Friday, November 11, 2011

GHC: Plenary Session: Partnering with Executive Leaders for Shared Vision and Career Growth

The plenary sessions always seem a bit mislabeled to me - this one is about partnering in executive leadership, and, yes, there are executive type people on the panel - but their advice is actually useful in any level of your career.

Moderator: Linda Apsley (Microsoft)


Microsoft Partnership: Bill Laing and Betsy Speare

CA Technologies Partnership: Gabby Silbermann and Carrie Gates

Harvey Mudd College Partnership: Marie Klawe and Christine Alvarado

Bill Laing and Betsy Speare started out the discussion by introducing each other. At first I thought this was odd, as most people can introduce themselves the best, right? But, it was so interesting to hear the words they chose to describe each other - much more glowing than most people would use for themselves.

Both Laing and Speare again reiterate that if you're seeking advancement, you need a sponsor. And sponsors and mentors are not the same thing. When looking for a sponsor, you need to choose someone you admire and has something that you want (skills, connections, etc). But, you can't just say, "Hey, be my sponsor!" Laing suggests also looking for people you can have an authentic connection with, as that will be the most successful advocate for you.

Marie Klawe, President and Professor at Harvey Mudd, and Christine Alvarado, Assistant Professor at Harvey Mudd, met when Klawe joined Harvey Mudd as president. Alvarado was surprised to discover that Klawe had already heard about her, a measly second year associate professor. Klawe had heard of Alvarado, because of her energy and the women's programs she was starting.

When Alvarado joined Harvey Mudd in 2005, their CS department was only 12% women - not unlike the rest of the US. Between her efforts, and Klawe putting them in overdrive when she joined, they are now up to 40% women!

Some of the things that they do - they bring first year undergraduates to this conference, even non-CS majors. This encourages more women to join the department and helps to retain them, as they are able to build a network.

Silberman and Gates go all the back to when Gates was still in school, and they kept in touch. When he wanted to hire her, they actually met up at TGI Fridays in an airport. He hired Gates and has been her sponsor ever since.

Gates wanted to make it clear that Silberman wasn't just watching her and taking her to the next promotion level - she asked him. Now she's a Distinguished Engineer at CA technologies, but quipped that she's still not sure what she wants to do when she grows up. ;-)

An observation from the panel was that men and women don't necessarily think differently, but they do tend to act differently. Men have been conditioned since they were 5 to show off and try to top everyone around you. Some professors can find that type of thing annoying, when a student is constantly trying to one up them - but they are certainly noticed.

Speare recommends She Wins, You Win : The Most Important Rule Every Businesswoman Needs to Know and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators (J-B Lencioni Series), to learn more about fixing your teams and fixing them with women. :-)

A question from the audience asked about how you prevent things from looking like favoritism. Liang said this is why he recommends finding a sponsor that is not in your direct reporting line of management - they could even be at a different company! Another panelist noted that this is a reason to have more than one sponsor.

Klawe notes that she'll mentor just about anyone she has time for, but will only sponsor people that she truly believes in, so that when she tells everyone about the sponsored accomplishments, nobody will be able to deny the value of it.

This post syndicated from Thoughts on security, beer, theater and biking!

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