How They Got There: Female Tech Titans
Angela Grady: I'm Angela Grady and I'm the Chief of Staff and Head of Global Operations at Okta. I am thrilled to be here today to have a panel of five amazing female leaders that we will spend the next 45 minutes talking to them a little bit about their journeys through their careers, and some tips and advice they have to offer along the way. This topic of women and technology is very important to me. It's very close to my heart for three reasons. One, I am one of the executive sponsors for women at Okta, which we affectionately call Wokta in our own company. Our goal is to improve gender diversity in our company. That's our singular focus.
Two, I am the mother of a 15-year-old daughter and it is very important to me that she have more opportunities, better opportunities, and no boundaries or fewer boundaries as she pursues her own natural talent. Three, I read a statistic recently that I found pretty alarming that the US Department of Labor says by 2020, so three years from now, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computing, in computer science related fields. And the US is on track to fill about 30% of those jobs. Women are on track to fill just three. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, and this is not just for women. This is a macroeconomic issue. This is a competitive issue for all of our companies, so it's very important that we all figure out how we make this better.
With that, I want to introduce my panelists. I'm going to ask each of you to tell us your name, your title, your company, and one unexpected career turn that you have had so far in your career. I'll start with Alpa.
Alpa Jain: Good morning everyone. Thank you for joining us. My name is Alpa Jain. I run our API center of excellence team at Experian. Happy to be here, happy to be part of something like this today. One unexpected change in my career that's really driven how I've ended up here today is I was a structural engineer, so I designed buildings for about 10 years up in Canada, and moved out to California in about 2006. I'm sure you could all imagine what happened in '08 with the subprime crash. I was fortunate enough not to lose my job, but I did spend a lot of hours playing solitaire on the computer back then. It was difficult, and so I took a pretty big decision back then. I was in the process of getting relicensed to become a structural engineer. I decided you know what, it's a good time to change. It's a good time to adapt to what's happening in the market.
I have transferable skills. I can do something else, so I went back to school and I got an MBA. Through that, I probably hopped around through my few years of MBA, because I'd decided to have a child in the middle of all of that as well. I started a family back then. I kept working, went to school, but then through the program, I got introduced to Experian. They brought me into the company. It's been a great journey for me so far. I've had multiple roles within this company, but I would say that was probably my biggest pivotal moment in my career as I transitioned.
Ginna Raahauge: Ginna Raahauge, I'm from Catholic Health Initiatives. I'm their Chief Technology Officer, also for strategy and innovation. I would say becoming a mom was probably one of the most unexpected career things, and just learning how to juggle that. I had my son when I was older and more established in my career, but it was still a lot of learning, and there continues to be learning every day. I had to take a phone call before coming down here, because he's sick today, and of course who does he want home, and why am I here in Vegas of all places. There's always that balance and challenge, but I've also just recently switched industries, and very much on a similar journey as Alpa described when you're making an industry end or a career shift. We can talk more about that if you'll have some questions.
Sheila Jordan: Good morning! I'm Sheila Jordan, I’m CIO for Symantec. A piece of advice I would like to share with you is that be planful, but be available. What I mean by that is you own your career, especially for the young women in the room, don't give your career away to someone. Don't let your manager think that they're going to run your career. You own your career, and you should be planful about it. You should be thinking about the moves and the opportunities, but when I say be available, it's because there will be some little moments in your career, that somebody will tap you on the shoulder and see something in you that you don't necessarily see in yourself.
When that happens, before you say no, listen to it. Listen to the opportunity. For me, I was working at Walt Disney World in Florida. I worked for Disney prior to Cisco, prior to Symantec, and I was in finance. In finance at Disney at that time was a pretty strategic role, not just cost cutting and expense management. At that time, I'll date myself, but at that point in 1999 or 2000, there was no CRM, so I saw the opportunity. We built it, and they will come. We didn't know who came 20 times a year, or who came once every 20 years. We knew nothing, no centralized database, nothing. I put together this entire strategy about CRM and how the internet could connect to the call center that connects you when you go in and when you checkout, when you come home, and all of the things that we just live with today.
I put this strategy together, and then they turned and says, "We think you should run it." At that point, I knew nothing about technology. Will it be dangerous? My first reaction is, "Oh my gosh, I can't do this," and then the rest is history. Be planful but be available.
Nan Boden: I'm Nan Boden, I head global technology partners for Google Cloud. My unexpected career journey started quite a bit earlier than what my esteemed panelists here are talking about. I'm originally from Alabama. I'm from the rural Alabama, from a blue-collar background. When I went to undergrad at the University of Alabama … Roll-Tide, I was waiting for a Roll-Tide. Not one, not one? Anyway, so I went to University of Alabama and when I decided I want to go to graduate school, I study math undergrad and I wanted to go to computer science and I thought, “Wow, I’d always like to go to Cal Tech.” Having never set foot in California, having never known anyone who’d ever even been to California I think.
