This summer, we invited 14 of the industry’s top women in events to join us for a candid conversation about the challenges and opportunities of being female in experiential marketing. Two roundtables took place, one in New York City and one in San Jose. Over the course of the nearly three-hour discussions—co-produced with longtime Women in Events partner Sparks (sparksonline.com)—the women shared their frank opinions about what it takes to cultivate confidence, respect and a work-life balance in one of the most challenging careers in the marketing mix.
Michelle Donovan | LG Electronics
Pam Dzierzanowski | Patrón Spirits
Karen Fiester | Google
Amy Green | Ford Motor Co.
Abby Green | JP Morgan Chase
Kenya Hardaway | FX Networks
Erin Keating | Audi
Kate Kerner | Oracle
Robin Lickliter | Senior VP-Events, Sparks
Alix Mills | Bloomberg
Christine Ngo | Mountain Dew
Victoria Petersen | Tesla
Cyndie Wang | HP
Sally Maturana | VP-Events, Sparks
Robin Lickliter | Senior VP-Events, Sparks
MICHELLE DONOVAN: The challenging thing for me is the work-life balance. Being a woman, a lot of the responsibility of taking care of the household falls on me. Not saying that men don’t have that responsibility, but traditionally, a lot of the burden falls on the woman. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges I see for women in the industry—being respected for what we do but also knowing that I’m also a mom at the end of the day. It doesn’t discount how well I do my job. I just have a separate job when I go home.
ALIX MILLS: I’m not 100 percent convinced that there is something uniquely challenging to women in event marketing because I think we’re probably better at it than men are. But the work-life balance thing is definitely tricky. We want it all, right? There’s a comedian who said, “Well, thanks a lot, Gloria Steinem. You went out there and got us women’s rights and now we’ve got to do everything.” So finding balance is hard, but it is our job to do that just like it is for any dad that wants to be a part of his family’s life, too.
STACY LAMBATOS: In my career I’ve never looked at it as men versus women. I have just thought, go for it and shoot for the stars. I’ve had amazing parents that have told me I can do anything I want in the world and I’ve listened to it and have gone full force. I think women are compassionate and caring and creative, and those skills directly translate to events and the event world. So, I see it as a strength and an advantage that women have.
ERIN KEATING: I would say the one thing I think that’s been challenging with this industry is it still sees women as having their roots in party planning. In other industries you don’t have to justify that you’re a strategic thinker and equal partner in the marketing mix. That’s been my unique kind of reaction I get from people when I tell them what I do for a living. I think if I were a male, it might be perceived just a little bit differently. They wouldn’t immediately in their heads go to party planning.
AMY GREEN: I have to echo what you’re saying. Early on in my career, I think that was how [events] were perceived. But I would say for me, the biggest challenge has really been my career heating up right as my personal life did. Right when I really wanted to take some of those next steps in my career was when I also happened to be pregnant. Making that conscious decision to be the mom that I want to be and be the wife that I want to be in addition to being that worker—that’s really been a challenge to find a way to communicate that in a male-dominated industry like automotive, and then within the marketing team. I was the first person to actually come back from maternity leave. And so, the whole time I was saying “Hey, I’m coming back,” they all were like, “Uh, huh, yeah, Amy, whatever,” and I was like, “No, really. I like to work. I’m just going to go birth this human over here, and then I’ll come back.”
CHRISTINE NGO: I feel like I have to compete with both men and women, but I think the bigger issue for me is that I feel like people are not as accepting of women when they celebrate their accomplishments. So I think we’ve seen a lot of our male colleagues be able to brag and be publicly proud of the things that they’ve accomplished and no one bats an eyelash. When a woman does it, it’s completely different—it’s received very differently, even from my female colleagues. So I think that is something we all need to work on, and it’s something that I personally feel is a problem.
CYNDIE WANG: This is a really grueling life. As glamorous and as wonderful as it is, it’s grueling. You’re traveling a lot. You are up late and you’re sort of a facilitator for other people to drive objectives. Events is a support function within our company. And so, you have to be on your game all the time. I think sometimes, for women, and I don’t have children, but women who have children and families, it’s hard to be on your A game all the time, but yet, still have to physically perform. I just got off a five-city East Coast tour in different time zones and I’m exhausted. But it never lets up, right? There’s always the next thing to plan.
