IWD breaching the barriers panel: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we hosted a panel with some of our global colleagues, including Katy Winterborn, principal security consultant, Dana Hehl, senior VP of operations, Helen-Rose Whitehead, head of customer success and Jennifer Fernick, head of research in the US.
We asked our panellists to share the best piece of advice they’ve ever been given – below are some of their answers.
Dana Hehl talks about the one piece of advice she ignored, and how doing so led her to the best piece of advice she can give to others in the industry.
“It’s more the best piece of advice I didn’t follow. When I was promoted into a leadership position, someone said to me that this was my opportunity to reshape myself and project a new me. So they challenged me to think about what I was going to do, how I was going to change, what I was going to look like, would I start wearing paint suits, would I finally move into an actual office, would I clean up my language. While I don’t think I intentionally ignored the advice at the time, I just didn’t know what to do with it, so I’ve just carried on being me
“But in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t heed it. Because I strongly believe that our strengths and our power come from our individuality. And not succumbing to a stereotype or an expectation of what I should be might just be my superpower.
“I think the advice extracted from that experience for me is simply to have the confidence to be you. Trust your instincts and have faith in yourself, your teams and your employer to receive you, if not – they hired you for a reason. If they’re not being receptive to what you have to offer it may be a different problem. But the solution isn’t about changing you. Your diversity is your strength.”
Adding to this, Jennifer Fernick talks about the importance of having confidence in your abilities to grow and learn in new roles:“A teacher of mine once said a lot of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage and I think that really applies to women in the tech field. We know that statistically, women wait until they have 100% of the skills listed in job advert before applying.
“One thing I have seen after spending many years of underestimating myself, is that the world is so complex and random, and we see this in our field as well, that it’s impossible to get to the perfect answer.
“What we become in our career is a result of the challenges that we take on and makes us realise that we are capable of far more than we expected. Having the confidence and really reaching for problems that are worth solving is very worthwhile. However, stereotypes do still exist, and a lot of people make assumptions about who I am. My second piece of advice follows up from this experience and is, simply, do not to let anyone else decide who you are or what your career is going to look like.”
Helen-Rose Whitehead added: “A really good piece of advice came from a female mentor and it was that assimilation doesn't help anyone. I’ve previously worked in male-dominated sales environments, and my natural instinct was to try and fit in and assimilate to this behaviour and work my way up by fitting into the mould that was already there.
It didn’t help people to buy-in to me because it wasn’t authentic leadership. It doesn't help open the door to anyone else – I was becoming a part of the problem because I was just trying to fit in with what was already there which wasn’t an inclusive culture. We need to pay it forward to other women and other types of diversity. If you’re a true version of yourself, you will inspire others to do the same.”
Part three of our ‘IWD breaching the barriers panel: What does being a ‘woman in tech’ mean?’ will be live on Monday 30th March.
Listen to the full webinar here.