The road less travelled
recently I did the keynote demo in DKOM 2019 and received lot of congratulatory messages, some also for being the only woman on stage. The same had happened when I joined the CTO circle for the line-of-business for being the only woman in a primarily men’s club. While I don’t exactly consider this as an achievement, it brings me to ponder why is it that there are so less women on stage demoing the solutions which they helped create? Why is that there are so few women in higher roles? Why is it that women who are good technically, migrate more towards management and execution roles? Why is it that there is a leaky pipeline with regards to career levels for women as time passes? And last but not the least, what would encourage more women to consider Technical/Development Architect roles ?
While there is no silver bullet here, I thought of sharing some of my learnings. It may be applicable for you, if not please ignore them and apply based on the situation.
- Stay curious: It may sound philosophical, but life is a journey of continuous learnings. Keep updating your skills and knowledge. There may be areas which you do not find useful in your current role, but it may be useful down the line either to use in current solution or to completely innovate a new product. What brought you here, will not take you there, so keep learning. Do join some of the professional courses/workshops, technical publications to improve your knowledge and skills.
- Appreciate yourself: Women tend to be perfectionist by nature. We are our own worst enemies. The thought process starts with ‘I probably could have done it better’. While that may be true and there are always areas of improvement. But please stop, take time to look back on challenges, acknowledge what you achieved despite these challenges and appreciate yourself. Mark Twain once said “A (wo)man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. So acknowledge your achievements.
- Networking: It’s important to network with others in your organisation and industry experts. While you may be good in your work, there are always better solutions, areas where one needs help in. It’s important to expand your knowledge, seek opportunities, get advice, building your brand or to simply make friends which networking results in. So do take time to make a new contact at regular intervals.
- Good Domain knowledge: I always say that to be a good expert, one has to be able to apply technical feasibility to business viability to create robust products. One has to have good domain knowledge, being only technically good is not enough. For experts, one needs to be Techno-functional to provide a wow experience for end users.
- It’s ok to say “I don’t know”: No one is a “sarvagna”, every day there is something new to learn. Do not be afraid to say that you don’t know something, but take time to learn it. Seek help from other experts and learn. When we don’t share that there are areas where we are not strong, it’s assumed that one already knows it. The whole journey, the challenges, the learnings, the achievements are in direct proportion to where we started from. I will share one incident from my college where I was appearing for a viva-voce exam. My professor asked something and I clearly said I don’t know. The next question my professor asked with rider that you don’t know, but I explained that question in full detail with backing evidence. Later my professor mentioned to other professors it was one of the best viva-voce that year. So it’s OK to say “I don’t know”.
- Think your career choice: I have had some conversations with few colleagues on the career path one should go for. It’s completely subjective to individual choice. Do take time to analyse and decide on whether you are most happy interacting with customers, selling a solution, delivering or designing a product etc. It’s important to devote some time to think of your career choice and also share your long term plan with your manager. Please also realise that your managers don’t have a magic wand. Once you share the plan, they will keep you in mind in case an opportunity arises in future. But unless you think of your career choice and discuss it with your manager, this will not happen. So do take some time to think what you want to be and take that first step.
- Be assertive : Make yourself heard. There may be cases when your opinion is against the popular choice or you have a good idea to solve a particular problem. But if you choose to remain silent or don’t express your idea assertively, someone else may present the same or rephrase your idea. So express your opinion.
- Mentoring: It’s important to have a mentor at any level of your career. For an organisation, it helps in retaining practical knowledge and wisdom from more experienced colleagues. For oneself, it not just helps in professional development and growth but also helps in breaking silos. So do get yourself a mentor. At the same time, mentor others and share your knowledge. When you mentor others, it helps in building your communication skills, leadership skills, learning newer perspectives and brings lot of personal satisfaction. Indirectly it also leads to advancing your career.
Happy to hear more from you.