ROBIN LICKLITER: I wouldn’t attribute it to gender so much as I would attribute it to the heritage of our discipline, which is that event planner role versus what I think we’re moving towards, which is experiential marketers, right? And I think there’s still a belief system within corporations that we’re just the “event girls.” I don’t think it’s attributable to gender. I think it’s attributable to that heritage and where the practice has been and where we’re evolving. The more that we are showcasing the fact that we can provide strategy, that it’s about strategic event design first and execution second, we’ve noticed that we’re brought to the table and into the conversations much earlier in the process.
JILL DAGGETT: That’s where we’ve seen it evolving quite a bit, too. The more you talk about the strategy, and now, the analytics and the measurement, we’re finding that it’s not just the event, it’s the event as part of the overall campaign. Because we’re doing the analytics, I think that’s also elevating the conversation.
KATE KERNER: I absolutely agree. I think that’s helping us showcase the value that we’re bringing to the table. I know at Oracle, we’re obsessed with analytics. And that has really helped us showcase the value that the event brings to the whole marketing mix.
ABBY GREEN: I think as leaders it’s important for us to teach our teams the right language to be using when they’re talking about the programs they’re working on. The majority of my team is women, but I encourage them to talk about themselves as marketers and event marketers versus event planners or event coordinators. Those titles might encompass some of the tasks that they’re doing, but I think it’s important for them to understand the strategy and the business objectives. What are our clients goals? How are they measuring that? And how does what they’re contributing to the program fit into the raw mix? There are a lot of women in this field and a lot of people pick on me and ask, “When are we going to hire a guy here?” Not to generalize, but they don’t multitask.
KENYA HARDAWAY: Not everyone is accustomed to or comfortable with taking direction from a woman. If you’re dealing with craftsmen or laborers from male-dominated fields, I might get some resistance—that look of, “What? You’re the one I’m answering to?” I’ve experienced that a lot, but at the end of the day, I know my job, and I make it clear I’m capable of managing the situation. I feel that you can win people over when you show them that you are confident, that you are capable and they’ll give you the respect.
EM: This is an industry that is evolving quickly. Where are some of the biggest opportunities for women?
SALLY MATURANA: It’s limitless, really. There’s production, there’s strategy, there’s content development, there are all kinds of different roles tying all the parts and pieces together. Wherever your interests lie, there are places to go, whether it’s working for a brand or working for an agency.
MILLS: Experiential to me is like that sweet spot of art meets science. I think the real opportunity is for us to stretch our wings on the science side of the job. It doesn’t have to just be about operations, but what are those real measurable results that make it event marketing? What was the objective? Who was your target audience and how are you really going to measure it? That mix of art and science is what experiential really is, and it’s such a unique sweet spot for women because we bring that innate DNA to the table. Math and science has become so important in education that it’s not perceived as a weak spot for women anymore.
AMY G: That’s something I’ve seen grow over the last 10 years. When I think about where my role was 10 years ago, it was so much about the art of it. And then we went through that downturn in the automotive industry where we had to get real serious real quick about how we spend our money. And in the marketing department it’s easy to be on the chopping block. It’s easy to be seen as that icing on the cake and that you’re not really substantial. But I think being able to dive into the market research and into the science and to derive those insights and then apply that to what you’re doing—I think women are uniquely positioned to be able to look for those insights and to not just look at the numbers at face value.
MILLS: You have to change the value that they see in you. Everybody is a frustrated wedding planner. They all think that they can plan their own events, so therefore they think they can be an event person and when you mix in that more strategic and thoughtful part, it really changes [that perception.] And then you’re able to help your business understand what the impact is on their bottom line without even taking credit to an actual sale. It’s still a contribution, but you have a way of actually measuring the impact of that spend.
EM: What skills do women need to be successful in this industry? Is it all about experience and working your way up, or does the growth of the business side of the job demand advanced degrees or training?
DONOVAN: I think for me it’s just a broad knowledge of the whole marketing mix because events covers everything. There’s the social media component, there’s the on-site experiential activity, but having that broad knowledge of the entire marketing mix I think just makes you a much stronger marketer, no matter what discipline you go into.
