Happy business people clapping in the conference room

Article by Shannon Roth, Chief Customer Success Officer at Boomi

My dad was raised by a single mom. When my dad was just two years old, his father left the family, forcing my grandmother to figure out a way to find work for herself while raising two young children on her own.

It was difficult. They made many sacrifices and struggled to get by for several years, but she made it work. My dad never wanted his own children to end up in a situation like that, so when he and my mom had children of their own (three girls), they made our education a priority. I was expected to go to college and get an education so that I would always be able to provide for myself. You could say that I was conditioned to bet on myself from an early age.

My father’s experience, and in turn, the way my parents raised me, gave me the foundation to get comfortable with taking risks. Nothing in my career path was planned. I have held many different roles in the technology sector that were not directly related to my educational background or previous work experience – from IT to HR, to Marketing, to Partnerships & Alliances, to Sales, and eventually, as Chief Customer Success Officer at a fast-growing, global software as a service (SaaS) company. By intentionally stepping outside my comfort zone and working in such different roles, I not only gained new skills but also learned how to face my fears and embrace the unknown. That’s where growth and learning truly happens.

Do I deserve to be here?

One of the most common obstacles for women in technology is “Imposter Syndrome,” defined as doubting one’s own abilities. Nearly every female leader I’ve spoken with has struggled with Imposter Syndrome at one time or another, and I’m no exception. Indeed, research shows that 75% of executive women say they have experienced it at some point in their career. Perhaps that is no surprise, given the historical lack of female role models in the tech industry.

I too have slipped into the mindset of “Am I deserving of this role?” or “Do I deserve to be in this room, to be part of this conversation?” This is especially true when I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. Yet, forcing yourself to keep taking new risks and staying open to new opportunities can help break down those feelings and enable career progression. By continually gaining new experiences and acquiring a wide variety of skills and toolsets, one can build the expertise and confidence necessary to dispel feelings of Imposter Syndrome.

Be your own biggest supporter. 

The art of betting on yourself begins with knowing your own story. I recommend frequently updating your resume in order to remind yourself of your achievements, your capabilities, and strengths. This practice is also good for helping identify areas you would like to grow in and work on.

Next, build a network of allies. Be active and intentional about building your network. I’ve seen a definitive shift over the course of my career from people claiming to support women simply out of obligation, to today, many more people showing up as mentors and allies because they genuinely want to be there and help others. Build yourself a network of people who not only help you get a seat at the table, but also remind you why you are there by encouraging you to use your voice and by promoting your contributions.

I have been fortunate enough to have a number of advocates like this throughout my career, both male and female. People who encouraged me to speak up; to raise my hand for a promotion; to take on a project I didn’t feel ready for. When they believed in me, it made it a whole lot easier to believe in myself.

Finally, adopt a learning mindset. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to be willing to ask the right questions and to learn.

Forget perfection; focus on connection.

The pandemic, with its sudden shift to remote and hybrid work for many people, helped us break down silos between women’s personal lives and their jobs. Employers allowing their teams to work flexibly has had positive effects on the workforce and women’s career progression. Research shows that flexible work arrangements are pivotal for people being able continue working and developing as professionals, particularly if they become parents. The greater acceptance of remote and hybrid work in the post-pandemic world has helped shed light on the way working mothers’ personal lives are intertwined with their jobs.

The pandemic also increased awareness of mental health and how it affects us all. For some, work colleagues became the only people they (virtually) interacted and connected with while the world was shut down. In my experience, co-workers became more open and vulnerable with one another. This vulnerability creates empathy and emotional connections. In many cases, women became more free to be themselves in the workplace and integrate their family life with their working life. For me personally, it allowed me to let my children see what I do for a career, setting a positive example for them which will help guide their future.

In a recent conversation with a friend, we were discussing how we experienced change through this shift in work and she mentioned that for her, “perfection isn’t the goal; connection is. This reframed my own understanding of how we can best help one another in our work lives. Greater connection allows people to feel seen, represented, and included. This new awareness in the broader workforce has opened up greater support for strong approaches to addressing diversity and inclusion across the industry, as well as addressing mental health and overall well-being of workers.

Betting on yourself so the next generation can succeed

Progress continues to be made in the tech sector, with women reaching nearly 33% of overall representation in global technology firms in 2022. But much remains to be done to increase women’s representation in technical and leadership roles.

To further the advancements I have seen during the course of my career, we must focus on breaking down obstacles and being more open to discussion. I encourage women to push themselves outside of their comfort zone, be open to new opportunities, and adopt a learning mindset. Build yourself a network of allies, supporters and mentors, and do what you can to foster connection within your workplace. For employers – flexibility, empathy, and a stronger focus on inclusion enables women to be themselves in the workplace, whether it be as a leader to others, a role model to their children, or an ally to the next generation forging their own path. It also reduces absenteeism, increases employee retention, and improves business outcomes.

Working together, we can help women in tech gain the confidence to bet on themselves, which will not only get them where they want to be, but also advance the next generation so they can succeed.