Women in Tech Share Their Stories Ahead of April 7 #GirlMeToo Day

Over the past year, the #MeToo has gained momentum around the world as a rallying cry for women. This year, on April 7th, women around the country will celebrate #NationalGirlMeTooDay or #GirlMeToo. The day is meant to break down divisions among women of all walks of life and remind them that they all carry similar burdens and struggles.

In the tech world, the idea of having a ‘seat at the table’ and being visible are more important than ever. In honor of the day, here’s a Q&A with the top three female executives at Alfresco. Alfresco is the leading enterprise open-source provider of process automation, content management, and information governance software in Silicon Valley.

 

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Answer from Sydney Sloan, CMO: My childhood instilled the values of having a strong work ethic and having empathy for others. Until I was about 16 years old, I grew up and lived on a working farm. I would wake up every morning at 5 am to feed and check on the cows. From there, I would attend early basketball practice before school. After school, I’d come home and still complete additional chores on the farm.

These experiences shaped me and, eventually, my career. I’ve never been afraid of working hard – it’s not just about being a leader on a team, but inspiring others through hard work and dedication. Sometimes, that means rolling up your sleeves and putting in the long hours to get everything done. The best leaders are always available to their team, regardless of the situation, to help coach and guide them.

 

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Alfresco?

Answer from Sydney Sloan: I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different marketing roles over the years, both at smaller companies and large, public companies before Alfresco. For example, I spent 15 years at Adobe. In that time span, I moved around quite a few different positions, which helped me to apply those skills across different markets and buyers. After Adobe, I spent time at two smaller companies, where I continued honing in on my leadership skills. I’ve enjoyed these interchangeable roles. Having a C-level title doesn’t mean you should avoid getting your hands ‘dirty’ with the details. For instance, the other night, I was up writing marketing email copy – not something that’s necessarily part of my daily job description. You have to just be willing to chip in where needed, to get things done.

 

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Alfresco?

Answer from Andrea Lagan, Chief Customer Officer: I’ve come to realize that the career challenges are really also the highlights. A few years ago, our support team was struggling a bit and, as a result, we had a poor customer retention rate. My goal was to help our CEO steer the company and our customer team in a new direction. We have since completely transformed the customer experience, across every level of the organization. We’ve focused on the full customer journey: assessing each step of the way how we can help customers operationalize their digital roadmap goals.

I live by the philosophy of rarely saying “no” to challenges. That approach led early on to being exposed to nearly every functional area of business.  I started as a receptionist, then moved into what was a sales administrative role. Then I spent several years doing contracts, as well as time in operations (both in the front and back office). I lived in the support and services world. These experiences helped me understand how every function of the business impacts the success of the customer.

 

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

Answer from Andrea Lagan: My advice to women, regardless of your industry or role, is to turn your doubts into opportunities. The other week, I had a conversation with someone who’s fairly new to management and has been struggling with her self-confidence. In my opinion, that lack of self-confidence was unwarranted. I encouraged her to start looking more for small wins – such as how she successfully handles sticky situations – to ‘congratulate’ herself on. No one else needs to know.

The early days will always be a challenge. Turn your doubts into strengths.

Acknowledging and congratulating yourself for your successes is a confidence-booster.

 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Answer from Berny Nixon, Chief Revenue Officer: The law of the jungle – as Rudyard Kipling wrote – is that ‘the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.’ In order for a team to be strong, it needs a strong leader. At the same time, while you’ll lead from the front and always think ahead, you need to stay mindful that you aren’t running too far ahead and leaving people behind. For example, I’ve seen a lot of women in business think that they have to be overtly strong and forceful to get results. Going this route can risk losing the goodwill of the ‘wolf pack’ – which defeats the purpose of being a leader.

Ultimately, self-awareness and emotional intelligence (EQ) trumps IQ for leaders. It’s important to find balance through communication, and identifying ways to help your team become invested in their work. If you lack EQ, your team will not be as invested in the organization’s success.

 

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Answer from Berny Nixon: I don’t think there’s one right way to achieve work/life balance – it’s about integrating these two in a way that works for you personally.  For instance, our company was founded in the UK – where I live – and a good majority of our work is done in Europe. However, our CEO and our headquarters are in Silicon Valley. Working in both the European and U.S. market means it’s easy to get sucked into working late into the night. What works for me is to set priorities – and let people clearly know when I am (or am not) available. My teams know that although I’m traveling, I can make time for them with the right notice. Of course, when I’m on vacation, I do unplug. I love to sail, and when I go boating this summer, you’re not going to be able to reach me for a few days.

 

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Answer from Andrea Lagan: What I admire about any leader, is her or his ability to engage with whomever they are talking to, irrespective of role, title or gender. There are very few people that have this skill. My colleague, Berny, is the first to come to mind. In any conversation, she can guide it to an outcome that is productive and beneficial for every single person involved.

 

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