How to Become a VP: 6 Tips from Women Who Have Done It
In politics, the vice president is a strategic partner and back-up to the country's leader. In business, the VP role is similar (though comes with no access to Air Force Two). VPs are high-level managers who oversee departments or functional units and work closely with company CEOs and presidents to help set corporate strategy across the business.
Sound intriguing? If one of your career goals to become a VP, know that there's no linear path and no national election to get there. You'll need to actively manage your career to secure the right experiences, opportunities, and relationships you need to succeed in a VP role.
To help you do that, we spoke with ten women who've reached the VP level and asked them to tell us their stories and pass on their most valuable advice. Here's what they want you to know:
1. Build a wide base of skills.
The single most-repeated piece of advice from all of the VPs we talked to? Diversify what you bring to the table.
Being great at one thing—say, writing code or marketing products—might be the most important success factor in an individual contributor role. But to have a shot at the VP level, you need to expand your skill set.
"Having a breadth of skills becomes more important as our careers progress," says Susanna Holt, VP of Forge, software company Autodesk's platform business. "Make sure you acquire varied skills, and that people know you have those."
And don't be afraid to leave old skills behind as you acquire new ones, says Megan Hansen, Vice President of People at Smartsheet: "At every key step-change in leadership, you need to show up differently, and that means letting go of things you are probably pretty good at in order to learn new skills. It can be uncomfortable, but if you continue to do what you did to get promoted to a Director role, you will not be showing your capacity for what comes next."
Bridget Kimball, VP & Chief Architect of Intuit's Consumer Group, explains how you'll draw on this knowledge in higher-level roles. "As you advance, your ability to see the big picture is more important than deep knowledge," she says. "You can't be an expert in everything, so pick the areas that you want to invest deeply in and learn enough about the rest to be able to contribute and leverage the strengths of others."
That means that in the beginning and middle of your career, don't be afraid to take opportunities in other functional areas, even if that means making a lateral versus a linear move, says Vicki Muscarella, VP of Engineering and Data within the Specialty Pharma business unit at CoverMyMeds. "I believe there is an advantage to becoming more of a generalist, and I believe that individuals who have the largest impact are T-shaped in experience and knowledge. Breadth, especially for a leader, brings a lot to the table and oftentimes will lead to opportunity. Diversity in background is a real advantage," she says.
And if you're wondering what kind of skills these VPs are talking about, Pam Dodrill, VP of Customer Support and Success at Zapier, has some examples for you. "Are your presentation skills ready for external audiences and large internal audiences? Are you able to show you can get strategic initiatives up and running with cross-functional teams? If you're responsible for revenue, did you meet your goal and also contribute in meaningful ways to help your teammates achieve their goals? If you're not sure, or if the answer is 'no,' then it's essential to find a way to work on those skills," she says.
2. Start thinking about your impact in terms of “how” vs. “what.”
Beyond racking up skills and experience, you'll also need to change the way you drive change at your company. Ashley Karr, VP of B2B Marketing at CarGurus, explains what that looks like:
"When you're early in your career, you're often evaluated on the 'what' of your job, in terms of the results. In my world, the 'what' could be the impact of the campaigns you're delivering on revenue. However, as you move up from a manager to a director and then to VP, it's less of the 'what' and more of the 'how' you're delivering those results. Are you able to influence the decisions of other departments to get them to resource your projects? Are you able to change behavior of other teams in order to deliver better results or change the way you operate? It's a different set of skills that are less visible and concrete, but super critical to the impact you have on an organization."
In order to have the energy and perspective to make that impact, Susan Billingsley, Vice President of Global Marketing at predictive analytics company <intent>, notes how important it is to set boundaries around your responsibilities. "You cannot be a strategic leader when you're constantly reacting from the weeds," she says. A good way to start practicing that strategic thinking? "Anticipate the needs of those around you. You need to understand the long- and short-term needs of the businesses, but you also need to understand how your role and your specific day-to-day actions impact other function leads and leadership, and their ability to do their jobs. People like to work (and promote) those who perform their function well in a way that makes the whole machine better, faster, and stronger. As with anything else, it's not just about you."
3. Don’t assume your managers know you want to become a VP—tell them so yourself.
Women are paid less, promoted less, and have less career satisfaction than men; even at companies with high-profile mentoring programs ostensibly meant to even the playing field for women, men still get 15% more promotions, says a HBS study.
