I went to a breakfast a few years ago and I can’t lie one of the biggest draws for me was that it was taking place at a restaurant I have always heard great things about — The Ivy (in Covent Garden). I came upon the LinkedIn advert by a company I hadn’t really heard much about — Microscape Event’s — they were running a Women in Tech Sales event, and even though my first thought was, “Pass! I’m not in Sales”, my second was “Go on Anu — check it out, you never know who you’ll meet and you know some of the companies the speakers work at!”. Oh boy! I’m glad I did, because the feeling of being in the Ivy was nothing compared to being with some of the amazing women I have ever met who were just so warm, friendly, ambitious and inspiring.
From meeting a lady just outside the restaurant where we chatted as we walked in & ended up connecting on LinkedIn. To chatting to an incredibly humble lady who happened to be the vice president of Salesforce & one of the esteemed speakers that morning. We started with three incredible ladies speaking about their own individual experience in tech sales.
One who started as a psychologist and then entered the sales world — where in the first assessment meeting she walked into, there were only men in the room. To another who is in another male dominated sector — recruitment within the US surgical device industry. She shared some amazing information from the disparity of female confidence when looking at a job description to how hiring managers can use language to target different genders. Did you know that a man will look at a job description and if he feels the meets 60% of the skill set he will apply for the position but most women are only like to apply for the position if they meet 100% of the skill set. Showing that us women under value our potential (only putting value on what we have learnt so far) much more than our male counter parts.
We then went unto our third solo speaker — and wow, was it a talk! As someone who is trying to champion women in the Digital Advertising space, it was wonderful to hear her give pretty much all her tips on how SHE did just that! From how she boldly at the age of 18 asked for a better pay bonus, to how she also asked someone that she hadn’t interacted with much beforehand to be her mentor, to the ways she boldly asked people to offer up bits of their time to give master classes to the women in the group she led + many more great ideas. My brain and fingers (on my phone taking notes) was buzzing!
And then we came to the pièce de résistance — a panel of leading ladies from Zendesk, Dropbox, Yext, Bing and Salesforce. The stories were so wide and varied, we had great New York character, Wendi Sturgis from Yext, who told us her incredible story of being ambitious, determined and un-apologetic about it all. Part of her wonderful story, starred the people who had both inspired, championed and sponsored her to those who she in turn inspired, championed and put in roles that they initially were confident that they didn’t suit.
I also loved the story of Musidora Jorgensen from Salesforce, where she explained about how not diversifying HAS hurt their business in the past and led to a lost client. If you are pitching for a very diverse client who possibly have more females than men in the team you are going to deal with, maybe don’t make all their contacts on your side be middle age white men. Just saying.
We then had one of Bing’s sales director, Milka Kramer, talk about her experience with imposter syndrome. I could totally feel the collective agreement in the room with her as she shared examples of the time she received a job offer and still thought they probably made a mistake. She also got the room in bouts of laughter when she shared a story. She was managing a large team of all ages — with some people much older than her — where in a 1 to 1 catch-up with one of these senior than her employees, he claimed she wouldn’t last the year! Obviously, she did and then some!
Last but not least was Siobhan from Dropbox sharing her experience with imposter syndrome & the amazing women inspiring her along the way. After being recommended for a role she looked at the job description and had gone — “No — thanks, I don’t have the skills for this role”. But with another female believing in her and seeing the potential in her (since she was then unfortunately part of the majority of women who backed out because she only had 60% of the required skills), she was encouraged to apply for the role and got it!
The breakfast shared many amazing stories about mentoring and sponsoring — all around building people up, having the right conversations and how we talk about each other behind women’s back. We need to stop referring to other women more about how they look like or walk or appear and actually quantify them by their achievements. Let’s constructively help each other to grow then pull each other down. We can all win!
Finally, my key takeaways of what was shared are:
- Find mentors but also sponsors — people who help push you ahead and practically show their faith in you by recommending you for amazing positions.
- Meet and connect with other women and widen your network. Your manager may not be your mentor — get someone in a different field. Even a guy can be a great mentor.
- Put your hand up — if something needs to be done, do it. There will never be the perfect time or situation. Just be honest and courteous about what you want.
- Find your sticky toffee pudding (amazing analogy by Tara from Adobe) — no matter how full we are, there is still room for pudding. What is that thing you will still pay attention to no matter how busy you are? Go after it!