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GHC14: Leadership Strategies for High Impact Women

Presented by JJ DiGeronimo

JJ started her career over 20 years go – not for the love of code, but because she was tired of working dead end minimum wage jobs.  Found a great place in her school and got great grades that landed her in a consulting job, allowing her to travel all over the world.

We have to continue to carry the baton, but we have to find a different way of doing this – we can’t take care of all things all the time, and still have any energy left.  The more things she picked up in her career, in addition to taking care of her family, she couldn’t see how she could maintain the current state of things – she simply was doing so much.  JJ spent a lot of her time over the years interviewing more senior more successful women to figure out how they were doing.

Women want more influence and impact – do something slightly different to have their voice heard.

Keep in mind – you’re career is a game, no doubt about it. How do you keep moving yourselves forward and position yourself strategically?

And you never know where you’ll find these opportunities!  JJ and her husband wanted to start a family, so traveling all over the world alone was not conducive to getting pregnant. So, she took a lateral move to a new position which she ended up loving and had a lot more influence than she had expected.

But, you shouldn’t leave this up to chance. What do you need to do to get to where you want to be in the next 24 months?  You need to plan ahead of time. Do you need new connections, new knowledge, new customers, new partnerships and/or new opportunities.

JJ wanted a new job at VMware and was surprised when she got a call from the hiring manager saying they were not even going to include her in the interview cycle, because she didn’t have the right skills.  JJ then analyzed the people that were in the position she wanted to be in and discovered her gaps, and worked on filling those over the next few months.

How do the successful women do it?  First of all, they are master schedulers – they have to be in control of their calendar.  JJ looked at this and made a list of all the things she was committed to – she came up with FIVE pages of things. That’s just not sustainable.   She had to look at two things: who  was asking her to do this?  Did they align with where she wanted to go?

People are notorious for putting things on your list – especially if you’re a doer.  If you’re in this session or reading these notes – that’s probably you!  Be careful and make sure that what you and your teams are doing are aligned with what you should be doing and how much enjoyment do you get out of this?  You have to protect your time – do not expect others to do so!

For example, somebody asked her to do an “easy” task of mentoring 24 women over the year.  When JJ analyzed what this meant, she realized it was a 75 hour commitment! She thought about it for 24 hours… and realized she just couldn’t fit it in.  JJ asked what they were really trying to get – inspire women in their organization.  She suggested instead that she come to their quarterly meetings, talk to the group and spend time afterwards talking to interested women.  The org asking was thrilled and JJ changed the commitment from a 75 hour commitment to a 6 hour commitment that was going to be rewarding.

Your goal here should be to get things off of  your list. Delegation is your best friend, especially if you’ve already learned the lesson from the task – give someone else an opportunity to learn! Yes, it will take longer at first, but it will save you time long term and make you happier and free up your time to do the things you want to do.

It doesn’t make sense for a well paid women to do all of her household chores – no matter what the world and your mother have told you.  Can you barter and trade for services?  For example, help your neighbor with their wifi network and see if they can do some cooking/baking for you.

If you aren’t excited about something – don’t sign up. Your help won’t be appreciated if you aren’t bringing energy to it.  By actually letting someone else take something over for you, you’re giving them opportunities to shine.

To get control of your calendar, you need to introduce yourself to the word “No.”

Don’t let other people give you tasks (they are ALL urgent) that are going to cause you to fall behind on your “real” job (which is, really, just a collection of tasks).

Make sure you have a list of what tasks you’re working on and their priorities – put them on your white board.  When your boss comes in with a super new important tasks, you can say, visually – where does it fit with all of these things?  Sometimes that can even let you remove tasks, when your boss has forgotten to tell you that something wasn’t important anymore.

How do you get rid of the guilt?  You will have to drop things that you’re going to wish you could do (like you might not be able to make *every* soccer game) – but let your family and co-workers have a voice, that can help alleviate the guilt. For example, “which of your upcoming games are the most important and you really want me there?”

Before you say yes, think about:

  • Do you understand the work ahead of you?
  • What other commitments would interfere?
  • Is this project in line with your goals?
  • If I do this, would it be for the right reasons?
  • How will it impact my other responsibilities and commitments?
  • who else needs to be involved to ensure scucess?
  • What would sueccess look like?
  • Am I the best person to be doing this?

How did JJ prepare for her job changes from sales to cloud? She blocked out time on her calendar 3 times a week reading new articles on the cloud. But how could she let folks know what she now new?  She started posting comments on the articles she read, she starting writing her own articles and started sharing more on LinkedIn.

JJ also started getting into new circles – both online and in real life.  From there, she could help other groups she hadn’t previously worked with, helping her to build her credibility.

You need to seek clarity, guidance and perspective.  JJ’s had a surprising number of people come to her for “mentorship”, but it turns out that they hate their current job. That’s not a job for a mentor – that’s a job for a career coach to help you to find your right direction – THEN find a mentor.

Once you have a plan, make sure your desires are known.  Don’t be afraid to apply for the job – even if you’re not perfectly qualified.

To get more exposure and skills, join a non-profit board and improve your leadership skills.  JJ said this is something EVERYONE needs to do.

My takeaway?

Next week – I’m resetting my calendar, and starting over. My calendar is SOLID, I have no time to get to tasks that I need to.  This is hard, as I am a first line manager, so I need to have 1:1s with people on my team – but I can control that schedule more than I currently do.  In addition, since becoming a manager I find I am driven by my calendar – all sorts of appointments end up there, often back to back to back to back… I need to start blocking off time to do email, strategy, etc – in big enough clumps where I can get things accomplished.

Also, I’ve been working on putting priority lists on my whiteboard – but it’s never completely up to date, and as it’s a white board it’s not that hard to do this – and I will! (part of that time block for prioritization).

I loved listening to the other women’s take-aways: one women is going to get someone else to mow her lawn. Another is going to take some new risks. Another women was excited that she is n
ot “alone” for having chosen CS for a degree for the money – there is no shame in wanting to provide for your family, and you can still find the passion. Yeses need to be curtailed. Do things you enjoy that make you excited wherever possible.

What do you think you can do to better streamline your life and professional career?

This post is syndicated from Security, beer, theater….