23 Apr Women to Women: Advice to Succeed
By: Laura Spaventa
Gender inequality in the workforce is not a new topic of discussion by any means. However, the issue was thrust back into the national spotlight when Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg teamed up with the Girl Scouts and dozens of other influential women to launch the Ban Bossy Campaign last month. The campaign aims to squash negative thinking that deters take-charge attitudes in girls and was met with both support and criticism alike. No matter which side you’re on, it’s fair to say the campaign has forced people to consider and discuss what women can do to attain equal footing in the workforce.
At LaunchSquad, we are fortunate to have numerous take-charge women on staff, as well as clients with powerful women in leadership roles. We’ve asked a few of these women to share the best career advice they’ve received that has helped them attain their current career statuses. Their responses were not only enlightening, but empowering.
Erica Orthmann, Vice President at LaunchSquad
“My first manager, Catherine, was beyond polished. Like it or not, when you’re working in the technology industry, sometimes you’re contending with an old boys’ fraternity that wants to talk to the ‘guy in charge.’ When you’re a woman (especially a young or young-looking woman), you have to work harder to project presence and perspective when the deck may be stacked against you. Catherine taught me to prepare myself thoroughly for any situation, mostly by reading voraciously and entering meetings way more prepared than anyone ever expected me to be. The presence you choose to project may differ based on the situation (formal vs. informal, casual startup vs. buttoned-up public company), but your opinion and perspective should always be building as you grow in your career. Every experience you have and every tidbit you learn can add to this perspective. Be the smartest person in the room. Only you can level the playing field.”
Kimberley Kasper, CMO, Jobvite
“Oddly enough, the best advice I ever received in terms of being a woman in the workforce was from a man. He told me that no one will open doors for me and that I must be empowered to open the doors myself. You are responsible for yourself and must see potential opportunities and take advantage of them. Meaning, don’t sit and wait for a promotion to happen. Make it happen. Based on his advice, I became much more aware of opportunities and started doing PR around my work, so people were aware of what I was doing. If I saw something wasn’t being done and I could help the company, I’d be the first to raise my hand to help. This proved to be great exposure and managers recognized I was willing and ready to get things done. That’s what got me from point A to point B in my career.”
Sara Pallas, Vice President, LaunchSquad
“Ask why. That’s the most important I’ve learned from one of my first managers, a LaunchSquad legend (and also my good friend), Virginia Zimpel. In my early days, she would often push me to ask ‘Why?’ Why am I doing something? Why does it make sense for the client? Why does a certain activity or story fit into the company’s overall business strategy? Why? It’s very easy to get caught up in one-off emails, chaotic clients and the daily rush of things that need to be done now. It’s also very easy to complete tasks that someone else gives you vs. make an informed, thoughtful recommendation that you’ve come up with yourself. And when something isn’t easy, that often means if you step up – at LaunchSquad or elsewhere – you’ll stand out. In the best way possible. You’ll be considered a strategic thinker, you’ll lead by example, and in doing so, you might even challenge others to do the same. You also won’t allow yourself to get comfortable – a message our client American Giant is big on and one I think about often. Asking yourself ‘why’ is an essential framework to have in the back of your mind at all times.”
Michelle Lam, Founder and CEO, True&Co.
“When I was an investor, one of the few female partners at a major firm advised me to wear black to ‘not stand out.’ If that’s the attitude you have, not only will you go unnoticed, but your work will as well. Dare to be bold and memorable. You’d be surprised at how many doors will open for you when you’re unapologetically yourself. Oh, and don’t wear black.”
(Image via: abcnews.go.com)