That's why it's vital that women advocate for themselves versus waiting to be noticed and rewarded when it comes to moving up in their company.
As Carolyn Guss, VP of Corporate Marketing at PagerDuty explains, you need to find opportunities to be heard. "This is an easy thing to say but can be hard to do. Remember, you are the most experienced person in the room in your specific role. So be sure to listen to the viewpoints of others, but then speak up and share your own. Don't wait to be asked."
Holt experienced this challenge—advocating for herself— first hand. "I spent many years as an engineer, and then as an engineering manager, before becoming a director and subsequently a VP. I might have progressed faster if I had shown the confidence to ask for opportunities early on," says Holt of her experience climbing the ladder.
And Hansen encourages women to start advocating long before they're ready for the promotion: "Talk to your leader about your desired path. Don't assume that they know. Don't wait until you are ready for the role. Do it now and enroll them on the path with you."
Dana Robinson, VP of Content at streetwear marketplace StockX, suggests women offer to take on projects across the company to show they're serious about stepping up. "I coach women to take big swings that might be outside of the scope or purview of their current role (and comfort zone!) and then use those big swing successes to drive the conversation around growth within the organization. It's important to remember that nobody is sitting in a room waiting for the right moment to promote you; it's on you to convince them that you're worthy of it," she says.
Katy Cockrel, also a VP at StockX, echoes this advice: "Women are often hesitant to make the case for themselves when it comes to things like pay parity and equity of advancement opportunities. It is imperative that you strategically self-promote, highlight your accomplishments, and shape perception of yourself amongst your colleagues and leaders."
4. Find mentors and ask them for feedback.
Though mentorship alone isn't enough to get you a VP spot, having a collection of mentors who are willing to give you their advice and perspective is valuable as you take on more responsibility, said the VPs we interviewed.
And if you're smart about it, you can find a mentor and a sponsor at the same time. As Cockrel explains, "There is some argument between the value of mentors vs. that of sponsors — I find them both to be key and if it's the right person, you can 'kill two birds with one stone.' You want to be sure to tap someone who is highly networked and willing to tap into that network for you, a decisionmaker who is 'in the room' and is willing to advocate for you whilst inside."
Billingsley says she'd describe her path to VP as "blessed by mentors and sponsors." She continues: "My success was, and is, a function of hard work and asking 1,000 smart people for their perspective on how to do things. Find people more experienced than you who are willing to validate or invalidate your thinking and give you the confidence to be bold."
Start finding mentors early in your career, says Holt. "One mistake I made was to not ask for advice enough. Now I know that there are many people out there willing to share their experience and expertise. We just need the confidence to reach out to them."
Be ready to accept criticism as well as praise, and see the value in both. "Learn what areas are holding you back. Conversations like this are hard to hear sometimes — they're called growing pains for a reason! Even if the feedback is hard to hear, listen anyway. Those hard conversations tend to contribute the most fuel to career growth," says Dodrill. "Leadership development takes a 50/50 investment between you and the company you work for. Be sure to self-reflect and contribute everything you can to your growth, don't just expect it to happen because you are a top performer."
It's vital that you lean into your failures to learn from them, says Hansen, especially when you're starting out and still stretching into a new role. She uses her experience as an example: "I had built a career on delivering great work products, as an individual and through individuals. Being a VP meant that I was leading leaders and that was a whole new ballgame that I was not as prepared for as I thought I was. I feel pretty blessed to have had a leader at the time who encouraged and supported my journey, and I worked hard to not make the same mistake twice. Errors were made, but I learned from them by creating a safe space for my team to share what they needed from me, and by getting feedback from my peers and the leaders I partnered with so that I could fail forward and fast."
And keep that always-be-improving mindset even once you reach that VP spot. Janet Vito, VP of Sales and Marketing at uShip, the world's first and largest shipping marketplace, says, "Feeling comfortable means you can easily become complacent. To truly drive business value, you need to be able to think and do 'outside of the box,' be open to all options, and not take the easy route because it's easy to take."
5. Hire and empower great talent.
A key part of leadership is knowing how to build and support a team, and that's especially true for VPs, considering their large set of responsibilities. "It's important to realize that your success is tied to the success of your teams. If they feel supported and that they have ownership of their work, they will achieve amazing results," says Kimball.
