#GHC16 line to get into session “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

Last week at the Grace Hopper Conference #GHC16 in Houston, as I approached the room to get mic’d up for the panel I was moderating, I found a long line of people snaking down the hallway as far as I could see. Clearly there was a lot of interest in our topic: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Navigating career ups and downs, and knowing when it’s time for a change.

This is the first in a six-part post on Medium where I’ll pass along some of the stories and insights our panel shared at #GHC16 on the topic of career growth for women in tech.

Panelists are pictured below (L-R)

Alexandra Tibbetts, Head of Brand Moments, YouTube

Liz Pearce, Chief Executive Officer, LiquidPlanner

Sumit Chauhan, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft

Rebecca Norlander, Co-founder & CEO, Health123

Gail Giacobbe, VP Product Management, GoDaddy

In today’s post, I’ll describe my journey deciding to leave a large company after 15 years and landing in a VP of Product Management role at GoDaddy.

How do you know when it’s time to go?

After a great 15-year run at Microsoft, I found myself in a fairly senior role — at the top end of the Principal band and very close to being promoted to Partner. I had worked in Program/Product Management leadership roles across the consumer division, Windows, and Office and I’d worked on a wide range of projects from v1 incubations to mature products with Fortune 500 customers. I had participated in the “bench” program for top talent, and I had found great mentors — and sponsors — from a number of CVPs across the company. However, as I reflected on what I had learned over the past year or so, I realized that while I’d been continuing to hone my skills of “working across very large organizations,” overall my learning curve was starting to plateau. When I looked around the company for new, more challenging opportunities, I did not find roles that would allow me to grow in the areas where I knew I wanted to be growing: leading product innovation in an agile, data-driven environment, identifying new business opportunities, and contributing directly to the bottom line of a company’s growth. It was time for a change.

Get clear on what you’re looking for

I started to explore opportunities outside the company and found a wide variety of opportunities — and some shocking disparities. One mid-sized company in Seattle told me I was qualified for a VP role, but they did not hire VPs from outside the company — they only promoted from within. One large Silicon Valley-based company told me I could find a role in Seattle (my home town) but I would need to be willing to relocate to the Valley if I really wanted to advance my career. I flew to Austin to interview with an exciting mid-sized company and went through an 8-hour interview conducted by a group of white men who each asked me a set of very narrow entry-level PM questions, and culminated with a “design problem” where I was left alone for an hour in a room to come up with a solution, and then presented my solution to a panel of white men, who politely let me know I had not arrived at the “right” answer.

All these experiences were extremely helpful — after several weeks of reflection, I got very clear on what I was looking for:

  • An opportunity to have a big impact and develop new skills
  • A company with a business strategy that I believed in, with enormous growth potential
  • A mission that I was passionate about
  • A CEO and Senior Leadership Team who shared my values, and whom I could learn from
  • An inclusive culture where different perspectives were valued

Find the right fit

GoDaddy had initially caught my attention when I saw the Wired mag article describing how CEO, Blake Irving, was leading a major culture turnaround at the company as he put his growth plan into place. Then last year at #GHC15 I watched Blake own up to the company’s past poor choices on sexist advertising, and describe pivotal changes the company was making to become a leader in gender equity, and soon thereafter GoDaddy was recognized as one of Anita Borg’s Top Places for Women in Tech. From that point on, I started monitoring job postings on the career site and it took about six months before the right role popped up. The moment I interviewed, I knew I’d found the right fit. The interview process allowed me to show my knowledge and engage in problem-solving with my future colleagues. The role — VP of Product Management for Mobile — would allow me to leverage my past experiences and strengths, while learning new skills. And the work environment was incredibly friendly and collaborative. Still today — nearly a year after starting — at least once a week I’m pleasantly surprised at how everyone lives our value of “joining forces” and working together to bring new customer value to market as quickly as possible. I have found a sponsor who is providing me with amazing guidance and opportunities for growth. And most important of all, I wake up every morning excited to go to work.

Up next

This was the first of a 6-post series on topics covered at the #GHC16 panel: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Navigating career ups and downs, and knowing when it’s time for a change. In the remaining 5 posts, I’ll cover each of the topics that have been documented to be key factors for why women leave the workforce:

  1. Unconscious bias
  2. Isolation
  3. Supervisory relationships
  4. Promotion processes
  5. Competing life responsibilities

WITness

stories from the front lines of women in tech

Gail Borod Giacobbe

Written by

Director Product and Data Science @Microsoft. Seattleite. Mom. @ggiacobbe https://www.linkedin.com/in/ggiacobbe

WITness

WITness

stories from the front lines of women in tech

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