NGO: I don’t think an MBA is necessary. What’s really important though is having the right personality traits. You have to have insatiable curiosity. You have to be obsessed with popular culture. I mean, it depends on your vertical right? For me, I’m in male millennial marketing, and you have to be OK with constantly being uncomfortable with what you don’t know, and then using that curiosity to make yourself an expert. For us at Mountain Dew, it’s so important for us to digitally integrate all of our events, and there’s a new tool and a new product every single day. So that’s a personality trait that I look for when it comes to hiring. I’m not looking at where you went to school or whether you have your master’s. It’s if, in that 30-minute conversation, you’re able to demonstrate curiosity.
DONOVAN: I think it depends on what industry you’re in. I’ve worked in the sports industry for most of my life and they would probably argue that an MBA is a necessity. Work for the NBA, it’s a necessity to get in the door and to do your job. It’s an accolade, in their opinion. Same thing with the NFL. I think that’s changing, though. Like in my organization, we traditionally hired MBAs for brand management roles and I’m part of this new wave of specialists that they’ve brought in and are training to become more well-rounded marketers. And they’re saying, you have eight years of practical experience, that’s kind of like eight years of boot camp. And so in some ways, I come in with a different advantage than my colleagues who come in with an MBA.
KEATING: If you’re in a complex sales and marketing organization, you need to know what you’re about to be going to market with and sometimes, having broader experience, whether a business degree or MBA, is helpful. I’m getting a lot of résumés from millennials and many of them think that just because they’re connected people that it supposedly makes them fantastic at a job right away. But I don’t know if you can write a business case for me. I don’t know if you can pull together a comprehensive look at our industry to see what pieces are correct for us to be looking at, because our consumers are so varied based on what product we’re trying to push at the time. So I don’t think an MBA is a necessity.
LAMBATOS: I also think it’s the culture we work in. Right now, anything goes and there is so much changing and there’s so much available. Take the Oreo commercial during the Super Bowl. I heard it was a well-orchestrated campaign, but a 23-year-old can walk in the door and come up with the next big idea that is going to blow your brand out of the water. And I’m a big believer—I work with young and old and you have to open that opportunity for a 23-year-old to come in and change your organization for the better.
AMY G: I think it’s that balance between book smarts and street smarts, right? Because with events, you really have to have the street smarts. You cannot execute if you don’t know how to grease the right people, get yourself into the right place at the right time and have the right staff. But you have to have the book smarts to be able to back that up with senior management and to be able to sell your product or pitch your product. I have my MBA and I think it’s helped me from a strategic thinking point of view and for being able to frame it to people who have that Ivy League background that have kind of come up through that traditional route. I’m able to bridge that in-between and say, “OK, you can trust me because I’ve got the street smarts, but here’s the business benefit for you,” and being able to back that up with the data and with the vernacular that they’re used to receiving.
MILLS: And shifting that depending on who your audience is. When you’re trying to sell in a concept, you also have to have the wherewithal to change the way you’re positioning that story based on who your internal audience is.
KERNER: And also be at the intersection of all the marketing disciplines. A good event marketer will always know where within that bigger campaign the event plays a role. And I think that’s one of the things that I push on my team a lot, is to understand the bigger marketing mix and what the event is doing in terms of impacting the bigger marketing objectives. If somebody really wants a robust career in marketing, I’d recommend they don’t go to events first. Do campaigns. Spend some time in advertising. Spend some time in p.r. See how it all fits together. Because you’ll still get to work on events. They’re all at the table, now.
EM: Talk about the nuances of earning respect as a woman in the event business. Do women need to act more like men, or is it OK to embrace your feminine side?
AMY G: I think you’ve got to own it. I remember when I was about to get married, I had a bunch of dealers ask me, “When’s your last day?” They thought I was retiring because I was getting married and I was like, “I’m not taking my brain out just because I’m getting married.” The same thing happened when I was having a kid. I think as women, we have to encourage other women to own that and not see ourselves as the pretty little chick at an auto show, there merely to entertain the men. Or, that you’ve got to strap on a pants suit. I’ve never felt like that was my way, to dress up in my Ford blue shirt and my Ford suit and go try and hang with all the men. I always felt like I’ve got to do it my way, and I’ve got to do it the way I feel comfortable—in my skin.