That might mean hiring people who are better than you, and Hansen says that's a good thing: "Don't be afraid to hire people more experienced or skilled than you are, as leadership is not about being the smartest person in the room, but about enabling the smart people you hire to do what you hired them to do."
And when you're thinking about empowering the people around you, think beyond your immediate team. "Even more important [than advocating for yourself] is being a champion for other women in your workplace, both your direct reports and your peers. You will thrive by helping to create an environment where all women can thrive," says Robinson.
6. Make sure there's space for your ambition at your company—and that it's the kind of company you want to be leading.
"At any given company, there are a limited number of VP level roles," says Karr. "You may be doing an amazing job and be on a promotion track, but at some point, you're limited by the availability of what your company has to offer. If you are well-respected and are ready for that next level, but are not sure that a role exists that meets your development goals, I would encourage you to have an open conversation with your manager about it. In many cases, companies will find something that will help you progress; or if not, you can be more open about your need to look outside your company and can set up a better transition plan for yourself and your team."
Even if the VP role does exist at your current company, make sure it feels right for you and what you believe in. "Once you develop the right skills and feel that you are truly ready, you make sure the VP role you're after is the right fit for you," says Dodrill. "In order to gain trust as an executive, you need to be aligned within the culture you work with, otherwise it's not going to be fun, and it should be fun! When I found myself in this position once, my mentor told me, 'If they don't get you, they don't get to have you.' That doesn't mean anyone is 'bad.' It just means there's a better place for you to be."
Think you may want to work for one of the incredible women highlighted here? Check out open roles at the companies mentioned:
- Apply for open roles at Intuit
- Apply for open roles at Autodesk
- Apply for open roles at <intent>
- Apply for open roles at Smartsheet
- Apply for open roles at CoverMyMeds
- Apply for open roles at Zapier
- Apply for open roles at CarGurus
- Apply for open roles at uShip
- Apply for open roles at StockX
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
💎 Looking to boost your career growth? Tune in to catch 3 top tips to develop a growth mindset at work!
📼 Press PLAY to hear tips from Haley Wolf, Manager of the Sales Development team at Lattice. These 3 tips that she's learned throughout her own career, as well as her experience with colleagues, will help you develop a growth mindset at work.
📼 Tip #1: Request Feedback - The first of the 3 tips to develop a growth mindset at work is to request feedback from your manager and coworkers whenever you feel there is room for growth or improvement. This might be after a presentation or project, or even before that next step in your career. By requesting this feedback, you can learn what gaps need to be addressed to keep growing.
📼 Tip #2: Overcommunicate Curiosity - The second of the 3 tips to develop a growth mindset at work consists of continually asking questions. Whenever you feel you're in a pivotal moment in your career, seek advice from colleagues about their experience and even how they've overcome obstacles. Think about what you want to learn. All of this will help you grow and get career-boosting advice.
Don't Miss The Last Tip To Develop A Growth Mindset At Work
📼 Tip #3 may sound strange, but it's absolutely true: Fail Fast. What does Haley mean by that? Approach each new beginning with a fearless mindset—which will help lead to a growth mindset. When you're jumping into a new presentation or trying a new skill for the first time, think about this: probably everyone in the room has had to do this for the first time at some point! So failing fast is when we can grow the most.
📨 Are you interested in joining Lattice? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Haley
Haley Wolf has been working at Lattice for 4 and a half years. When asked what her favorite part about working at Lattice is, she says: It's cliche to say, "the people," but I think it'd be wrong not to because our core values at Lattice are centered around our people! I believe that's what makes a difference here, too. And that's always stayed constant as Lattice has grown. But I think there are two elements to that. One is when the people that we're surrounded with and the people that we work with are so brilliant, so inspiring, so dedicated, with a pool of knowledge that is so diverse — that makes such a difference. But the second is the leadership team. Our exec team has done an amazing job of building that foundation that's collaborative, safe, and meaningful. I trust the decisions they make because they share everything very openly and transparently.
More About Lattice
Lattice is a people management platform that empowers leaders to build engaged, high-performing teams that inspire winning cultures. With Lattice, it's easy to launch 360 performance review cycles and engagement surveys, keep track of OKR/goals, gather real-time feedback, and encourage manager 1-on-1 meetings.
Most people have one home town. Syamla Bandla has 13.