To my great surprise was offered admission there for graduate school and it marked a beginning of a turning point that I think for me in particular it marked a leap into something that was totally terrifying. And to be able to do that and be okay with it was the beginning of something that I've used a lot in my career.
Alexis Krivkovich: Hi everyone, Alexis Krivkovich, I’m a partner at McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm. I run our Silicon Valley office. I also lead a partnership that McKinsey has with LeanIn.org to develop a significant body of research on women in the workplace and how to advance more female leadership in companies across North America. So we'll be launching our report next month with some really great insights.
In terms of a pivotal moment for me I'd say it was actually fairly recently when I took over the role as the head of our Silicon Valley office. When the opportunity came up, I remember my husband was actually saying to me, “Well you should throw your hat in the ring.” And I said, “No, you know if they think I'm right, I don't have all the skills. If they think I'm right, they'll call me.” And he just looked at me like how could you lead all this research on women and I had a moment where I set a fine line and then I thought, “Okay.”
So I decided the fact that I was much younger than a number of the people that it wasn't the office that I was based out of that the client mix was different and that I would be the first woman in the history of 45 years in that office to actually run it. That those should not stop me. And lo and behold they did not.
Angela Grady: Those are amazing stories and one thing that I think all of you, you touched on was a topic a lot of women can find challenging which is confidence and clearly when you make a pivotal move in your career, when you do something you’ve never done before, it takes some confidence. So I wonder if a couple of you could comment on ways you've overcome that, has that been an issue and what you might recommend to others if they're trying to overcome that. Who wants to jump in on that one?
Ginna Raahauge: I'll start a couple of things that I've learned along the way and I think it does go back to what Sheila said around, there are going to be times and if you're not open to the alternatives, there are going to be times that other people see your potential more than you see it for yourself. The things that have helped me along the way is really being very fortunate to have a network or an ecosystem of not just mentors but also advocates and sponsors. They do really play very distinct roles. Mentors are there to advise you and help you figure out the path that you want to take and how you're going to take that path and share their experience.
But it's the advocates and the sponsors that are really the door openers. They'll push you, they’ll create the opportunities so you have to have a balanced ecosystem around you. I think the family support is a really big thing as well. We're always going to second guess our ability or can we or should I trade off this time, family time to go pursue whether it's more schooling, another degree or a bigger career.
Alpa Jain: So I'll add to that too, so echoing your comments I think having mentors, advocates and sponsors are critical. I think you've got to find a good balance, you’ve got to have a good support system at home. I look at it this way, you’re going to have great days, you’re going to have good days but you’re going to have really bad days too and that's just a part of day to day and it's the support system that you've built around you, the ecosystem to your words that's really going to help you along the way and it's the sponsors and advocates that will help you challenge you, even personally the individuals in your life that are willing to challenge you and push you even further and believe in you. That's how you can take the next step and there's going be a lot of moments. I've personally experienced where I don't feel confident but because of that support system that I've built and that believes in me, it changes everything that you do.
Angela Grady: So one of the things I was reading in the study of women and technology that you published through McKinsey Alexis was the importance of sponsorship and the importance of that promotion into the management layer and it coming from being sponsored and access to the senior leadership. And I think that's a challenge for women that may not have yet reached that rank but they need that sponsorship. So do you have any particular recommendations of strategies you might suggest for women trying to do that?
Alexis Krivkovich: So what we see in the research that's really important is that male and female networks in the workplace look quite different. So women are far more likely to have a network made up of largely women. Men are far more likely to have a network made up of largely men. This can feel intuitive in the context of people spend time with people with similar interests that remind them of themselves. The challenges in an environment today, in business where the pipeline looks drastically different as you progress into senior leadership in most companies. If women maintain a network that's largely based of women, they end up with a much narrower network in general.
And so the ability to create not just a set of mentors but really to your point Ginna sponsors people who can open up opportunities, pull you up and apprentice you, tap you and help you find the next great thing becomes really limited for women. So it's not surprising that we then see as you fast forward women who are more tenured in their careers saying I don't have access to senior leadership the way men do. So when we think about what that means for the advice I have for women and men is actually be thoughtful about who are the people you're trying to make part of your network.
You can have a network of support that is about the people you connect with personally, but you also need a network of sponsorship that is a bit more deliberate. And taking the time to write down and even say, “Who do I think those people are, and then how do I engage with them so that they actually know that this is the role I think they're playing for me. And if they're not going to play it, you can get their honest feedback or at least the read that you have this vision that’s maybe not commiserate on the other side.
