Thanks to platforms like Meetup, there are networking groups for practically every interest and skill, from basket weaving to Python coding. However, when Katrina London, AE at Chorus.ai, was looking for a seemingly self-evident group--a network of Bay Area women in tech sales--there was none to be found. While networking groups for female professionals are cropping up more and more, there are still noticeable gaps in the groups currently available to women.
The first step in addressing this, of course, is to be the change we wish to see. Katrina established the Bay Area Women in Tech Sales group and organized its inaugural meeting at the Optimizely HQ in downtown San Francisco on March 21st, 2019.
A crowd of over sixty women (and a few awesome men) gathered to hear seasoned perspectives on ‘How To Be Successful As a Woman in Sales’ from four women: Kate Nichol, Senior Manager of Success Programs at Optimizely; Emily Garza, Director of Account Management at Fastly; Paige Powers, Vice President of Corporate Sales at Mapbox; and Amanda Kahlow, 6sense Founder and Chief Strategy Officer.
So, what was their advice for other women in sales to be successful? Among the numerous nuggets of wisdom were:
- Don’t be a “Team Mom.”
- Bring your authentic self to work.
- Forget mentorship, ask for sponsorship.
- Deliberately choose diversity.
The ensuing conversations were both refreshing and surprising because the council was paradoxical: both resist the harmful stereotypes of women while embracing certain aspects of them.
Don’t Be a “Team Mom”
Let’s start with don’t be a “Team Mom.” In this case, Team Mom is used to describe someone whose role is mostly to support a team in a logistical and administrative way.
Team Moms do not challenge other teammates’ ways of thinking or decisions; they do not make tough calls; they are not instrumental in creating the strategic vision for the group.
While supporting roles are crucial to the efficacy of teams, it makes sense these particular descriptors would be of little use to advancing a career in sales.
Bring Your Authentic Self to Work
Although Team Mom is an archetype to be careful of, the panelists remind us to not throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to steering clear of gender-specific stereotypes. What of emotional intuition, creativity, the maternal need to care for another?
The panelists point out how invaluable these skills are--both as a salesperson and as a working professional. In addition to these skills’ intrinsic value, women should bring their full authentic selves to work for the sake of adding diversity of strength to the workplace.
Deliberately Choose Diversity
Just as a diversity flourishes in an ecosystem, an array of talents enhances the fortitude of the whole group. For this reason, the panelists recommended that women don’t try to muffle traits simply because they seem too feminine. In fact, the panelists discussed the importance of thinking more broadly about how seemingly irrelevant skills could be transferable to the workplace.
Women can certainly help each other figure out how to be successful in sales, but women and men do not work in separate vacuums. So how can men and women work better together?
Forget Mentorship, Ask for Sponsorship
Kate Nichol, Senior Manager of Success Programs at Optimzely, pointed to asking for a sponsor rather than a mentor. Mentors advise on what to do and how best to do it; sponsors stick their necks out to create opportunities for people they believe in.
Kate’s advice was simple and poignant; ask men to be sponsors rather than mentors. This approach is an empowering maneuver because it asks men to help create the space for women to succeed while giving them the voucher to get there.
One of the men in the audience eloquently echoed this advice and added that male co-workers are often aligned with being sponsors.
Amanda Khalow, 6sense Founder, built on the sponsor idea by describing a time during her CEO tenure when new leadership needed to be selected for her company, and she decided this person needed to be a woman.
Waiting for the perfect candidate is not an expeditious route, so naturally it met with a certain degree of pushback. Amanda was steadfast in her decision, and in this instance asked her male colleagues to be sponsors for her vision. They ended up hiring a woman, and to this day are champions of diversity in the tech space.
With each candid, practical conversation with both men and women such as this one, the scales of social justice become a little more balanced. We believe we are seeing change happen before our very eyes.
To see for yourself, please check out the next Bay Area Women in Tech Sales conversation.
See you there!