106: Lessons Learned; 10 Years in Tech

Carrie Birge is a former museum professional turned tech worker who spends her free time exploring the great state of Indiana, volunteering, enjoying the outdoors, and raising two mediocre cats. She is a featured columnist in the #1 ranked fan-run hockey paper in the NHL and an avid karaoke singer. In retrospect, she's probably more of an Amy March than a Jo March.

Stephanie Williamson is a Director of Marketing Cloud Solutions Engineering Operations at Salesforce. She leads a team of eight phenomenal proposal writers and manages special projects that support the Solutions Engineering Operations Team. She celebrated her ten year anniversary with Salesorce in March. Stephanie has a passion for mentoring, volunteering and being involved in the Indianapolis community. She currently serves on the leadership committee for Salesforce Lean In Circles and has been an active mentor with Starfish.

Looking back at my ten years in the tech industry, I have faced a lot of challenges that have given me a long laundry list of “lessons learned.”  If I had to pick the top three that have defined my career, they would be take risks, be your own advocate and get involved. I hope sharing some of my experiences will help other women in the tech world.

Lesson 1 – Don’t be afraid to take risks.

I haven’t always been in the tech world. I actually came from a marketing background and was working at a pharmaceutical recruiting company when I took the leap to work at ExactTarget. At the time, I took a pretty significant pay cut to change industries. A lot of my family and friends thought I was crazy for moving industries and taking a step back in my career. Looking back now, it was the best decision I ever made. I would never be where I am at now or have had such career opportunities if I would not have made the jump into the tech world. I spent a lot of time outweighing the pros and the cons, followed my heart, and was confident that my work ethic and eagerness to learn would help me to prove myself quickly.

I have also been given a couple of opportunities that have been instrumental in my career, but were huge risks for me personally. A mentor of mine recommended me for a position (ExactTarget at the time) helping with our expansion into Tokyo. I had a degree in International Business and had always wanted to use my skill sets, but had not had the opportunity to do so. I remember looking at the job description and thinking to myself “there is no way I can do this job, I don’t meet some of the requirements.” That negative self-talk almost prevented me from applying. I stepped back and leaned on my mentors who reassured me I was more than qualified and so I applied.  I ended up taking the job and, to this day, it was one of the most unique and challenging work experiences of my life. It was a huge step out of my comfort zone to take the role, but it has been one of my biggest accomplishments.

Lesson 2 – Be Your Own Biggest Advocate

I learned a long time ago that the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, and be an advocate for myself and other women in the community. I used to be very shy and leery of promoting my accomplishments. As a woman, I think there is often the perception that we come across “bragging,” as opposed to when men share their accomplishments.

For a long time, I held back sharing my successes until I got smart! A mentor once gave me the advice to document and always have a running “brag book” of my accomplishments. Creating this really changed my career. Every time I get an award, nice email, or praise, I document it immediately. I remember asking for my first promotion to Senior Marketing Consultant and it was honestly a breeze because I had pages of documentation to back up my ask. It was a no-brainer for my boss to promote me. If you don’t have the documentation to back up your ask, it is a much more challenging conversation.

Do not be afraid to share your accomplishments with your peers, boss and connections on social media. I feel as women we hold back on this and you should be promoting your successes!

Lesson 3 – Get Involved

The tech world is all about connections. I have always set a goal for myself to meet three new people in the tech community a year. I also am a firm believer in giving back to the community and becoming involved. Pick an organization you are passionate about and aligns with your strengths. You will meet mentors and build your personal brand, both within your company and outside of your normal work environment.