I think actually being more explicit about that is a good thing. People worry it feels transactional but in fact the number of times I've had people come to me and say, “I'm hoping you can sponsor me,” and I go, “Oh, wow.” Sponsorship is a finite resource. Mentorship in theory is not, you could mentor a million people if you just have hours in the day. Sponsorship is tied to opportunity which means by definition that's limited and so you need to be really vocal if you feel like you want to have one of those spots.
My encouragement to men is always to do the same thing both looking up in terms of leadership but also being honest about who are you trying to sponsor within the organization, who's more junior than you. And when you look at that profile are you recreating the patterns we see in the data which is men to men and women to women? Are you helping change that dynamic by balancing out how you support.
Sheila Jordan: So I'd like to add to that. I think from a really, from a more tactical standpoint, again the advice I'd like to give the young women in the room is doing your job well is table stakes. That’s just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that’s like food and water. If you want to make a difference and you want to stand out and differentiate yourself, volunteer for a whole bunch of other things, whatever your passion is or your interest is, there’s women groups, there's a whole bunch of communities, there's things that will get you out and get you visible. So I would say raise your hand and sign up for the tough assignments, sign up for things that are a little bit out of your comfort zone.
The other part I would say is that there hasn't been a person I've asked in my entire career would you mentor me, would you sponsor me that has said no. So you just got. And literally find a person, find what you’re looking for, for them to mentor you on and just ask because it's highly likely that they won't say no.
Angela Grady: It's back to that confidence point, be confident to ask because chances are you're going to get what you're looking for. Switching gears a little bit about hiring women. So at Okta we’ve been very focused on trying to create gender neutral job descriptions incentivizing, to bring more women into the pipeline even offering anti-biased training. We’ve seen some good improvement actually from that recently. Are there other things that you’ve tried in your companies or you’ve seen work in other companies in your past that you would recommend?
Nan Boden: I can speak to that. So obviously Google’s done a lot of work in unconscious bias and in a bunch of things around how we do hiring but my best experience in how to approach this comes from Caltech when I was on the admissions committee as a graduate student. And at the time we had very significant problems in being able to attract and even get people to accept women, to accept the invitations to join Caltech and you think, “Okay, it’s women they do that,” and most of the time when it’s declined it’s because they walk in there and they didn’t see anyone like them and it was felt very inaccessible.
Now if you look at Caltech their demographics are wildly better like the under graduate population is almost 50% women. And so I asked the dean, “How did you do that?” You know because you can’t just magically do that, and she told me that what they had done finally was figured out that they’d had so many implicit requirements in the admissions that they didn’t even really realize and once they went back and said, “You know what, it’s not about the most forceful person, it’s about reaching out to the right people,”
And so they reach out now to women and men much more inclusively. And it winds up being that all these folks who weren’t super aggressive men and women were able to be able to say yes I see myself at Caltech. And so it’s I think that kind of taking up those inclusive requirements that weren’t really part of the job, but they were kind of baked in, in a way that we weren’t thoughtful about.
Angela Grady: Interesting. Anyone else have any other ideas? Okay, so this is a more a broader question but what do you think ... a lot of us talked about the journey of our careers and how long we’ve been in this industry or other industries. What do you think has changed for the better for women and what do you think has been stalled or maybe even gone backwards?
Ginna Raahauge: Well I think the awareness right. I think a lot of the studies and then just coming together as a collective and talking about it and engaging men to help with this equality and inequality and wherever we are in that conversation, I think that’s changed for the better. I think the concept of mentor, sponsor, advocate has been there for a long time, it’s just more openly talked about and getting more prescriptive as Alexis and Sheila talked about, that’s a big change and saying it’s okay to be prescriptive. Its okay to ask for what you need and break down that courage barrier that we put up for ourselves because a lot of the time it is about our own courage and fear of failure, and there’s a lot of societal definitions and pressures over the years and decades and what not.
And I think seeing other people in other roles and leadership roles and seeing the women that are successful and the women that are successful that are not mean, that are actually really there to help further that mission and charter and not just a self-fulfilling one is different. I do think there’s ... we’ve seen some slip back and coming out of high tech, so my whole career was high tech until last year and I made the industry shift into healthcare. And while healthcare has a lot of balance or perceived balance in diversity and rankings whether it’s gender, or whether its ethnicity, there are still challenges, and there are still glass ceilings even in healthcare. I sat down with our chief nursing officer who was a 37-year army veteran, retired from there and moved into our healthcare system and she said it’s very different from the military to even a tax exempt cooperation as large as we are.