With a father serving in the Indian army, Syamla got used to adapting to a new environment every time his role changed and her family moved to a new city.
That flexibility served her well as she moved from fintech to insurance to startups and eventually into a role as Facebook's Director of Production Engineering—and as she managed a massive team through the pandemic-induced shift to all-remote work.
We sat down with Syamla, who had already shared part of her career story with PowerToFly, to ask her how she's grown and developed her own career, and how our readers can do the same in their own roles, especially now that remote/hybrid work is here to stay.
Step One: Adopt a Growth Mindset
Syamla's career really began to take off when she took on her first leadership role. The startup she had been working for was acquired by Dell, and she was tasked with integrating it into Dell's SaaS portfolio and taking four different products to market.
Oh, and she was a bit busy having her first child right at the same time.
"The learning curve was very steep!" remembers Syamla. "When I look back, I am really proud of myself for what I accomplished."
She credits one thing with her ability to juggle work and motherhood: her deep belief in a growth mindset.
"When we say 'superwoman, supermom, superhuman,' it's a myth," she says. "Everybody has the same 24 hours. It was a muscle I had to build in both roles–in motherhood and in work–about focusing on the journey."
Here's how Syamla defines a growth mindset: "Believing that talents are not innate and that everything can be developed with sheer dedication and hard work and focus—an absolute obsession and love for learning."
In practice, applying a growth mindset looks like not being afraid to fail. Whether that is Syamla stepping into a leadership role while balancing new motherhood or one of her direct reports taking on hiring responsibilities for the first time, Syamla says that it's all about believing that you can get through something.
"When you think about it, it's not the outcome that you're chasing—but the joy of the process itself," she explains.
And while volunteering for new initiatives or putting your hat in the ring for a promotion may have been easier when we were all in the office and you could grab a senior manager in the hallway, it's certainly easy to broadcast your willingness to take on more learning opportunities, says Syamla.
Step Two: Be Vulnerable
Syamla's current job includes managing all of Facebook's revenue-generating platforms, including Ads and Marketplace. "This role is very, very dear to my heart, and I love doing it at this scale," she says. It's a big remit, and in order to manage well, she needs to keep her team connected.
Her strongest tools for doing that are trust, authenticity, and radical inclusion.
"Listening is super important, whether it's with customers, peers, or managers. Listening with empathy means you're getting the big picture, not just the short-term," she says.
Here are her specific tips:
- Put your phone aside while you're on video calls. It shows your team that they have your full attention, says Syamla.
- Share personal updates when they feel appropriate. For instance, when Syamla's father-in-law got COVID, she ended up sharing that to the broader Facebook community, prompting dozens of people to reach out to her and share their own experiences.
- Show that you understand other people's situations. From being conscious about scheduling calls at times that work for coworkers in other parts of the world to checking in on teammates who are going through life changes, leading with empathy can go a long way, says Syamla.
Step Three: Build a Network of Advocates
"I used to believe my work would speak for itself," Syamla says. She found out that wasn't quite the case. "As a leader and a woman of color, I needed to find my voice, but also to make sure that my allies and sponsors were able to speak on my behalf, so I didn't have the burden of self-promoting all the time."
Syamla thinks that remote work actually provides more opportunities on this front. Not only can you drop humble-brag updates in company chats she says, but you can also more easily branch outside of your own company to connect with industry peers, which is key for upward mobility and recruiting opportunities.
"It's a blessing in disguise, to have so many virtual events," she says. "Being a working mom, I used to refuse events, because they required long travel away from my family. But the top tech conferences are online and they're really quality."
Same goes for learning opportunities. With platforms, including our internal learning resources at Facebook, says Syamla, it's easier than ever to make time for learning, and to share your progress with your managers so that they can see how committed you are to self-improvement.
She also suggests making use of social networks to connect with peers of similar backgrounds. "You will be surprised how many people actually respond back and they want to connect and talk about experiences when they come from similar domains," she says.
Step Four: Don't Forget to Prioritize Yourself
It's easy to let work bleed into your real life when work happens in the same place that you see your family and friends, says Syamla. Career development is important, but not at the cost of your own mental health and enjoyment of life.
"It's hard to draw that line, especially as a working parent," she says. "The key is to pace it out and draw really hard boundaries." For example, Syamla makes sure to take occasional Fridays off where she fully disconnects from work. And on family vacations, she makes sure to take at least an afternoon for "guilt-free mommy time."
