Back 4 Top Tips for Women in IT: Harnessing Your Differences to Excel
Succeeding in technology consulting obviously takes a lot of hard work, but I want to offer a few top tips from my two decades in the sector as a woman with an atypical personality type. In short, my advice is to: tackle imposter syndrome by surrounding yourself with the right team; lead authentically; ensure you're comfortable with the core competencies of your role; and, adapt your personal style when necessary. Let’s unpack each of these in turn.
Like many, I have occasionally succumbed to imposter syndrome. I feel this isn't entirely a bad thing, as it tends to drive you to do your best and demonstrate your value. As the scope of your role expands however, it will inevitably encompass too many topics for any single person to truly be a subject matter expert in all of them.
The game-changer is accepting that no one is expecting you to be amazing at everything. Great leadership involves being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and building a team around you that compensates for your weak points whilst amplifying your strengths. It took me years to grow comfortable with letting go and fully delegating some aspects of my roles but, once I did so, this epiphany led to a step-change in my performance.
Whilst particularly in the earlier stages of my career, I often felt imposter syndrome due to the vast breadth and depth of some other experts in the room, nowadays I always make it a priority to surround myself with the team I need to succeed. Though it's always important to have a solid grasp of the fundamentals, I am comfortable knowing that I will build a team that covers the details allowing me to keep my focus where it’s needed in terms of overall strategy, methodology, commercial framework, management, and relationships.
With the right team in place, the next step is to have faith in your own authentic leadership style, and eschew unhelpful stereotypes. More than ever, we now understand the vast benefits of diverse and inclusive practices – this applies to leadership too! Leadership cliches, such as being an alpha, beta, etc., grossly over-simplify and ignore the fact that a diversity of approaches is best. My Myers-Briggs profile sets me apart from the majority of my colleagues, which again was disconcerting in my early career. I have increasingly found, however, that my approach is actually a huge benefit. It helps me to think differently than my peers, and enables me to see approaches that others couldn't (or wouldn't).
That said, when it comes to skills and personality, it is also important to have some tools in your kit if you need them. To progress, you need to be highly competent with the fundamentals. For example, a core competency you must develop is a thorough understanding of, and conversational comfort with, the financial KPIs that are the drivers of your business. No leader should delegate core competencies and expertise that allow them to make the right decisions in their roles.
When it comes to personal styles, I'm generally known for taking a diplomatic approach, but that doesn't mean I don't have the ability to play the "bad cop" or adjust my preferred behaviour when the situation requires it. For example, even if you're more of an introvert, that doesn't mean you can stay silent and off-camera during important meetings. It’s crucial to develop an instinct for those special cases where you need to adapt to the circumstances.
Did these ideas for how to harness your differences to be a better leader resonate with you? Please let me know what you think in the comments!