She was a little surprised at how the military was actually better about that. And what she tries to do every day is bring that forward and she says, “Let me just give you a stat.” Not many female physicians make the top ranks. Nursing is very different, because that’s socially accepted but not in the physician world. There are very few prominent female physicians that are carrying top slots. She still sees it in healthcare even though if you look at the numbers on the surface and compare the industry’s high tech to healthcare you would say, “Oh they’re far ahead, they’ve got it figured out.” Not necessarily. So there’s still work to be done everywhere.
Angela Grady: Yes, anyone else?
Alexis Krivkovich: I’d say so two years ago when we launched our report, the headline was it will take 100 years to reach parody in the C-Suite and I remember I was working with a team on it. And I said, “Well that can’t be right, build a more complete model, that’s not good math.” And then they’d call me and they’d be like, “It’s 350 years, it’s 475.”
Alexis Krivkovich: But I think deep down that resonated on some level because when I graduated college and I entered the work force, I did not see a lot of diversity at the top, but I saw a lot of diversity in my incoming class. And I just presumed it’s a matter of time. If I wait this out, I will arrive and so will the people around me. And then I arrived in leadership and leadership looked a lot more like it had 15 years prior than what I was expecting. And that was the first moment I had a realization that said, “This is not accelerating, if anything this is stalling on some level.” And so I think what’s really exciting is there is more awareness and there’s more commitment. In 2012 when we asked companies, “Is diversity a top priority?” It was about 50% said yes, now it’s nearly 90.
So there is a realization I think that the business case is there, it’s not just the right thing to do, it actually leads ... there’s increasing bodies of research that suggest it does lead to better business outcomes more innovation, more inclusion for everyone and engagement in companies. It’s a good thing all around and it’s worth investing in.
I think the challenge is closing the chasm between that aspiration and the reality in a lot of organizations today. So when you ask employees of those companies, “Is diversity a priority? Do you see your CEO, the leadership executing in a way that suggests we’re making decisions because it matters?” That number goes from in the ‘90s back down to about 50%, because people say, “I don’t see anything day to day that shows me this is changing.” And so I think we’ve got the awareness and the activation piece, and I think a lot of the focus right now is really shifting into, okay so what do we need to start doing differently, or in addition to some of the things we’ve put in place already because what we’ve got in place already is not going to give us an acceleration curve.
Angela Grady: Okay, and one of the things you’re making me think about that I think has changed and it’s a nice segue to our next question about work, life balance. I think what has changed is technology is a huge enabler of better work, life balance. And when I had my children who are now 15 and 17, it was difficult to ... you had to stay at the office till you were done. You didn’t have a smart phone, you couldn’t get back online and get to what you needed to do. So things like having dinner together were difficult. Now you can kind of set your boundaries and work around those boundaries. But I do want to switch to work, life balance because I think it’s important to give examples of how we all manage that and it’s not just about having kids, there’s work, life balance of all different t types of things, but I’ll start with you Alpa because we talked about this.
Alpa Jain: Yeah so I think balance can be defined in many different ways, right? So balance to everyone is very different. I think you’ve got to find what works for you, it goes without saying I love my family, but I love my work too right? So it’s a challenge, it’s a constant challenge, and the reality is I’ve learnt to accept that I am going to miss some of those some of those basketball games. I’m going to miss some of those dinners, but what I do personally is I create moments. So there’s moments of me and my family together. It’s moments where I will take a couple of hours off and I will go spend it at the zoo with my son. It may only happen once a month or once every two months but those are my moments that I can figure out a way to balance things out for us.
It’s coupling with my significant other in the morning, it’s complicated like you won’t believe because we’re both on phone calls, our admins are like, “You guys can’t do that,” but we still do it, but it’s our time together. It’s finding those moments in life that you can grab on to and you repeat those as much as you can and that to me is my definition of finding balance where I can give the best to my work and the best to my family.
Sheila Jordan: Yeah, so I actually think the term work, life balance is impossible. And I think it’s a term made to make us even feel more guilty. So I just think it’s like ... balance implies everything’s in balance and we know ... I have a 24 and a 22-year-old now and we know there’re days that it’s like this or like this but it’s never in balance. So I go back to her, I do you think it’s work, like integration. I do think technology has allowed you to leave at three o’clock. I have two student athletes in college and you could leave and go watch their games and get that freedom and still be connected and all of that.
But I also think and raising the children and I’ve done a lot of thinking because I have two children now graduating college and next week both will be working, so we accomplished, so excited. But the reality is that as I’ve really observed their life through college, I think media and books and everything else out there suggests that you're rooting your kids if you work. You're not being a good mom if you choose to work. I know that's dated, but I still think there's a tone about. I’ll never forget that at home moms that would look at us when I brought the story about cookies in 7:00 AM, because I didn’t make him, all those guilt.
