and live it. My whole career, I’ve used my personal values, and innate sense of self as my North Star, and it’s never let me down. Not once.
There were some other anecdotal points that came up in the Q&A:
- Never ever ever ever settle for less than you’re worth.
- Culling opportunistic, self absorbed, self righteous, and egotistical friends from your life, is a good thing. Surround yourself with people – family, friends, colleagues – who push you to be better, who support you, want your happiness and success, and never begrudge you, anything good that happens to your life. I do it every year in January. New year, new start and all that.
- Your weekends are for you. Your life. Your soul. Your peace of mind.