Q&A: Career Insights from Resilient Women in Tech
March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating the remarkable contributions women have made to society, particularly in the workplace. We had the opportunity earlier this month to speak with several successful high-growth technology leaders to gain insights into their experiences.
Now, we’re getting perspectives from individual contributors Caterina Moro, Francesca Abbatangelo, Hege Strand, Marianne Gilmour-Smith, and Sukriti Mal, who share their unique strategies for navigating the technology industry while growing in their careers.
This article is a transcript of an interview conversation. The content has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: TD SYNNEX is a leading global solutions aggregator for the IT ecosystem. And with that, introduces a workplace culture of collaboration across many regions. What are some of the things you’ve learned in working within a diverse organization that you apply to your roles today?
Caterina: When working with different cultures, simplifying your communication style is key. While it’s important to consider your audience’s expectations, the most effective approach is to focus on clarity and find common ground. This challenge truly tests your ability to connect with others and deliver a message that is easy to understand, regardless of language or cultural differences. Ultimately, it’s an opportunity to hone your communication skills and develop skills for delivering information in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Francesca: Working in Latin America has been an incredible opportunity for me to meet and connect with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. It’s not just about the way they work or communicate, but also how they expect to be treated and interact with others. Through this experience, I’ve learned the importance of understanding their perspectives to work successfully as a team. From communication exercises to team-building activities, I am committed to making cultural diversity an asset and seizing the chance to grow and develop professionally. It’s been a fascinating journey, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.
Hege: Creating a diverse and inclusive culture is essential, not just within our own country but also across different regions and cultures. Embracing different approaches and understanding that even within one country, there are various personality types that require different adjustments is crucial. It takes patience, flexibility, and the willingness to learn in order to truly adapt to different cultures and personalities. Embracing different cultures and personalities is a significant lesson that makes working across borders more successful.
Marianne: We all have specific ways we want to be spoken to and treated, and with so many variables at play, it’s important to be adaptable. Early on, someone taught me a valuable lesson: when engaging with people, first ask if they want advice or if they just need to be heard. I’ve found myself falling into the trap of giving advice, when sometimes all someone needs is a listening ear. So, let’s make an effort to truly connect with others by understanding their individual needs and providing them with the type of communication they desire.
Sukriti: Navigating the diverse and dynamic Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) market is a challenge that demands a unique skillset. With the inclusion of Australia, India, and a variety of Asian countries, each with their own distinct work culture and approach to strategy, understanding and adapting to the cultural norms for co-workers you collaborate with is essential. Working with such a diverse organization sharpens your people skills. Success is determined not only by what you are implementing, but also how your co-workers will react to it.
Q: Technology is continuously advancing. With this in mind, focusing on bringing innovative solutions that solve complex issues for our partners remains paramount. How do you work with your teams to solve for this complexity?
Caterina: We’re all in the business of making things simpler for our customers, but we know that our own internal processes can be pretty complex. That’s why I always ask how we can make things easier for our customers. By streamlining our own processes, we can deliver a final solution that truly meets our customers’ needs.
Francesca: Since the shift to remote work, team engagement has increased dramatically. We’re now able to collaborate with colleagues from different parts of the world like we never imagined before. This global collaboration wasn’t something we were able to do with ease before the pandemic. But, with the help of technology, we’re innovating ways to break down those barriers. Using these tools, we can now work together in ways we never thought possible, making us more connected than ever. Our team has embraced this new way of working and we’re enjoying the benefits it’s bringing us.
Hege: As a company, we strive to go above and beyond for our customers and partners. We understand that it’s not just about providing a product or service, but also about creating a positive experience. We aim to eliminate any internal struggles that may arise to ensure the entire process is as smooth as possible for everyone involved. We take pride in being ambassadors of our company and will stretch as far as we can to deliver exceptional results. Speaking as a woman, we understand the value of going the extra mile and supporting our customers to the fullest extent.
Marianne: Imagine being able to understand even the most complex solutions and products, no matter your learning style. That’s exactly what this question is all about — how to help people truly comprehend and engage with broader concepts. The speaker knows firsthand the importance of doing a thorough research and gathering advice from diverse perspectives. With their lucky position in their role, they have access to a wealth of knowledge from co-workers all over the world. By simplifying even the most convoluted solutions, we can train and enable others to tackle even the toughest challenges with confidence.
Sukriti: As we focus on the partner community, particularly from an APJ perspective, there are numerous strategies we aim to implement to help partners overcome their complexities. But it all begins with understanding the unique needs and wants of each partner. Given the diverse nature of APJ, with India alone presenting a variety of demographics and partner profiles, we work to accommodate and enlighten each partner on programs tailored to their specific complexities. Our ultimate goal is to empower partners to accelerate their business outcomes.
Q: Leadership traits can be exercised in our day-to-day work, regardless of job titles. What are ways you lead others in your roles as individual contributors in our global organization? Highlight a successful milestone or win secured in the process.