KEATING: It’s funny because a lot of women will say, “I don’t know how to act in the meeting. I can’t be that forward.” But we’re not supposed to go in and act like men. We’re all so damned afraid to be ourselves. I don’t really care to be like a man.
AMY G: I also think you have to know the game you’re playing, and if getting a seat at the table means you need to learn how to golf, then you’ve got to be willing to do that. My best meetings with my dealers were open air meetings–anytime I could get somebody out of the dealership and have a real conversation about what was really going on. Sometimes when you’re in a dealership, there’s all those pretenses about either your age or you’re a woman and I had both of those against me. It’s not like I’m the best golfer ever but… it goes back to that authentic self and knowing the game you’re in. If I didn’t like that game, then Ford and automotive wouldn’t be the right place for me.
KEATING: If more people acted the way in which they feel they are, and it’s authentic, then the way that women behave will be a lot more accepted. Business meetings would go very differently if every woman in the room decided, this is how I normally handle questions. I find more often than not that women will be someone different out of work than they would be at work, more than men. And I always find that so disconcerting.
KERNER: I think at the end of the day, you have to be authentic. You have to figure out what your strengths are and play to those, and you have to understand your weaknesses. You have to understand what you’re not great at, and be honest with yourself. Have that self awareness that these are the areas where you need to grow. I think it’s important to learn from others, but I think if it’s inauthentic, it’s going to come off that way and it will be a detriment to what you’re trying to do.
WANG: I call it my “game face.” I totally 100 percent agree that you have to be your authentic self, because if you’re not, people are going to see right through that. But there is an element of game face that you have to have. I am naturally very casual and I’ve learned to sort of tailor my speech in certain situations. Maybe I’ll speak slower with a deeper, louder voice to be heard, and you know, just phrasing things in a way that projects confidence. And it’s something I constantly have to work on. It’s not being inauthentic, but it’s more how can you be yourself in certain situations, where maybe yourself isn’t going to be as effective as you need it to be.
EM: What are some confidence boosters you use to get ready for that big meeting or to make sure you’re being heard in your job?
KEATING: I have a trick that my dad taught me for my first job. Whenever you’re sitting at the table and you’re about to say something and you don’t because you’re afraid, or if someone else says it after you and gets accolades, put a carrot stick in your notebook and keep one page just for that. And at the end of every week, count up how many carrot sticks you have. You start to realize how many times you should have opened your silly mouth. At the end of the week I realized I hadn’t spoken up 15 times. It’s just a trick to boost confidence, to know there were so many times you could’ve spoken and you would’ve been right, or you would’ve been seen as someone who was thinking the same as someone else.
AMY G: I put on my Beastie Boys Pandora station, roll all the windows down, bust it out and try to get my mind completely off of what I have to do. Just being really happy in the moment projects. When you are feeling it, when you are feeling like you’ve got your mojo going, everybody else feels it, too.
MILLS: That mojo comes from you actually knowing what you’re talking about. So, do what you love, know what you do, know what you don’t know, and own it when you don’t know. And certainly don’t fake it. I suffer from a lack of confidence really only when I haven’t given myself time to be ready, because I work for a company that I love and I do what I love doing. And I think that a lot of people who don’t have confidence are just not comfortable in their own skin yet. They haven’t found their mojo and that might be because they’re not at the right company, they’re not on the right team, they’re not doing the right job yet.
DONOVAN: I usually try to find something to make me laugh. I work for a Korean company; it’s a very intense environment. You don’t see many women in leadership in the environment that I work in, so I just try and bring humor before I go into a very stiff environment. And whether it’s a clip from “Seinfeld” or a video that I have of my daughter when she was one years old, laughing, I’ll just play that and it cracks me up so when I’m in an intense moment and someone questions something or doesn’t quite understand what I’m communicating to them, I just remember that laugh and I say, everything’s going to work out and be perfectly fine.
LAMBATOS: I think also, it’s important to be vulnerable. If you’re pitching or if you’re giving a presentation or if you’re in a tense situation, to show a little vulnerability I think helps, and even asking for help. People love helping people. It helps build confidence, it helps reassure you of what you’re doing and just shows a little humbleness.
KEATING: When you reveal that you don’t know something, you’re actually helping [your colleagues] build their confidence because they now have the ability to fill in those gaps for you.
