Breaking through the glass ceiling in the world of high-tech

Nancy Pearson, 10 MARCH 2020 | BLOGS

Succeeding in the business world, especially in technology, requires mentors and not all mentors need to be women

On March 8, 2020, we celebrated International Women’s Day. As I reflect on my own career, it amazes me that we have been celebrating women in the workforce for over 100 years. According to IDC, the percentage of women in senior leadership positions has reached 24 percent in 2019. We have come a long way, but many women still struggle to find equality in the workforce, especially in technology.

Choosing the high-tech path

I have always loved innovation. When I started my career, I chose IBM as a good company with integrity and opportunities to grow. I was excited by the opportunity to market new technology. Bringing completely new ideas to market was both challenging and exciting to me.

I was lucky to have some really great role models. The woman who hired me was a trailblazer VP of University Programs – a fantastic role model for women. I didn’t know it at the time, but she started as the chairman’s secretary. She leveraged that experience and hard work to become the only female leader in the Chief Scientist function. She was an inspiration to me and saw something in me and chose to mentor me. Years later, I when I became an executive, I sent her a note thanking her for believing in me and seeing something in me that I didn’t even know existed.

Succeeding in the business world, especially in technology, requires mentors like her. But, not all of my mentors were women. There are a lot of smart men who want to help women thrive and advance as well.

Finding success in the high-tech arena

If you are entering the workforce, or changing careers, choose a company that provides a safe, encouraging environment – for both women and men. Find a mentor who believes in you and learn from them. In fact, learn from everyone around you – the CEO, your manager, your team members and friends. Never stop learning.

Avoid companies that foster infighting, discourage collaboration, and appear to award politics over substance. Make sure the company’s culture is the right fit for you. Part of the reason I chose Eka was the company’s culture towards women. I have been on a few teams with female executives in my career, but Eka has 30% women on the management team – that’s one-third of the leadership team. Eka has the kind of culture that encourages women to thrive.

“Be a mentor and a reverse mentor! Learn from your mentees just as you learn from your own mentors.”

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. Even if it’s your first job, your opinion matters. It took me a long time to earn a seat at the table, but once I did, I learned that I was good at my job and people valued my opinion. Don’t wait for that moment, take it. It’s worth taking the risk.

Be a mentor and a reverse mentor! I mentor a dozen young marketers – both women and men – and I learn from them just as they learn from me. This generation is stronger and more confident, and today’s young people network better and share more. They have better professional peer relationships because they do so much teamwork in school, so they come into the workforce more confident and have strong communication skills. They are more adept at social networking. Leverage these skills to create a strong and supportive network and build that network to support other women.

Never stop learning. When I reflect on 25 years in technology, I attribute my success to a commitment to continuous learning. I have always pushed myself to grow. I read books on leadership, and even studied psychology, so I could become a better marketer and leader. I read blogs, listen to podcasts, attend seminars and network with peers. There is always something new to learn.

Wherever your journey takes you, make it your journey. Choose the right path for you and enjoy the adventure.