"It's important to put on your oxygen mask first, because you can give a lot more when you are in your strongest mental state and physical state," she explains. "After I've taken that time, I'm a better person, a better mom, and a better leader."
Personally, Syamla likes to spend her downtime hiking, diamond painting with her daughter, and creating vegan versions of family-favorite recipes like thandai. She's slowly morphed into a morning person, too, going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until she was able to get up at 5:15 a.m., which gives her much-needed quiet time to walk, do yoga, and get into the right headspace to start her day.
Prioritization needs to happen at work, too, and can sometimes be easier in remote or hybrid workplaces. For example, Syamla is now taking executive coaching sessions, which she says she wouldn't have had time for had she needed to travel to them. "I get good ROI because it's a lunch session, and I don't have to block half an hour before and after to get there," she says.
She's also seen higher participation in Facebook's Coaching Circles—small support groups where participants can learn new skills, network, and help others solve problems in an engaging and confidential environment—now that they've moved online.
Looking to the future
As someone who is personally and professionally passionate about inclusion, Syamla is keeping an eye on what the future of remote and hybrid career development looks like.
"A lot of leaders will be tested on building inclusive environments when some people opt to work full-time remote and some people are coming into the office. I think we have to be super intentional and even more laser-focused on getting the inclusion part right," she says.
Anne Do was recently visiting her cousin in San Francisco, California, for less than 48 hours. In that time, she made two cakes and a dozen French macarons.
"I told my family, 'You won't be seeing me for a while!' and packed up what I could for their freezer," says Anne, smiling.
The web analytics team lead for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, is accustomed to accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time.
With less than two years under her belt as a full-time employee at the Agency, Anne has already taken on the role of a team lead, became the co-lead of the NGA's Asian Pacific American Council (APAC), and collaborated closely with multiple components to successfully executed a five-person live broadcast panel event for this May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPHM).
We sat down with Anne to find out how she makes this all happen — and, importantly, how APAC has worked to support its members during a year of unprecedented racially-motivated attacks.
Driven to Serve
Anne says that public service is in her blood. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American whose father and grandfather both served in the military, Anne knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps by giving back. She earned her undergraduate degree in Information Technology (IT) – Network Administration and master's in Information Systems Technology Management, subsequently working as a systems, database and cloud engineer for various government organizations.
After working technical integration logistics management for the State Department, she was hired as a contractor at NGA while pursuing her graduate degree at GWU. After a few years in, she realized that one of her customers could modernize how they delivered map specifications to industry, military and international partners by moving from a local database to the cloud.
She wrote a proposal, including her own research and cost calculations, and it was approved. For three years, while managing her daily work responsibilities, she was also successful in learning achieving data and cloud migration accreditations. It was then that Anne realized she wanted to work as a NGA employee in a data science capacity.
"I have done the network aspect. I did the system and data engineering. I really enjoy dealing with methods of transforming data into a strategic asset, and seeing it come to fruition, so I figured, let's see what opportunity NGA has in the data field. I put my name into the hat without really thinking that I would get it," says Anne.
She did get it. And two months later, she was provided with an opportunity to serve as the web analytics lead.
Determined to Lead
When Anne started as a NGA employee, she ran into a challenging situation.
"I realized I needed to balance being organizational, tech savvy with being savvy at office dynamics", she explained. "I needed to extend myself beyond tackling specific goals and be the kind of leader, who could successful manage demanding situations."
That need for community and support drove Anne to join APAC, a Special Emphasis Program (SEP), NGA's employee resource group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
At her first meeting, she met the APAC's co-lead who was serving food for everyone. She was shocked—and impressed—to see such gracious leadership.
Shortly after joining the council, that co-lead position became available. Anne took charge and raised her hand to become the new co-lead.
That was in February 2020. A month later, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and anti-Asian sentiment began to rise in the US.
"I have two elderly parents who take daily walks, and I had to wonder if I needed my parents to curtail their normal routine," says Anne.
Other members of APAC shared their concerns with the council: they found themselves looking over their shoulders in their neighborhoods and grocery stores, wondering if a violent attacker was near, and they struggled to focus on work amid news coverage of increasing violence. They wondered what kind of support NGA could provide them.