ABBY G: I think there’s nothing like being prepared to make you feel like you’re ready to go. If you’ve anticipated the questions, have the answers to those questions, have practiced in the bathroom mirror or to someone who doesn’t understand anything you’re talking about and it kind of makes sense, you know how your presentation is going to go–I think it’s super helpful.
KERNER: I just heard Martin Short on an interview and he was talking about just that, how he’s apparently known for being super prepared. You think of comedy as being such a fluid kind of improvisational thing, but even when he goes on “Late Night with David Letterman,” he’s super prepared. And he said the nirvana is that you are so prepared that you never use the prepared material. Because you walk in that room with such confidence that you are focused enough to then take the conversation where it may be. That really sat with me. Because with events, things inevitably won’t go your way. But, if you feel like you did your homework, even if the questions aren’t on the test when you get there, you’re going to walk in there with that sense of self, that you can tackle the things that get thrown at you that you didn’t prepare for.
DAGGETT: And it will also give you that confidence that if there is a question you can’t get, you can say, “You know what? I need to get back to you on that,” versus trying to wing it, because they smell that.
FIESTER: I was getting ready to go into a meeting with several very, very senior executives to give them an overview of a big project I was working on, and my VP at the time said, “Just remember that you’re helping them.” Sometimes we have to feel like we have to defend what we’re doing, when often, we’re doing things that are for the good of the company. From a mindset [perspective], I am helping the company and I am helping all of you. That’s such a positive way of framing it for me, that I walked in there with a lot more confidence. I bring that with me every time I go into a meeting.
DAGGETT: What you said reminded me of one of the first people that I supported at Microsoft when he had to do a presentation to Bill Gates. You know when you hand something out, what do the people do in the room? They start flipping through. And he just learned to go at his pace. And I think as women, we’ll often be waiting for the cue, like, “Are you ready to go to the next slide?” versus commanding the slide. And I was so amazed watching what he did, because Bill would still be on slide one and he’d be on slide three. But then he’d catch up. He was really successful with getting what he wanted because he wasn’t waiting for permission to move through his own material. It’s hard, but I think the confidence plays into that.
NGO: On our team, we have this rule where you don’t email between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. because that’s family time and everyone needs time to recharge. If you slip and you send an email at 7, that’s fine, you just expect that the other person is not going to answer. I think in my early 20s, I had a very hard time with work-life balance. And I think that I was oftentimes not very happy day-to-day in my role. Now that I have those boundaries, I can focus on my personal life. My fiancé and I put our phones in another room and we’ll have dinner together and we just talk. When I’m in the office, I’m there 100 percent. There’s always going to be exceptions, like right before the Super Bowl for us is crazy. But other than that, I would say, 10 months out of the year, I try to live by that rule.
KEATING: Jessica Igoe, who’s now with Google, said, “I don’t see work-life balance. I see work-life prioritization.” I think that’s so true. I don’t try to balance my life. That’s ridiculous. I’m never going to have 50/50 and that’s what balance means. Sometimes, at 6:30, I have to be focused on work and that just has to be my priority for the moment. And then an hour later, my priority might shift where I’m able to give my full attention to my children. Rather than try to find this balance, which you can make yourself nuts doing, I just realized there are some times when your priorities have to shift. Taking that approach throughout the day was a life changer.
AMY G: I agree. I think balance is a horrible word for it. For me it’s more of a juggling act—being able to really be present in the moment, wherever that moment is. So, if I’m in a meeting at work, I’m present 100 percent at work, and my team knows I’m 100 percent there and they’ve got my full attention. And then if I’m at home, my kids know the same thing. If it’s Lego night or pizza and movie night, I am in it hardcore. I’m down on the ground building Batman’s cave. I think it’s about being able to make that shift and not feeling like you have to be everything to everyone.
MILLS: Your work-life “fill-in-the-blank” is 100 percent up to you, period. And it’s the way that you position it and how you handle it and how you manage it that sets you apart from everybody else. I wouldn’t find success with having really strict boundaries and over-operationalizing it.