But the reality is watching my kids go through school, is there's so many things they're absorbing from you and watching you as a working mother that you don't even know that you're teaching. And I can go on and on with examples, but it's just amazing that as you're balancing and as you're coordinating and as you have a quality time and as you do fun and work activities together and chores or whatever that is, they're watching you manage all that. And what you don't see until later in life is how they can go to college and be self-sufficient; know how to do the laundry, know how to do a lot of things because they did. So I would just make … you know shift your thinking a bit, that you're actually teaching your children a lot by working versus not.
Nan Boden: Let me add to that, I have four sons who are mostly grown and I've been … When they were growing up, there were a lot of times they made fun of me because I would take a conference call on a ski run, and just like, “Just a second I answer this call.” And it was pretty that. But now as they're grown, I look at them and I see a work ethic that they know how to be all in. And one of them called me the other day from his job and said, “Hey mom, you used to talk about your personal brand at work, what is that? I was like, “Yes, he was listening all the time. All those eyes rolled, he was listening.” So, they are listening, just keep talking. Especially while they’re teenagers, those of you at or before that.
But it is something … Yeah, you make compromises and you have to be okay with it, and you have to get okay with it, because it was just … there's no way to do it all. There’s no way to do it all for the stay at home folks, but there's certainly no way to do it all, you do the best you can and I think at the end of the day they judge you for how much you were there for them when it mattered. And the ability to be supportive in what matters to them and their support is a two way street.
Alexis Krivkovich: Can I have one tactical suggestion? I learned … so I have three young daughters, so I'm on a different end of the curve from some of you. But I learned when I had kids that the hours of the day are not created equal. So getting home at 7:00 PM when I was single was amazing, because I had to hit the gym at I’d cook my own meal and who knows … I don’t know anymore what I did with that time, but I think it was going wonderful. But getting home at 7:00 PM when you have a one-year-old is unhelpful because they're asleep.
And so what I learned was there were so many hours in my day I was doing things in the middle of the day that could be done any time. And then I was trying to cram in late when I wanted to be home interactions with people who also didn't want to be with me, because they wanted to be somewhere else too. So when I rethought my day in a really deliberate way and it sounds rather tactical, but I think of the hours from eight to six very different from the hours to six to eight. So eight to six during the day, I do only in person interactions with my teams and clients and I use my commuting time on the front and the backend to do calls with people who will not be in person no matter what, because they live somewhere else. And then from six to eight, I do family time because that's the only time that I can see them when everybody's awake and we’re around and I don't do anything except when I'm in Vegas. But I'm very deliberately home.
And then after 8:00 PM, there's all sorts of stuff I can get done, but I'm very conscious about not moving that stuff into the daytime hours. And I think if you're willing to be that structured in how you think about those hours, there is a lot you can cram into a 10-hour day. And you don't need to look at the examples of what everyone else is choosing to do to set your own roadmap for what that can look like.
Ginna Raahauge: It goes back to the moments and when you create those moments, be all in with them. That was the most heartbreaking thing my son came to me. I thought I had it all figured out multitasking, we're watching TV sitting on the couch together and I was on my laptop trying to work through emails. And he finally just put the laptop down and said, “Can you just watch the TV with me?” So they know, to your point, they are watching everything we do. So you have to be definitely present.
Angela Grady: I've had those same moments with the smartphone and being asked to turn it off, which I find ironic coming from a teenager. Literally live in Snapchat.
Ginna Raahauge: Or maybe that's good, right.
Angela Grady: I also one irony I couldn't, I can't help but say is in that era of being accused of being a helicopter mom. We are trying to find these moments of giving them more independence, so I think that there's something there. But … Okay, a couple more questions and then we'll open it up for the audience. What traits are you looking for when you look for leadership? So what things really stand out for you that you think, “Okay, that's a great leader and I'm going to help either sponsor them or encourage that or that's something I want to promote?
Sheila Jordan: So I have to say authenticity. When you as a leader are able to say, “We made these decisions, we're course correcting, here's why. We made a mistake, we're going to go off and do this thing. You just embrace this, the whole team and you’re empowering the whole team to help you get what needs to get done. So I just think that leaders that can be incredible communicators, “Here's what we're doing, here's what we're not doing, here's why we're doing it.” But also just this massive openness about course correction and gosh, we learn new information, new things happen and we have to make a decision differently.
I mean that's who you ultimately want to choose to work for. I mean leadership at the end of the day is all about followership. Who are you going to choose to follow? And you want to follow someone that's going to be just leading you down the path of being really transparent about it.
