The Four Imperatives of a Woman’s Journey to Success

October 24, 2016 at 6:00 AM by Jill Witty

women in techEmbrace an unconventional path and seize opportunities presented to you. Believe in yourself and partner with others who do so, too. Always stand your ground and share your opinion with authority. Whatever your job, be proud and world-class in every action.

These are just some of the lessons we learned during Entelo’s first event featuring women in leadership. Linqia’s Maria Sipka, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko, and Decker Communications’ Hilary Davis told their stories of change, learning, and success during Tuesday’s Reflect, Grow, Empower panel. While sharing their own unique narratives, the panelists found common ground on how they achieve their goals, build their network, and continue developing their careers.

Identify people who positively influence you and change how you think. These people can become your mentors.

While mentors can strongly influence and shape one’s career, the panelists discourage approaching someone and asking them to be your mentor. Instead, identify people with a certain spark – an energy and drive you want for yourself – and pursue and cultivate relationships with them. “Whenever someone has helped me, I follow up by saying ‘Thank you for your mentorship,’” said Hilary Davis, Decker Communications’ Program Development Manager. This gesture is a subtle reminder that they guided you, strengthening that bond for the future. Don’t forget to pay it forward and find opportunities to mentor others.

Find supportive life partners and business partners who can share your burdens -- and your joys.

For female leaders, there is no such thing as “balance” between work and family. Rather, both aspects of life function as parts of a woven fabric whose strands can’t easily be separated. Having committed, supportive partners, both at work and at home, is essential to keeping that fabric intact. Maria Sipka, Co-Founder and President of Linqia, described having to take a call with potential investors, just one hour after giving birth. Her husband took care of the baby while she worked to keep her business afloat.

Although work sometimes takes priority, it is important to draw lines around what can and cannot be negotiated outside of work. For Ann Miura-Ko, Co-Founding Partner of Floodgate Ventures, one of the non-negotiables is attending daily piano practice with each of her three children. Sipka completely disconnects from work and dedicates one hour each night and all of her weekend to spending time with her children. Between 8 pm and 6 am, Davis puts her phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode and avoids looking at it until she has to get started with her work day.  

Never compromise your voice.

In some cases, it takes giving people a taste of their own medicine to communicate a point. Miura-Ko described a recent meeting in which the five men in the room were loud, aggressive, and domineering. The other two women in the room would start to talk, only to give up after a few words because they were ignored by their male colleagues. In this situation, Miura-Ko recognized she’d have to take extreme measures to contribute to the conversation, and she used her “belly voice” to interrupt and continue talking until everyone in the team paid attention and listened. The lesson here? Be headstrong and home in on the confidence to share your thoughts, even in the midst of resistance.

Have pride in your work and strive to be world-class – no matter the task.

For Miura-Ko, being world-class was a value instilled by her father when she was a teen. From competing in speech and debate tournaments, and filing student papers at her grad school work study job, to photocopying presentations at McKinsey at 2 in the morning, Miura-Ko remained steadfast in holding a high standard in her work. Doing so, she explained, teaches you the discipline to take on and carry out even the most unappealing assignments with pride and precision. Similarly, Davis took an unpaid internship on a congressional campaign right out of college. Through her hard work, she moved up in the ranks quickly until she was overseeing a whole team of staffers. The lesson? No matter how small or mundane the task, perseverance and excellence will pay off in the long run.

What are some lessons you’ve learned on your journey to success? Keep the conversation going and share with us in the comments!

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