Author – Judy Batenburg – VP of IT Starz Entertainment
In Part I of this topic, I talked about being amongst the first years of girls to play Little League baseball, and how lessons learned have applied to my career as a woman in technology. In the previous part, I talked about the first two – Sometimes You are the Only Woman on the Team, and Errors, Strikeouts and Failure are Part of the game. In Part II, I’m going to talk about the last three key lessons.
1.)Practice, Practice, Practice. When we want to improve our golf game or our swing, we head to a coach. We pay good money to hear her tell us what we are doing wrong. We’d be crazy to stop them in the middle and say “well, I know that’s YOUR opinion, but frankly I don’t agree”. Yet, throughout my career, I’ve heard that exact response from people who came to me for feedback. After asking me for feedback, they then argued with me, told me everyone was wrong, and generally let me know there was clearly nothing wrong with THEM – it’s all the other people who have a problem. And yet, they were surprised when they didn’t get promotions or additional responsibility.
Randy Pausch, in the inspiring “Last Lecture”, said it brilliantly: “Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care. Worry when you do something badly and nobody bothers to tell you.”
Solicit feedback – it is gold. Seek out people who like you – but more importantly, those who don’t. Don’t just go to your friends – seek out your critics – they will give you some of the most valuable and honest feedback you will get.
2.)You are only as good as you think you are. Baseball, like work and life, is a mental game. If you walk onto the field or into an important presentation doubting your ability, you will likely fail. Studies have shown women tend to internalize failure and externalize success, and to judge themselves on accomplishments, not potential. Earlier in my career, a peer and I were both laid off on the same day. Although he had less experience than I did, he was looking at CIO and CEO positions, and I was looking for IT Director positions. When I questioned him about why he was applying to these jobs even though he didn’t have the qualifications, his response was “I don’t have the experience, but it doesn’t seem too hard – I can do it”. I realized I was judging myself, and self-limiting my job search, to things I could prove I could do – not things I knew I could do. Meanwhile, he was expanding his search to things he thought he could do. If I didn’t believe I could do it, why would anyone else believe in me?
3) It is a team sport. You won’t succeed by trying to do it yourself. Seek out other women (and men) in technology and network, network, network. If you are in the earlier stages of your career, seek out opportunities to meet and talk with people who have more experience. If you have more experience, seek out opportunities to give back by helping women who are starting out. Richard Branson said, “Succeeding in business is all about making connections”. The stronger your network, the more opportunity you will have.
Ultimately, we need to embrace our role as women in technology. We bring unique ideas, approaches and talents to the team. Like those first girls who played Little League, we need to show everyone – and ourselves – that we belong.