Women in Tech: Tenacity Is the Key to Success
As a woman in tech, I’ve had to forge my own path to success. And now, as Quantcast’s VP of Product, I want to use my experience to encourage other women to create their own opportunities, be tenacious and outspoken, and leverage camaraderie and cooperation to achieve their career goals.
Growing up, I got a lot of the training that I needed to survive this path. I was the only girl on both sides of my family, surrounded by brothers and male cousins, and mostly boys on my street, so I learned how to throw a football better and peddle faster than anyone else in my neighborhood. And, more importantly, I learned how to take hits. I didn’t realize it then, but that upbringing set me up for what I was going to experience as a woman navigating the male-dominated product and engineering worlds.
Create Your Own Opportunities
Success wasn’t handed to me. I paid my own way through college, working three jobs, including a position as a lab manager at a newspaper. I knew a lot about the burgeoning digital photography world, so leveraging my photojournalism school background and experiences in computers and coding as a hobby, I helped take The Gainesville Sun from printing photos to doing everything digitally. I helped convert the photo department from darkroom to fully operational digital lab with automated negative scanning and archiving systems. Later, when they heard about this whole world wide web thing, they naturally turned to me and the two other “kids” in the newsroom to ask us to build them a website. And that is how I got into digital.
A few years later, when I was working for the Miami Herald, I got invited to a leadership conference at Knight Ridder corporate, a media company based in San Jose, California, and came prepared with a proposal. Based on something none of them had heard of – the semantic web – I devised an idea for producing multiple city guides without any human interaction. Taking all the content coming from the newspapers, we could automatically categorize it and simply hit a button and publish it. Seeing that these city guides would provide a new content and revenue stream, they offered me the first product manager role for the newly formed KnightRidder.com. I created my own opportunity merely by taking what I had learned in my youth and applying it.
Be Tenacious and Outspoken
As the media and newspaper world started to decline, I transitioned to the tech industry to try my hand at Silicon Valley start-ups, but I felt like an outsider for multiple reasons: I was a woman; I was gay; and I had a really thick Southern accent. All three of those things were viewed as “less than” in the valley. While I was able to tone down my accent by slowing my speech and learning how to talk as a Californian, I am still a lesbian in tech. I am proud of my identity, so rather than change myself to conform, I used my position to challenge perceptions.
I know what it’s like to look around and not see other women, but that is an opportunity to be a trailblazer. Based on my own experience, I would offer this advice to the younger generation of women: tenacity is the key to success. Never be afraid to speak up and put your ideas forward. Be confident in who you are. Keep pushing hard and try until you make it. And don’t ask. Apologize later, but only if you actually get something wrong.
Leverage Camaraderie and Cooperation
Often tech is a battle of the egos where everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room, making it nearly impossible to accomplish anything as a group. But I love working for Quantcast because its vision and employees promote inclusivity. Quantcast’s mission is to ensure that the free and open internet remains free and open to everyone, and to achieve this goal, we work together with a sense of camaraderie and cooperation, tenaciously. I am surrounded by incredibly smart people who understand that we need to work together to solve problems and achieve our goals. As a result, we gain the velocity needed to solve customer problems and deliver a solid product, faster and better than we would otherwise.
But to spark widespread change, we need to encourage camaraderie and cooperation between women. My advice is to find female mentors within your organization who will share their stories and advise you on your career. And as you work your way up in your organization, pay it forward by mentoring other women, so we can continue to grow the number of women in tech, engineering, and product. Speak up for each other and make space for each other to speak. Be visible.
On International Women’s Day, encourage other women to join the tech industry because together we can create change, open doors, and make a difference – for ourselves and others.
Interested in Learning More?
We’ll be celebrating Women’s History Month throughout March through internal development workshops, and we’ll be highlighting more of our strong women Quantcasters here on the blog and on our social media channels. You can learn about some of the women leaders at Quantcast and how they #ChooseToChallenge also on the blog.