by Meg Ramsey
Millennial women have embraced STEM and are steadily driving up the percentage of women pursuing technology careers. But finding women in technology leadership roles is still rare. Although women have been involved in “computing” since the late 1800s, when a team of women at Harvard were tasked with computational duties that their male counterparts considered too tedious, it was only recently that we entered in the corner office of technology companies. Women like Meg Whitman, Diane Greene, Ginni Rometty and Cheryl Sandberg are inspirational leaders paving the way for my generation and continue to prove we can be successful in any technology position.
What took so long? And what can women in technology do to shape their career paths so we can continue to grow the number of women in the C-suite?
My company, Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS), has a corporate vision that mirrors many of the things I have learned in my own career. “At Sungard Availability Services, we design, build, and run production and recovery environments that are more resilient and available – giving your business the agility it needs to compete cost-effectively in the marketplace.”
Being resilient, agile, available, and ready to meet the competition all while building relationships along the way will undoubtedly help to advance your career. So, here are five of my own top tips for women building their careers in the technology field, based on my own experiences:
1) Be resilient. Resilience is something I learned early on. Being a Navy brat and moving to a new base every other year, each new city, school, and set of friends taught me that being able to adjust to new situations quickly made life much easier. The same philosophy has guided my career, reminding me that every new company or project is simply a new and exciting challenge to embrace and master. Responding to constant change is a way of life, and the sooner you can embrace the change disruption brings, the better off you will be.
2) Look at your available options. Don’t let yourself be caught off-guard when a new prospect arises. A few years ago, I resigned from a job to move to a new company where I would have more opportunity for professional growth. The day my resignation was made public, an executive who oversaw my project demanded I come in the following morning with a complete transition plan for my replacement.
I scrambled to pull together all the necessary documents for my successor, and when I arrived bright and early the next day, nervous and ready to present my ideas to him, he surprised me: he wanted to recruit me for a different high-profile role under his direction. He wanted to approach me before, and now that I was a ‘free agent,’ he could bring me onto his direct team, promote me two levels, and provide me with the professional growth I was seeking. I still took the job with the new company, but the experience taught me that by opening myself up to new opportunities, there were many unknown possibilities available to me.
Eighteen months later, the same executive reached out with another exciting opportunity. This time I took him up on the offer and never looked back.
3) Always be agile. One of my greatest skills is that I am a change agent. By that, I mean identifying a change that needs to happen; documenting the benefits that will occur; energizing a team to implement to transition; and tracking the results. Technology leaders know that our industry moves at the speed of light. Skills we once excelled at become stale in just a few years – or even months. Staying on top of the shifts in our industry and moving to new projects, or figuring out how to fill in gaps in our capabilities keeps us agile. For example, I am not only adjusting to the new responsibilities my recent promotion provides, but I am also pursuing an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. I don’t have a lot of free time, but I understand that staying on top of industry trends is just as critical as the new skills I’m learning at MIT.
4) Don’t be afraid of the competition. Being competitive is not a bad thing, even though some still view it as unflattering for women in the workplace. It isn’t about “beating” someone for a new job or promotion, or getting to a new goal faster than anyone else, or being the youngest person to achieve a certain position. Women can be more risk-averse than men, so it’s important to note that intrinsic motivation – the drive to do well, the urge to be known for a “job well done” – is what really drives performance in the workplace. Embrace your talents and deliver on what you promise, and you will succeed on your own merit.
5) Build and capitalize on your relationships. It was because of a professional relationship with a former colleague that I joined Sungard AS. It was because I was part of an inspirational team that I could take my learnings and lead the team that brought our new cloud solutions to market last year. These are only two of many examples illustrating that relationships really matter. Building a vibrant and ever-expanding network is essential in today’s interconnected work environment.
Case in point: I recently was named one of the “Ones to Watch” by CIO Magazine. Not only did my company share the news, but MIT also spread the word since I am now part of their network. I was humbled by the outpouring of support from old colleagues and friends on LinkedIn and Twitter and it led to several coffee dates to reconnect. It strongly reminded me of the adage every military kid must embrace — "Never burn your bridges."
Meg Ramsey, Vice President of Cloud Services Product Management for Sungard AS, was recently named to the “One To Watch” list by CIO Magazine, an IDG company.