Alpa Jain: I would say morbid curiosity, like beyond curious. Being able to challenge everything you see and challenge leadership along the way to help them course correct to your point, if we need to course correct, take a different path, but that curiosity can change the direction of anything that we're about to roll out or implement across the board and that can make or break us. And so that is something we want to bring to the table all the time and be able to challenge leadership with that.
Nan Boden: I often see people that come to me and with what I characterize as ambition, you know, “I'd like to get this role, I’d like to do this.” And the marked difference between the people who come to me like that, or the people who say, “I want to have more impact,” and they really mean it. You know, “I want to have more impact, where can I put my energies and my time to really move the needle?” And it's an incredible difference, and I'm much more likely to sponsor or I mean even mentor someone who's looking for impact rather than just some sort of position or some sort of elevation.
Angela Grady: It’s a good one. And for someone entering leadership for that first time, what would you suggest they do to just sort of get comfortable with that position? Is there anything they can do right away?
Nan Boden: Do we get comfortable unless we’re
Nan Boden: Unless we get comfortable.
Angela Grady: Any ideas on that?
Sheila Jordan: I think once early in my career I get this feedback and it sticks with you because I remember this 20 years later, but, you really have to let go and listen. And listen to your team and listen to what they're trying to tell you. So one of the analyses I had with all these behavioral analytics that you can analyze didn’t get to all these things. This visual for me was, “Sheila, you're in the van with your team, you're driving, there's a fork on the road, everyone's with you and you're having conversations and you see the fork on the road, you’re ready to go right or left and you ask the team, “Which way should we go right or left? There’s a speed fork on the road and the entire time you asked your team that question, but the entire time you have your left directional on.”
So that was such incredible feedback that I got once in my career earlier. It's like oops. You really got to like engage and ask and make them feel part of the decisions, but you can’t have a predisposition and you can't … you have to really listen to what they're trying to tell you. And the other thing is like no one is going to do something the exact same way you are. Let go, set the framework, set the strategy and let them do things, the execution can be very different and be good, be good with that.
Alpa Jain: So I would add to that I would say by listening, you let them fail as well. So fail fast, if you're going to go right, let them go right but help them come back if we were supposed to go left, to your example. And I think that's where a lot of people can excel in that. You get rid of that fear of failure, we can't fail multiple times. If you don't learn, there's we've got an issue-
Sheila Jordan: It’s another conversation.
Alpa Jain: That’s a different conversation. But fail fast and keep moving forward, but knowing that you have the support of your leadership team makes all the difference, but encourage them. But if we're going to go right, let them go right, but be right there next to them and then if you need to go up left, pivot.
Alpa Jain: That's about creating safe environments. So however that is in your company culture or in your team culture, you have to constantly keep temperature check on that
Angela Grady: So before we open it up to Q&A and the audience we’ll be thinking of your a great questions, I wanted to ask each of you if you had one piece of advice that you would offer to everyone going back to their offices on Monday, what would they do? What would it be?
Ginna Raahauge: I think it comes back to the running theme is just be prescriptive or a purposeful in your conversations. And I think you sit down and have a career conversation with your … either your network, your ecosystem, get that feedback, and your leader and ask them for something that you haven't been asking them for. So what have you been holding back and why? And evaluate that, and have an open dialogue about it, so you can do some self-discovery and figure out what other things do you need or what other people do you need in that ecosystem to help you continue to develop that courage.
Sheila Jordan: I would say take risks. I mean we talk a lot about fear of failure, but at the end of the day, failure, what's failure? So something didn't work out the exact same way that you expected it to be, but you still we all learn … we all learned that from when we've done something incorrect, that's where we get our greatest learnings. So is that really failure? So I would just say that there should be nothing that stops you from taking risks. If you see the job that you want, you see an opportunity that you want, you want to raise your hand for something, don't talk yourself out of it. Stretch yourself and just take some risks.
Nan Boden: I’ll add to that, I think that some of the decisions that I've been faced with like that were actually at the time that little voice in my head is like, “Oh you shouldn’t do that. This could be a disaster.” And you think back on that, “Well, why was I thinking that? It was because I was afraid. I was just afraid of what might happen and be embarrassed and all those things. And if they can recognize what that little voice is saying and put it aside for a moment, I mean it's not going anywhere, but just put it aside and then say-
Sheila Jordan: Hustle.
Nan Boden: “Just a minute, I need to make a decision here.” You make the decision, you put the fear over here and make a decision with what you're thinking about over on the other hand. And I think that's helped me a lot to understand why I hold myself back in certain instances, I mean even now. And if you occasionally hear that, at least I do. And that's something I think for you, people in their careers, just understand why you're holding yourself back and then put it aside.
