Thursday, November 10, 2011

GHC: Senior Women's Summit

The day long session started out with some great tips from Jo Miller, both talking about our brand again and got us brainstorming about what things we think are holding us back. Jo had a recently published article on the Anita Borg site that talked about the difference between a sponsor and a mentor. A sponsor or advocate is someone that stands up

After lunch, we sorted ourselves by industry and academia, as well as by goals (Industry Individual Contributer vs Executive tracks), and I had a tough call to make. Do I want to pursue the DE track? Or management? Then Jo Miller reminded me that this is just a networking and learning exercise - why not get exposure to people I don't have access to now? So, I sat down with an executive from American Express. :-)

Then we got a wonderful panel of very senior women that told us about their paths.

Moderator: Sabina Nawaz, Executive coach and organizational development consultant; CEO, Nawaz LLC


  • Nora Denzel, Senior Vice President, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing, Intuit
  • Jamie Erbes, HP Fellow and Director, Services Research Lab, Hewlett-Packard Labs
  • Ann Gates, Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Projects, University of Texas at El Paso
  • Leah Jamieson, The John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University
Leah Jamieson has been the Dean of Engineering as well as a professor at Purdue University for 5 years, and has found it to be a rewarding and demanding task - she's had to learn how balance looking forward and looking up, while still taking care of everything beneath her - as Dean, there are a ton of responsibilities.

Ann Quiroz Gates talked about making sure you stay active in your communities, for her that means IEEE. You need to be able to articulate what you need, and be ready to make a case for what you bring to the table. Don't just be the squeaky wheel - show what someone is going to get in return.

Nora Denzel said she actually had a really fast rise into the executive ladder - just 15 years! HP actually sent her back to school to get her MBA. Her advice? "I strive to make sure I'm not the smartest person in the room - be comfortable with being uncomfortable." How else can you grow? She believes that sometimes the biggest thing that holds us back is our own minds - grow your network, worry about doing a good job and not necessarily make everyone like you.

Jamie Erbes said she thought she herself is her biggest roadblock sometimes. For example, at HP you have to apply for fellowship - and she kept not doing it. One year, as the deadline approached, executives and other fellows kept coming to her and asking her why she hadn't submitted her application, yet. She didn't think she was worthy, but after enough people asked her

Jamieson marks the import of picking a clear communication style and make sure it works for the job you're aiming towards.

Several of the panelists mention how times were rougher when it came to networking in the 80s, like Erbes being left in the car when the rest of her co-workers went to strip club. Fortunately, that type of thing would not be considered acceptable behaviour.

Denzel and Jamieson both stress how important it is to show agility. While working for the same boss for 10 years may show your loyalty, it doesn't necessarily show your ability to learn new things quickly. This is a weird one for me - I've worked in such a large company for so long, but my job is always changing. My LinkedIn profile is full of all sorts of different jobs, even though it was always the same person writing my paycheck. Does that show agility? Does the fact that I like a steady paycheck and stability of having health insurance mean that I'm not willing to learn new things? Probably not, but it's something to be sure that I can present well that it's not just one job.

Advice from the panelists on your brand (after being asked by the audience what their brand was) was to do a "360 review" and see what people think your brand is - it could help you better align what you're doing, or motivate changes if it's not something you like.

After the panel, we all got to sit down at a table with a senior executive from major companies and ask anything we wanted. I even got to practice my elevator pitch with an exec from Adobe, and she gave me some great tips to improve. Then we did some more speed networking, then through our biggest "want" on the wall and people signed up to help us. I definitely have things to follow up on here!

More on that later!

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

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