LAMBATOS: If you were to ask my team how Stacy’s work-life balance is, they would say I have none. But my view on it is, I’ve worked my butt off for 10 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the work experiences and opportunities that I’ve been afforded because of the hard work and because of my dedication have been exponentially to my benefit, and I’m really, really happy with my life and my career. I love working and I love the people I work with, I adore my team and I think, as a leader, something that I’m learning is to encourage balance on everyone else and not have them look at me and think, this is how she works, so this is how I have to work as well. I have a mom on my team and she works from home on Friday. We have an amazing relationship and it works for everyone.
ABBY G: I think in terms of work-life balance, you have to stay in your own lane of traffic. What’s good for me is probably not exactly what’s good for you. And if someone on my team is leaving every day at 5:00, that does not necessarily mean you should also leave every day at 5:00. It evolves and changes and you have to work super closely with your team and your manager to work something out that’s right for you. You have to surround yourself with people you trust, people who have your back, a team that supports you, because everyone’s going to have ups and downs and changing needs. If you’re going to go get a mani/pedi at three, I’m in support of that if you don’t have a big show the next day. Be really smart about what you’re asking for and direct in what you’re asking for and I think, assuming that you’re working for good people and you’re well intentioned, it will work out.
DAGGETT: I agree, you have to own it. When I’ve complained about work/life balance, it’s because I didn’t own it. I felt like I had to have somebody give it to me and ask permission. I actually had to change companies to do that because sometimes you set yourself down a path and you can’t just shift easily. Now, as long as I’m getting my job done and I know that I need to get my job done, that’s all I can expect of my people. So, the 3:00 manicure is OK because I know the work’s going to get done.
FIESTER: There’s a video I watched from Marissa Mayer years ago called “Find Your Rhythm.” And it’s all about identifying what’s important to you for balance, because it’s true—you need to make your own boundaries. So for me, it’s Friday nights. I have really intense weeks. I have a three year old. I’m pregnant right now, so my brain is not functioning at full capacity. But Friday night is my family night. My husband and my daughter, we always go out for dinner. I want to be out of the office by four. And if somebody is asking me to stay late, it’s really upsetting to me. And I have people on my team that have to go to their Soul Cycle class every Wednesday at 5:00, or their weekly therapy session. Whatever they are, we do it together as a team so everyone knows and respects everyone else’s rhythms, and then tries to help them accommodate them.
WANG: I also think that the level of understanding might come because when you’re working at events and you’re on-site, you spend so much time with these people, across different phases of event work. There’s the bag stuffing and there’s the greeting and then there’s the walkies. And there’s the airports, and just advancing. And so, you get to see people in so many different dimensions. And I feel like the relationships that you develop with the people you work with are way deeper than in other parts of the company. It’s the nature of this work and what you do with these people.
KERNER: For our team, because we work such crazy hours and we travel a lot and it’s intense, the times when you aren’t in that mode tend to be really flexible. I don’t care if anyone on my team works from home or when they come in. There’s no clock checking when people are in and out because everyone respects that if you’re not crazy busy, it’s your downtime until you’re crazy busy again. You’re not slacking. You’re catching a few deep breaths before you go into the crazy again. And I think that a lot of people that choose this as a profession thrive on that. We thrive on the adrenaline rush and then take advantage of the flexibility and then look forward to the next big one.
DAGGETT: And I think there’s something there, too, about the company culture. Because, the people who have stunned me the most about being flexible on a work-life balance are men. I’ve had two managers, both men with no kids, that I’ve thought couldn’t possibly appreciate family or having a work-life balance, and they have been great. And so, I think there’s something culturally there that happens within the company.
EM: What tips and advice can you offer women who are just starting out or who may be coming from another industry into this one?
HARDAWAY: Be resourceful. I don’t think everyone is expected to know everything, but to be able to find out the things you don’t know or to find people who have the skills or the talent or the knowledge that you lack is really important because then you’re able to get to the point where you have the team and the event that you had conceived of originally. And if you’re not getting the answers you need or the type or the quality of work you want, just go find it.
AMY G: One of the things that I wish that I had more growing up in the industry was women mentors. I think it really has helped keep me encouraged and to be comfortable in my own skin as a woman. I didn’t find that confidence until I got more into my career and embraced the “woman-ness” that I am, and that I didn’t have to do it like all the men. That I could just do it my own way and still be as happy and successful.
