Agility: The Key to Building a Successful Career

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FountainBlue’s March 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career, featuring:
Facilitator Caroline Margozzi, Director, Business Development, Tangence
Panelist Hillary Barnhart, Senior Director, Business Operations, Applied Materials
Panelist Karyn Corbett, Senior Director, Operations, Advanced Development Group, Cisco
Panelist Kim Fox, Chief of Staff to the President, Sr. Director Operations, Information Intelligence Group, EMC
Panelist Brigitte Ricou-Bellan, Senior Director and GM, International, eBay
Panelist Mona Sabet, Corporate VP, Business Development, Cadence
Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at EMC. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such a wide range of perspectives on the panel. Our panelists were women who represented different companies, roles and levels, supporting a range of product and service offerings, but also women who had so much in common:
• They are persistent enough to perform in the roles they find themselves in, but also constantly sought change and forged change, never electing complacency over opportunity. This does not mean that they were always successful, but it does mean that they keep moving forward, even if moving forward means moving laterally in the short term, learning from the experience, and leveraging the truths of that experience to keep that forward progress going.
• They are incredibly self-aware, and very thoughtful and proactive about their career path and what’s next for them. The planning and focus and implementation helps them ensure that they remain agile with their careers, something ever more important in today’s market.
• Although they have the education and training to get in-depth in some area, whether it was engineering or legal or something else, they each decided to rise above going deep within that area, and chose instead to go broad – understanding the implications and impact of those who go deep, to help plan and strategize the direction for the people, teams, products and companies they serve.
o This is not necessarily a trait for career agility, but does help position each of our panelists and perhaps others for climbing the corporate ladder. However, we must add that if you do choose to ‘go deep’, select an area well, one that is versatile and important enough to be relevant 5, 10, 15 years from now, based on technology innovations and changing business models.
Below is some advice our panelists shared with us:
• Be heard. Communicate and speak with a strong voice, knowing that you did your homework, feeling confident that you are relevant, never whining, never a victim.
o Select work which makes you visible. Do a good job and make sure people know what you’ve done for whom.
o Communicate your successes through metrics, and position yourself for being noticed enough for that next uncomfortable role or project, whether your or someone else you know plans for it.
o Showcase your team and their successes in a quantifiable manner, while also communicating their overall impact.
• Don’t try to be a man. Men and women are different. Don’t try to do it a man’s way, even if it works for the men you work with, even if you are surrounded by men, as most of us in tech are!
o Sometimes women make life/family choices over work, something that men don’t do as often. If this is you, find someone who has successfully made their cake and ate it too – choosing both career and family (not necessarily at the same time).
• Know your strengths. Expect that change will happen and leverage your strength, your network, your passion, your brand and track record to stay in front of, respond to or even anticipate that change.
• Be strategic. It’s always about understanding the needs of the stakeholders, so find a win-for-most path which makes sense, and communicating it in a way which would inspire, empower, connect and motivate people, teams and organizations to be part of the solution.
• Create a network of supporters that you grow and nurture and give back to. Our panelists practiced this tenet in appearing on this panel.
• Embrace the uncomfortable.
o Volunteer for stuff that nobody wants to do and do a great job with it so that you solve a problem, collect skills and get noticed. The wider the range of activities you succeed at, the wider the net of people who will notice!
o Nobody says that it would be easy! Change is often uncomfortable. If you analyze the pros and cons of something uncomfortable, you may never embrace that change, that opportunity. It takes a leap of faith, so believe in yourself, and try not to fear the potential downside.
o How you got here is not necessarily what will get you to the next level. As such, change your strategy as your career evolves. And take those learnings in-your-face to heart. What are they telling you? How has that same message been sent to you in the past and what will you do about it this time?
o Whether you planned for a change or not, you will find yourself in uncomfortable situations. Focus more on how to succeed when you don’t feel comfortable than on complaining about who might have moved your cheese!
o Select a company and team that would help you embrace change and succeed while learning from that experience. Recruit sponsors, mentors, peers and supporters who can help you make it happen, and support them in return.
• Advice for Negotiating, as you manage your career.
o Do your homework – know your impact and your value and what you’re making, what your title is, and where you want to go. Ask for something equivalent to the value you provide, and speak to your strengths and past results rather than thinking about the experience and results you have not *yet* created.
o Making more money, having a bigger title is more about working smarter than working harder. But it’s not about working harder all the time. Be realistic about what you can do with your skills, with your current life/work obligations, and aim for something you can succeed. You can have it *all* *all* the time, and if you aim to do that and get discouraged, reset your expectations, don’t give up!
o You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Look at all the factors under negotiating; it’s not just about money and title, everything’s negotiable. And don’t leave anything on the table.
o Sometimes you look more attractive when you leave a company and come back, when you are considering another offer.

A core theme of the conversation around agility is about relevance. One chooses career agility to remain relevant in the workplace, to keep up with all the local, global, technology changes in a world which is constantly changing, and even accelerating into the future.

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