Debra Bednar-Clark, CEO of DB+co (center) speaks with Alaina Shearer, founder of Women in Digital (left) and Amanda Doueihi, lawyer and writer (right)
I love discussing my passion for helping women find career success and fulfillment to women’s networking groups. There’s always a really inspiring energy in the air when strong women get together to educate themselves and share stories about the evolving climate of being a woman in the workplace.
That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to speak at the New York chapter of Women in Digital’s April meeting last month. (And my hunch was right — the room was buzzing with inspiring, smart rising stars!) The group’s mission is to advance women in the digital and tech industries who work in marketing, advertising and communications. As someone who held strategy, marketing and coding roles at Facebook, Microsoft and Accenture, I couldn’t align more with their ambitions and goals.
The theme of their April meeting was all about Knowing Your Value, so I prepared a speech called “5 Ways to Know & Promote Your Value: What My Career in Technology Taught Me About Leading With Your Whole Self.”
This particular topic really hit home for me. I know how hard it can be to know and promote your value without feeling braggadocious. When I first entered tech, I was incredibly intimidated and felt like a fish out of water. I was one of a few women in a mostly male group. And, one of the only business majors among engineering majors. I didn’t feel confident in my surroundings. It wasn’t until I followed my own interests and instincts – and embraced my value – that I started gaining wins under my belt.
My experiences really influenced my presentation that night, as I wanted to make sure that my message came across loud and clear: The best way chance for getting ahead is you. And that means knowing what you’re capable of, and then promoting the heck out of it.
If you weren’t in the room that night, that’s OK! I’m all about knowledge-sharing, so here are the five ways I mentioned during the presentation:
Break Down the Silos:
Establish connections beyond your particular team or organization in a way that’s authentic to you. Your value grows as you build relationships with as many people as you can.
Turn Your Ideas Into Products:
Think about how you can create products or programs for the things you do every day. When you productize your work, it shows that you can create a scalable solution for not just one person/client, but multiple people/clients.
Message Your Knowledge:
Communicate what you’re working on to a larger audience, through weekly or monthly reports or case studies, that encompass multiple dimensions of the business. Doing so proves that you can see themes and patterns in data and scale your insights into bigger ideas that others can leverage to reach their goals.
Think of Your Job Description as a Starting Point:
If you’re in a role in which you think you could be doing more, don’t feel compelled to stay within the lanes of what you were hired to do — create your own opportunities! Leaders don’t wait to be asked to do something, they see a challenge, create a solution and capture the impact of their work (and then scale it!). But don’t pick any problem to solve. Think about what you’re good at and what you love so the extra work doesn’t feel like “work.”
Remember You’re a Culture Keeper:
Everyone is a culture keeper. There’s a perception that the CEO, Human Resources or people managers are the only ones who shape culture. Not true! So, identify cultural challenges at your company (maybe it’s onboarding or evolving the aesthetic of the office so it inspires more creativity and collaboration). When you invest in the growth of others, you’ll be seen as a leader in the organization, who truly believes in adding value to the entire company.
All of the women in the room responded really positively to this advice — so much so that after the presentation was over, I spent another 60 minutes answering questions and expanding on my points (that’s the fun part!).
In the end, I hope each woman there that night left feeling empowered to know and promote their own value. Remember: You are your best chance for getting ahead — so think about what you bring to the table and then express your value in ways that feel authentic to you. Everyone will do this differently, but as long as you do it, you’re on the right track.
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