PAM DZIERZANOSKI: Take more risks. I think just in general, you’re going to make the biggest impact with the biggest risks. I think I played it safe a lot when I was young, especially coming from the agency side—live events are so scary as it is, there’s so many different things that can go wrong, that it’s really a lot more comfortable to play it safe and kind of stick with the model you know. But now that I’m not doing that as much anymore, it’s a lot more fulfilling and the impact is a lot greater, so I wish I would’ve done that earlier.
LICKLITER: I’ve definitely learned that you need to ask for things. And I think that for a long time in my career, I was waiting to be rewarded for the work I was doing, instead of being proactive about having a discussion about what I’d accomplished and how that was going to take me to the next level.
KERNER: I would ask more questions because I think what I’ve learned is if I don’t understand something, probably the chances are a lot of people at that table don’t understand it either. So, to be more inquisitive. There are so many times when I’m like, “Actually, I don’t understand.” And I see relief in the room because, it’s OK to not get it. You’re showing them that you really do want to meet their objectives, so I really need to understand them. Also, there were a lot of times where I would think the right answer but not say it. And then, somebody else would say it and I’d think, “I had the right answer.” I think it was a confidence thing.
I also wish I knew that you can feel passionate about what you’re doing without taking decisions personally. I still feel really strongly about things, but now it’s “just business.”
DAGGETT: I think I have that conversation about business versus personal a lot with my directs because when it’s your career, you think that way. And that if somebody gives you feedback when you’re young, it can be devastating. But if you can take it from a perspective of somebody’s maybe trying to make you better, that’s good.
The other thing that I think I wish I would’ve known is the difference between “all this stuff that you got done” versus impact. I don’t know if it’s a women versus a men thing. There’s that example where a guy will look at a job description and not really be able to do half of it, but still goes in and says, “I can do all of this stuff.” Whereas, a woman will think, “I’m 80 percent confident I can do that.” And then, that 80 percent confidence comes through. But, focusing on impact and the output of what you did versus the tasks is something that I would have liked to have thought about in terms of my own career.
WANG: Be mindful that perception is so important to having presence. When you’re younger, you’re less confident. And I think especially being a young woman, you are a little bit tentative. But people form perceptions of you almost immediately. And it’s hard to get them to break that initial perception that you’re not someone that speaks up or you’re not assertive. They can perceive you as someone who can be walked on or taken advantage of, or someone who can’t be entrusted with a big project or a big budget. Defining how you want people to perceive you and not being afraid to be that way, I think will help.
EM: Some theories suggest women don’t make as much as men because they don’t ask for raises and promotions. What advice do you have for women in this industry?
VICTORIA PETERSEN: Men will always negotiate, so women should always negotiate, too. If you don’t negotiate, you are cutting yourself short. You have to always be fair and find the market rate of whatever job it is that you’re applying for, but then you also have to prove out your experience and why that is valuable to the employer.
WANG: Equally as important as knowing how to do it is knowing when to do it. Every time you switch jobs, that’s your greatest point of leverage, because you can say, “This is my expectation.” And you can do that more effectively the more data that you have. I have a group of women that gets together and we just talk about those kinds of things and we arm ourselves with data so that we know, it’s not just an arbitrary number that you throw out, but it’s one that’s rooted in some sort of market data.
NGO: I admire when women within my organization pat themselves on the back. The women that I’ve worked for, who are mentors to me, have demonstrated how you can pat yourself on the back, you can have a seat at the board table, but still be gracious to everybody, and pay it forward, because they also had great mentors as well.
KERNER: You have to take ownership of your own career advancement. And I think there’s a segment of folks that are waiting for the manager to tell them what the next move is. It’s your job to tell me what you want. And I’m here to listen and to help you make that happen, if we can, but I’m not a mind reader.
DAGGETT: The people that get that opportunity or take that opportunity can look across the landscape and see where it is. And that’s what I love. When they can say, “You know what? There’s this issue over here, and I want to try and solve it.” I think in our culture at Microsoft, the people that are successful are the ones that can see that and do that.
WANG: It’s knowing that the expectation is, you have to meet expectations. And you have to ask or observe, what does exceeding that expectation mean now and in the future? And who are those people that you think are doing that? And try to emulate those people. You have to be proactive. You have to be assertive. You have to be aggressive, not in a bad sort of connotation of the word, but be go-getters of your own career.