Today in our remote home offices with constant video calls, taking time to connect with others that inspire and energize us has become critical. Six incredible tech leaders, mentors and sponsors helped lead conversations around topics we are all dealing with – how to navigate our careers, the skills we should be developing and best practices for remote work – and helped provide insight and clarity that helps each one of us grow and develop.
These inspiring tech leaders included Archana Thiagarajan, Director of Experience Design, Adobe, Erica Cuttitta, Director of Software Engineering, Pluralsight, Heather Zynczak, Former CMO of Pluralsight and Domo, Mandi Fang, VP & GM, Dealertrack DMS, Vicki Sudlow Vice President, Transplant Marketing, Natera and Tom Ngo, Founder Lumin.ai.
Here are some of the things we learned from them:
Career pathways and moving to the next level
When it comes to your career pathway, the key word is intentional. Instead of running away from a bad situation, looking for a better manager, or seeking a specific title, focus on your passion, grow your strengths, and define what you really want in order to move your career forward in the right direction.
“You need to take ownership of defining what you do,” said Archana Thiagarajan, Director of Experience Design at Adobe, including thinking about who you’re working for and the culture you’re working in. Even if this might mean stepping beyond the work in your current role, focusing on what you’re best at and passionate about is essential to charting and guiding your most important career decisions.
Share your vision
If you’re wanting to grow within your current organization or role, don’t assume your manager knows what you want.
“Managers only know what you tell them,” said Mandi Fang, VP & GM of Dealertrack DMS. “We see a lot of good work, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to what your next job might be. We can even speculate in the wrong direction without information from you.”
Have a clear dialogue about your goals, advocate for your path, and seek the skills you need. If you want a place to start, Mandi suggested pulling StrengthFinder 2.0 back off your shelf and seeing which skill you should grow next.
Critical career skills
Remote work, Zoom, and social distancing have changed our connections in every way. Networking is especially challenging since making a strong impression and actively keeping relationships alive takes more creativity than ever.
“Most really great opportunities that come about is because you knew somebody,” said Heather Zynzack, former CMO of Pluralsight and Domo. “How do we, as women in this new norm, continue to network?”
Heather suggests starting by creating a list of all the people who could be influential in your career, and sending each one an email once a quarter. This helps keep you top of mind and maintain relationships when you can’t brush shoulders in person.
But while your career needs connections, it also needs boundaries.
“Virtual work has really blurred the boundaries of home and work life,” especially as it has eliminated standard workweek hours, said Vicki Sidlow, Vice President, Transplant Marketing at Natera. “Making those boundaries clear is key to staying productive and avoiding burnout.”
Being out of sight doesn’t mean that we have to be out of mind, or that we have to lose our minds trying to be constantly available. Being deliberate and taking a little more effort in building relationships can help us to both stay connected and to foster the trust and respect needed to confidently set and preserve personal boundaries.
Succeeding in Remote Work
Learn to trust
Over the last year, almost all of us have had to turn our homes into offices. While we’ve had to learn to collaborate with coworkers and balance our home environment, managers have also had to learn how to adjust and lead in this new world.
“If your traditional management is that you want people in the office so you can watch what they’re doing, remote work requires you to trust people to do their jobs,” said Tom Ngo CEO and Founder of Lumin.ai.
Since most workers want a hybrid model in the future, this leadership model is here to stay.
Earn the trust
Employees can help make this trust easier by being present even while they are remote. Deliberate efforts to stay engaged in team meetings and phone calls, keep your camera on during virtual meetings, and use Teams or Slack to check in with your team throughout the day can help your team stay connected.