Workday CIO: 4 Tips for Women Building Careers in Technology

Workday CIO Diana McKenzie, along with 70 Workday colleagues, recently attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. McKenzie shares takeaways from the event on how women can build fulfilling careers in technology.

I recently joined more than 70 Workday colleagues at the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, and was heartened to see the far-reaching efforts to improve the representation and contributions of women in technology. During insightful sessions and conversations at the event, it became clear that there’s a fresh perspective on how we can support women not just in technology careers, but also in positions of leadership within tech organizations.

At a recruitment event at Grace Hopper, I sat with a group of women who both sought and gave advice on how to create a meaningful career in technology. Their perspectives, along with my own experiences, made me realize that there are already great strides being made to create diverse workforces that more accurately reflect a tech company’s customers. That alone makes good business sense. However, when one looks at how impactful technology is across the globe and throughout human interaction, designing for everyone is just the right thing to do.

I’ve highlighted some interesting advice from that conversation that I think will be helpful to women building careers in the field of technology:

  1. Don’t get comfortable. In her keynote at Grace Hopper, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said, “If you’re comfortable, then you’re not growing.” I have found that one of the best ways to stay engaged and advance in my career is to continue trying to master new skills, and attempt things beyond my comfort zone. Sure, sometimes I’ve failed (see point #2), but every step along the way was a learning experience (see point #4). Learning to be less comfortable has also given me more confidence to try new things. In that get-together at the event, we all agreed that women should push ourselves to think differently, attempt new ways of doing things, and challenge ourselves to be aspirational.
  1. It’s okay to mess up. Throughout our careers, we may spend more than 10,000 days in the office, send 200,000 emails, and sit through 15,000 meetings. If you don’t already know, I’ll let you in on a little secret: you won’t be perfect every single day. Mistakes are part of the process and we need to recognize that a mistake is not reflective of anything other than just what it is—something that didn’t go according to plan. The key is to use mistakes as a learning tool. Learn what should have been done differently, but also recognize how to step in to rectify the situation and deliver an ultimately successful outcome. This is how leaders are created.
  1. Little conversations can change your life. The theory of weak ties suggests that it’s acquaintances and friends of friends who are most likely to help you get connected to a job opportunity. Among the women I met with, it was clear that they benefitted when they put in more effort to network. Making the effort to meet new people, having hallway conversations, engaging with executives, and seeking out mentors all resulted in career opportunities as well as enriching experiences. Grace Hopper was a great example: 15,000 women coming together to learn, connect, and support one another is a model for how we can build a network that can help sustain women in their careers and lives.
  1. Experiences are more important than titles. To be successful at our chosen career means we have to bring our own unique perspective to bear. Yet, we can’t really have a perspective until we’ve had experiences that shape us. Too often, I see young people pass up opportunities to learn something in favor of a safe career jump that offers a better title. The sense among the women I met at Grace Hopper is that experience provides the best and truest roadmap for success, irrespective of how you define it. Experience also enables you to eventually provide more informed guidance to others.

The topic of inclusivity in tech, especially for women, is benefiting from a fresh perspective and increasing support among individuals and organizations, and I’m proud to be part of it.

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