Caterina: Flexibility and structured improvisation are key. I’m in the process of building new models for the company, and this includes the message proposition. Reaching out to new partners, you’ll often find gaps along the way. It’s not always easy — you might have to go through a lot of trial and error — but sometimes you just have to go for it, even without all your homework done. We recently won a new customer this way. You might have some gaps in your delivery, but that’s okay. In fact, taking risks and stretching yourself in your role can really pay off in the long run.
Francesca: Our team encourages collaboration and invites members to bring their unique ideas to the table. Recently, we successfully positioned a unified message across Latin America through a strong value proposition that reflected our teamwork and dedication. By sharing best practices and working together as one company, we were able to achieve great results.
Hege: A global organization can sometimes feel impersonal, but incorporating the personal touch can make all the difference. Emphasizing the importance of teamwork and leading by example with professionalism, while also recognizing the value of individual skills and communication strengths, can make working globally feel more human. Striking the balance between global efficiency and personal connection can benefit any organization, and this principle holds true not just in traditional contexts, but also in the ever-evolving technology industry.
Marianne: Speaking openly and freely can benefit us all. It’s about sharing ideas, generating new perspectives and learning something new. While not every idea shared will be groundbreaking, we can all grow and develop through honest and open conversations. Pushing the boundaries and expanding your horizons can be challenging but it’s important to strive for innovation.
I recently led a campaign where I drove around conducting interviews all while singing and talking. Some people doubted my ability to pull it off, citing concerns about driving while multitasking. However, I persevered, and it ended up being a great success. I believe there is a common misconception that anything outside of the box is impossible, but I urge us to push the boundaries and prove that we are capable of achieving the seemingly impossible.
Sukriti: The Center of Excellence (COE) in APJ regularly hosts webinars. While the webinars are usually partner-driven and only scheduled for a specific timeframe, I helped a co-worker learn the ropes, so they had the skills needed to run the webinar. With the guidance and insight provided, the co-worker was able to take on the responsibility of organizing a successful webinar with ease. This act of leadership not only helped the co-worker grow in their role, but it also proved that stepping back at times can sometimes be the best way to help others shine too.
Q: Who are some influential female role models or mentors who have helped guide your career development in tech over time? What advice did they share that inspired you to evolve and grow?
Caterina: In search of a role model, it goes beyond just striving to get the best out of those around you. A crucial aspect to consider is the relationship they have with their career. To me, success and support are important, but so is the ability to find balance and not let work take over their personal lives. The ideal mentor embodies a passion for their work while prioritizing their well-being. Learning from someone who can excel in both aspects, without sacrificing either, is truly valuable.
Insights I gained from a seasoned manager has stuck with me throughout my career. With over 15 years in the industry, she shared that change takes time and patience is key. Trying too hard to force others to see your point of view can lead to burnout. It’s important to stay true and honest in all interactions with others, even if you don’t see immediate change. Keeping this advice close has helped me stay focused and motivated in my work.
Francesca: Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some truly amazing colleagues, including some incredible women who have made a real impact on my professional journey. But when I think about my mentors, I can’t help but wish that more of them had been women.
It’s clear that we still have a long way to go when it comes to empowering and encouraging one another. But that’s where each of us comes in. This is a call to action for all of us to step up and start filling those roles ourselves, to become the role models and mentors that we’ve been looking for. Together, we can make a real difference and open up new opportunities for women in every industry.
Hege: As I reflect on my professional journey, I realize that having a mentor would have truly enriched my experiences. Though I have never had one, I understand the immense value that having someone to guide and challenge you can bring to one’s career.
Fortunately, I have had some incredible role models in my life, both from powerful figures in government to the strong women in my family. From my grandmother to the Prime Minister, I have witnessed firsthand the impact female leaders can have. Their achievements inspire me to keep striving for excellence and to continue paving the way for women in leadership roles.
In our society, we need more visible female leaders to serve as examples for others. This will help inspire women to pursue positions of influence with confidence, knowing that they can also make a difference.
Marianne: As someone who’s never had a mentor before, I feel like I’m missing out on an incredible opportunity. I know that finding a good mentor can be challenging, but I believe that the key characteristics to look for are drive, passion, and honesty. These three traits are not only important for a mentor, but they’re also crucial for anyone striving to excel in their field. These are the kinds of people who I would be privileged to have as mentors.
Sukriti: Inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere. This especially holds true for the strong women you work with every day. Whether they are delivering results as individual contributors or leading teams, they all possess qualities that makes them role models.
An experienced mentor once shared some valuable advice with me. She recommended taking time to do a self-branding awareness exercise within the workplace. The mentor said don’t limit yourself to just building connections with your boss or colleagues — start communicating with the leadership team. We all work hard and accomplish great things, but sometimes our efforts go unnoticed. It’s important amplify your presence and your contributions.
This piece is contributed by: Courtney Grigsby, Global High-Growth Content & Communications Manager at TD SYNNEX.