Alpa Jain: I would say go outside your box. So I personally like that like little bit gut wrenching feeling constantly raid. It drives me personally, it doesn't need to be that big, but you know it's just being uncomfortable and being okay with it, challenging yourself and getting out of your box and pushing on leadership, getting what you want for, ask for it.
Alexis Krivkovich: I would encourage everyone to go back to their boss and ask for critical feedback. Research shows that women don't receive it nearly as often as men do, and if you have ambition, if you are interested in what comes next, get the feedback on what it will take to get there and ask for it explicitly. And then you can choose to accept it or ignore it depending on how good you think it is, but really, to Sheila's point, lean into listening and hearing what's in front of you because that's likely whether you are intending it or not, that is the narrative that's out there about your leadership potential. And if you want to succeed to the next level, you'll have to find ways to demonstrate you can break through that.
Angela Grady: Great. All right, do we have any questions in the audience? I think there are some mics that are available, I think. Don’t be shy.
Sheila Jordan: Down in front there's a couple.
Male: Good morning. So Alpa is my better half, I'm also a leader in technology.
Angela Grady: Are you worried there?
Male: What advice do you have for-?
Alpa Jain: A little concerned that he stood up first. Maybe that gut feeling was not so good right now.
Audience: So what advice do you have for me as a leader in technology in terms of making sure that we return or we get some balance back in terms of women in leadership?
Sheila Jordan: You know, I would just say that especially … and I hate to be a stereotype, but I will for a second. I think new in career girls are going to be more or women are going to be more quieter and perhaps asking … I still think that there's a characteristic than a trait that we want to ask for permission, so look for that. All the men in the room, look for that. If you see a talented female and a woman and you know she's capable and talented and competent, pull her out. Go ask her if she want to take on additional assignments. But I'd say extend the olive branch to them and let them know that there's all sorts of opportunities. And I think if you do that as a leader, the other woman will take notice. I mean it will cascade in the organization faster than you can realize.
Male: Hey. So, one of the things I've noticed is a lot of times, the teams that I work with the DevOp side, they work with the vendors and it comes across often that the stereotypes and the negative context in the conversations happen all the time. How does that occur in your environment in relation to the partners that you work with that you get that, “Women can't be in a conversation without being talked over by the vendor and then they go absolutely silent the next time like a male gets on the phone and tells them like stop. Do you see that often in the workplace and with partners and how does that affects how things progress?
Ginna Raahauge: So there’s a couple of articles out there about unconscious biases, and that’s really kind of some of the things that come up around that. Kristen Pressner does a lot about … a lot of speaking about unconscious biases from Roush. She’s got some great things and it does happen. It happens even at our level of being a senior leader and I think some of the good advice I’ve even gotten depending on the industry and obviously because I’m switching industries. I’m trying to really figure out what makes health care tick as well, and how different is it really and why? Or do they just want to be like that?
A lot of the advices, having that direct conversation saying, “Maybe you’re not aware of this but, this is what happened.” If you happen to be a man in the room and you’re watching that happen, stand up and stop it, and call it out, because until it’s called enough, it won’t change. It will always just be more of that private conversation or that direct conversation and sometime it needs to be public.
Sheila Jordan: And just to add, I don’t think it has to be mean about it, you can just say, “I’m sorry Joe, but I don’t think Ginna was finished. Can she finish? I mean it could be just a simple, nice comment that everyone is like recognizing that she hadn’t finished her thought. So I think everyone can do that.
Nan Boden: Yeah, and in fact I think doing it for everyone just makes a better work place. I don’t like the cases where I think someone feels like they had to be my benefactor or protector. I will stop a vendor or a partner talking over me, but a lot of people won’t, and a lot of men and women won’t. So I think that’s where you need to be thoughtful about just how we’re all participating and being respectful with each other. And if you see something or someone is being put down, men, women and minority or whatever, I mean, it’s incumbent on people to stand up.
And I think the worst cases I’ve had that I’ve seen in my career, everybody went out of the room and then said, “Gosh, if only I had said, whatever.” And I think that’s what being conscious of these things is. Really helps you in a moment say, “Hold on. This is not an ageist thing. This is not a sexist thing. Let’s make sure we’re all taking each other with respect and dealing with each other respectfully.”
Sheila Jordan: We had a question upfront way upfront.
Gina Amos: Hi everyone, I’m Gina Amos from Google, another Gina, no N, just one N. it’s a two-part question. Did you ever have a moment that you experienced at time when you wish you had support from a male advocate and another time when you did get support you needed from a male advocate?
Alpa Jain: So there’s plenty of example on both side. So, I think the best way to learn … to come out of that where you felt that you didn’t get support is to go have that open conversation. Is to be very candid and say, “This is the situation. This is how I felt.” And I’m not kidding emotional or anything, but these are the facts. How can you help me or how can we put together a better plan to make sure that that doesn’t happen again?