Anne and her co-lead focused on a three-part response strategy: listening, providing resources, and advocating. Here's what it looked like:
- Listening: "I had to learn to ask people I work with, 'How are you today? versus How things are going? I emphasize the 'you' part because that gives them a chance to open up and discuss how they're feeling," she says. APAC started sending emails, partnering with other agencies' AAPI leads to provide a platform that served as open forums for anyone who wanted to share their thoughts, fears, or reflections.
- Providing resources: Anne and the APAC & SEP team communicated the NGA resources available to employees, including counseling, monthly meetings, speakers, reminders about mental health and sick days, and access to the AAPI network in the greater Intelligence Community, for anyone who needed help. "It was about enabling them to feel that their voices were being heard and showing there are efforts put in place to help prevent any uneasiness with what was happening outside of the workforce," she says.
- Advocating: On a personal and professional level, Anne believes in advocacy. "The more you open yourself up and have these hard conversations, the more you can educate people on the AAPI experience and move past the model minority myth..." she says.
As important as Anne knows her work with APAC to be, she acknowledges that it's not easy to heal from the threat of violence and experiences of everyday racism. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to my pre-pandemic comfort level," she says.
Finding Inspiration to Keep Going
Anne didn't meet her APAC co-lead in person until this May, well over a year after becoming an advisor to the council. They were working together virtually up until broadcasting rehearsal for the AAPHM observance event.
"It hits a little closer to home for a lot of us," she says of this year's celebrations. Anne signed up to be the logistics manager for the event, and found herself designing a speaking panel that was the agency's first all-Asian-American-descent panel. The event's keynote speaker was Huan Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy.
"We couldn't have asked for a better keynote," Anne says. "He addressed the community about the events that had happened, saying, 'It's real. What can we do to make sure that not equality but actual equity gets taken care of?' and 'It doesn't matter what your heritage is — you're American first.'"
The event was the highlight of Anne's tenure at NGA, she says, and she knows she's not the only one who felt the power of coming together as a community.
"A coworker who has been in federal service for over 30 years told me that was one of the most honest, genuine addresses that she ever had experienced in her career," says Anne.
Anne wants to pay that feeling forward, and has one last piece of advice for anyone considering stepping up and becoming a leader in their own organization: "Be more willing to take part in the change that you believe in, even if it scares the heck out of you. I definitely never expected to be where I am now, but I'm so glad that I raised my hand."
Approved for public release, 21-823
💎 What does a recruiting process with "diversity at work" in mind look like?
📼 Press PLAY to hear some insights from a recruiter at Procore into what it's like to work at a company that encourages diversity. Cynthia Griffin, Senior Talent Operations Specialist at Procore, shares some tips and tricks to stand out in the recruitment process at Procore.
📼 Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are at the forefront of Procore's recruitment efforts. They work to mitigate unconscious bias, address microaggressions, and implement training on leading inclusively during challenging times. Plus, they hold community round tables and listening sessions to amplify the voices of underrepresented employees and nurture the ecosystem of employee resource groups.
📼 Diversity at work is one of the main focuses of Procore's recruiting process. Don't miss Cynthia's valuable tips on how to prepare for your interview with Procore. During your panel interviews, the company has a set of standard behavioral questions and stages that will cover both technical and leadership skills. This will help them identify the qualities that will make you successful at the job. As Cynthia says, "take us on your journey". Think about your past experience, whether it's professional or personal. The recruiting team really wants to understand the journey that you've been on and where you might like to take your career in the future.
The Importance of Encouraging Diversity at Work
Optimism and ownership helped define Procore from their beginning stages. Their values are ingrained in daily operations, from how they run meetings to the ways the team communicates with each other. "It's at the core of who we are, how we lead, how we grow, and how we continue to hire".
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Get to Know Cynthia
Cynthia is an experienced recruiter with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Skilled in Coaching, Sales, and Applicant tracking systems, she's a strong human resources professional who graduated from Ventura College.
More About Procore
Procore Technologies is building the software that builds the world. We provide cloud-based construction management software that helps clients more efficiently build skyscrapers, hospitals, retail centers, airports, housing complexes, and more. At Procore, we have worked hard to create and maintain a culture where you can own your work and are encouraged and given resources to try new ideas. Check us out on Glassdoor to see what others are saying about working at Procore. Our headquarters is located on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria, CA, with growing offices worldwide.