At our March workshop, Mira Lane - head of Design and Ethics for Artificial Intelligence at Microsoft, shared what she has learned in her career journey from Product Manager to Partner Director about self-advocacy and achieving success in the workplace.
Here are the top 5 strategies I learned:
Build relationships and ally-ship
Many women follow the good student mentality of keeping your heads down to do good work. While it is important to deliver high quality work and results, it is also important to develop relationships and expand our network. We have to make time for coffee chats, lunches, and happy hours to get to know others. Learn to be an ally for others and advocate for others. Opportunities will come your way when people know you, trust you, and advocate for you.
Follow leaders you respect
If you see a leader you respect, regardless of whether you have worked with them, let them know how you feel and stay in touch, even if they have moved on to other departments or companies. If a need for talent arises in the future, they may think of you and offer you a position on their team. Good leaders are not always easy to find, so when you find one, make sure you take the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship.
Fast track your experience and achievements by supporting products with quick turnarounds
Making your work visible can be challenging in a large organization. Supporting projects with short turnarounds or products with short launch cycles will enable you to give evidence to your accomplishments faster, enabling you to gather a longer list of achievements in a shorter period of time. The pace of work may be more intense when supporting products with tight timelines, however, it will also enable you to learn more quickly. The ability to speak to all the projects/products you have completed successfully, as well as the lessons you learned along the way, will elevate your value in the eyes of your employer.
Follow industry trends to strategically position yourself
Technology and market dynamics change rapidly. Staying on top of the latest trend, learning to foresee where the next wave is coming beyond the horizon, allows you to position yourself strategically within the company to catch the next wave when it happens. Read, research, and take classes on industry topics that interest you. Continuously increase your knowledge and skills so that you can speak confidently on topics impacting your employer, and secure roles within growing sectors in the company.
Don’t wait for someone to give you permission
Many women wait for permission. They ask for permission to work on new ideas, to take charge, or wait for responsibility to be assigned to them before they take action. They may even sit at the outskirts of the meeting room because they feel uncertain as to whether they deserve a seat at the table. As a result, many women miss out on opportunities to shine. Most men, on the other hand, take initiative to jump on opportunities. At the next meeting, position yourself next to the most important person in the room and make sure you make eye contact with everyone in the room. You have as much of a right to be heard and seen as everyone else. Next time you have a new idea, start working on it and then let your manager know you are testing it out. Have confidence in your abilities; take initiative to add value.