I think being supported, yeah. I have great better half, but I work for leadership that’s amazing and it is a very male dominated field. But I have a great relationship with our CIO that is my sponsor. So I truly feel supported by him. But again, I’m very open with him. I go ask for what I want. I have the conversations with him and he’s very candid with me. He’ll give me a give very candid feedback. Whether I take it or not is up to me. But it’s that open dialogue that I constantly have with leadership team, or even my peers or anyone else throughout the organization.
Angela Grady: Okay, I think we have time for one more question.
Carol: Good morning I’m Carol with Rapid7. This is a question maybe for all panelists, but especially for Alexis with McKenzie. I thought it was interesting that women … network with women. I have found the opposite in my own career. All of my mentors, all of my sponsors, all of my advocates except for one, have been men. And I have found out that when I reach out to women to network, and sometime also to try and mentor them in their careers, I get a much less response than I do for men. So I’m curious what your experience has been and what the research says about that. And how we as women cannot shift, so at least women I think we need to uplift men as well, but how we can break that pattern.
Alexis Krivkovich: We were talking a little bit about this last night because there’s a lot of research on what’s dug the Queen Bee syndrome, and this concept that women end up in conflict with other women at increasingly senior levels. There are few things that are interesting in that. The first is the fact that there’s a lot more of a narrative than there’s a reality. I often get asked if I fight with my fellow female partners, just a bizarre image first of all. But secondly, my response is, “Oh my God, were there more of them to actually work with me so we can actually have something to fight about? That would be fantastic.
But no, we don’t actually spend … that’s not the primary problem here. So I do believe that that narrative is over blown and there’s research that suggest that. But there is also a good body of research that shows that when women are increasingly senior roles, they’re held to a different standard of their actions in support of other women. And by the way this holds for any minority group of diversity. If you’re Black or Latino, you’ll find the same thing holds. That there is a sense when you then makes moves to help other people of your affinity that you’re over doing it and that standard does not hold if a male leader has a leadership team that’s for example that’s is 90% male. They don’t often get asked, “Were you stacking your team?”
But when a female leader comes in and the adds more women to the team, it’s viewed in a different way. So there are women who become hyposensitized to that because they actually have a track record of having seem there can be a penalty. My encouragement is we find in our research that there’s blow back for women. So the good news is you can ask for all of these things that we just talked about on the panel.
The bad news is that women who do more asking for negotiations, for promotions, for stretch assignments, for critical feedback do here more often in feedback reviews, “You’re aggressive. You’re intimidating. You’re bossy.”Anyone here heard that?
Alexis Krivkovich: Other terms I won’t use here, language that never shows up in a male context gravy task. It’s like I’ve never known a man who’s talked about, “I need you to work on this gravy task.” Those things all appear for women and they’re gender loaded. So, one of the things that we encourage that, I do actually with all the women in my network is, it’s much harder to advocate for yourself, it’s much easier to pick another person and advocate for them, and men and women can do this by the way.
But we just have a pact with the women in my company that when I’m with anyone in senior leadership, I mention something awesome that some other woman is doing. I just say, “Oh, did you see what Sheila is up to? Oh, you haven’t seen that? Oh, you should. It was good.” And that actually has different connotation. And so I don’t know if it directly gets to your peace if you feel like you’re being rebuffed. But what I would say is some of that reaction comes from a data driven place. And part of the way we can change that is actually by just being a proactive advocate whether they know you’re advocating on their behalf or not.
Angela Grady: So we need to wrap up. So everyone can get to the keynote on time. But I want to thank all of my panelist for a fabulous conversation this morning. And I also want to mention that Reshma Saujani will be here for a super session today at 4:40. If you don’t know who Reshma is, she’s the CEO and Founder of Girls Who Code which is a pretty phenomenal organization that went from I think five years ago being founded, starting with about 20 girls teaching them and providing camps and mentoring opportunity to learn to code to now over 40,000 girls across the US in, I think 20 something states.
So don’t miss it and a bonus if you are the first 30 people to go into your Oktane app and pull up a post from Lauren Sheppard you can get on the meet and greet list with Reshma this afternoon. So do that right now. Thank you very much.
Wondering how your fellow females secured their seat in the C-suite? Please join us for breakfast and an engaging panel discussion featuring dynamic women leaders in tech. We'll cover the skillset and typical path to each C-level role running various parts of the organization. Learn the tools, techniques, and lessons they learned along the way and how to apply them to your own careers. Angela Grady, Okta's Chief of Staff and Head of Global Operations, to moderate.