Cheryl Cook, VP Global Channel & Alliances, second from left on a panel at Dell Women Entrepreneurs Network Conference

Published: March 5th, 2015

It’s International Women’s Day on March 8 and to celebrate, we’re celebrating women business leaders in the technology space – with a little help from OpenText, the largest Canadian-based software company.

The five tips provided on career success for women featured here are from OpenText and its female employees and customers. I’ve added my perspective on these five tips from women tech leaders, plus an additional tip #6.

1. Be a connector

Strong relationships build strong teams.  For many starting out in Tech, networking can be a stretch, even more so if you’re female.  Yet, connecting with both men and women in the sector is important for learning, professional development and just having sounding boards.  Start with some friends, find some other women in technology networks in your city.

And for both individuals and companies in fact, “Software is a team sport. Diversity makes us strong. Different point of view is a great catalyst for innovation,” according to Mei Dent, vice-president for research and development at OpenText.

2. Stop limiting yourself

Confidence comes from knowing yourself and your strengths. “I believe that you need to have the ability to look within yourself to identify the key skill sets that you have as a woman. Women are typically collaborative, flexible and fabulous at multi-tasking. In the era of digital disruption and social media these skill sets are mandatory,” says Megan Cappelleri, manager of information management, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation in Queensland, Australia.

If you need help getting clear on your strengths, invite feedback from your network and consider using some free on-line tools like  VIA Character Strengths, invest in a StrengthsFinder assessment or engage a coach to help you discover and leverage your strengths.

In the words of Mary Ann Valad, ‎vice-president, finance strategic initiatives at OpenText: “Embrace change, let it motivate you to drive improvements and innovation. High-tech is fast-paced, grab the opportunities that come your way. Successes are a catalyst to respect and recognition. Remember to celebrate them!”

3. Find a mentor and be one

Whether male or female, “Look for mentors whom you admire to help you develop and as you grow, mentor others,” says Tara Mulrooney, chief technology officer at Alberta Energy Regulator. Strong mentors can open the door to learning opportunities, such as invite you to higher level meetings to learn what’s important in your organization.  And a great mentor will support your growth and development with honest feedback and champion you to take on significant projects or roles.

4. Explore to stay engaged

Kasey Holman, vice-president, global communications, OpenText has this to say about career momentum:

“One of my favourite quotes is by Sheryl Sandberg – ‘Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.’ These words ring so true. Opportunities are plentiful in high tech, so don’t be afraid to embrace and explore lateral opportunities before climbing up the ladder. This approach will help you to gain new perspectives, experience new challenges and will make you a more well-rounded person.”

5. Let your passions drive you

Being passionate means taking ownership and responsibility in your work, more like an entrepreneur than an employee. That kind of passion gets noticed and rewarded in the entrepreneurial world of technology.

“If you love the work you do and you do it passionately, going the extra mile and staying on top of the latest technologies will come naturally to you. This will set you apart in this industry,”  says Sonia Diaz-Sotomayor, senior consultant IS/IT, legal and regulatory at BCE Inc.

 6. Be yourself & deliver results

Cheryl Cook, vice-president,  global channels & alliances at Dell, and an engineer by profession, spoke with me about  her success in the technology sector while being true to herself.  She recalled “I never let go of me. Or shied away from my femininity and authenticity.”  In the breakfast meeting she was genuinely kind, making sure those of us who came to speak with her were comfortably seated with drinks or food before she started the discussion.

Her path to leadership:  building on her technical education and authentic southern charm with high performance and delivering results, thereby developing business and financial acumen.  “To advance in technology, women need to understand what’s rewarded and self promote,” she advised.

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, here’s a shout out to the women mentioned in this post — and to all those who are playing a bigger game in the technology sector!

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