Holly Justice: Thoughts on Advancing the Careers of Women in Technology
The road we travel as women working in technology is not always going be a smooth ride. It’s like riding a mountain bike on a rough trail.
Let’s build our endurance by finding and using mentors along the way!
What do Mentors Do?
A mentor is someone who provides help and advice to a less experienced person. Mentors come in all flavors. My mentors are male and female, older and younger.
The common thread is all my mentors have some experience I lack, and they push me at the right times to keep going.
Finding Informal Mentors
To find an informal mentor, go out of your way to meet people, pay attention and follow up. You can find informal mentors in several places:
- In the workplace.
- Where you learn.
- In professional communities.
I have worked on very supportive teams. Certain bosses pushed me to take on the tough projects. Positive co-workers gave me solid advice. Look for the right place to work that supports women. If you are in a bad situation, don’t quit your career. Find a better workplace.
Look for mentors where you learn. Pay attention to your fellow students and instructors. Look for communities that support learning. For example, you can learn a lot about Puppet Labs products by attending the online courses. However you can find potential mentors by taking an evening to participate in a Puppet User Group. Steer off the straight trail and into those learning communities!
Look for mentors in professional organizations. Use LinkedIn to find men and women you admire locally and check out which professional organizations they belong to. Use local Meet Up groups to meet people in your profession. Participate in global Twitter chats. By discussing your work or tools online and in person, you will be inspired to keep moving on your career path. You will be back on the bike again!
Once you find a potential mentor, be sure to do some screening. Not everyone is an ideal mentor. Be sure to mention one or two specific projects you are working on. This is often called Micro Mentoring.
When to Use Your Mentors
Use your mentor when you need help. Imagine you just fell off the bike. Or the fog came in and you can’t see the road ahead. Don’t quit.
You are not alone on this path. Ask for help! When asking your mentor a question:
- Research the problem first so you ask intelligent questions.
- Stop and listen to what they are saying. Be respectful. Take your hands off the keyboard or phone!
- Reflect. The advice may not be what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. You will gain more insight in an hour or two or the next day.
Having a successful career in technology will require some sacrifices. My path has not been easy, but my mentors have been there to push me to do what I needed to do.
I would like to see the statistics change. To me women are just as capable as men in science, engineering or software design jobs. So find your mentor, get on that bike and move ahead!
Graphics by Patrick Coan, Guild of Build
Special Thanks to Creators of the ‘Advancing the Careers of Women in Technology’ Event:
For more information see:
- Harvard Business Review: Find a Micro Mentor for Your Next Short Term Project
- CAREEREALISM, Because Every Job is Temporary: 7 Sacrifices You Need to Make to Advance Your Career by Georgina Stewart