Here at BevSpot, much like the rest of the tech world, men dominate our makeup 64% to 36%. But a main focus of ours has been diversity, and we have been actively working to even out these numbers.
We see this gender imbalance in the business of the bar industry, too, but many professionals are making strong attempts to even out the playing field and hire more skilled women behind the bar. We’ve recently hired some fantastic women into senior roles here, and we proactively seek out ways to support one another. From this idea, our women in tech group was formed.
Recently, women in tech welcomed Diane Gordon, chief customer officer at Brainshark, into our office to speak to BevSpot about her experiences in the tech world.
Here’s an overview of the words of wisdom she shared with us.
Diane started her discussion with a chronological look into her professional life. This allowed us to understand what she learned at different stages of her career and how these experiences have shaped her leadership today. Diane has worked diligently to examine and adjust her priorities as she grew in her career, as she encouraged us all to do. She explained that something as small as identifying three things to work toward can provide a lot of insight and purpose into everyday professional decisions.
Diane stressed the importance of stretching ourselves; if we have aspirations to grow, we must make sure others around us know that. She encouraged us to “throw our name in the hat” for any opportunity we’re interested in, even if we know it’s out of reach. If nothing else, this lets our colleagues know where we plan on going next.
The number one trait she looks for in employees? Adaptability. For Diane, the employees who stand out are the ones who are willing to go the extra mile and pick up the responsibility of a project that’s outside their job description.
“Believe your own press” was a standout point, too.
Diane reflected on once being offered a job she felt was out of her reach; she realized, in her decision-making process, that although she might not have felt qualified, the people who hired her obviously felt she was. Diane has observed that “believing in your own press” can be more difficult for women than men, but that it’s extremely powerful once exercised.
Since Diane has worked with a multitude of people at a variety of successful companies, many of our questions gravitated toward general business and professional advice, on top of her more personal reflections.
One topic that BevSpotters wanted to hear about was communication.
We asked, “How do we educate our colleagues on how to communicate with different personality types?” Diane suggested using “‘I’ statements,” for example, “when you (verb), I feel (adjective).” This allows for conversations to be had around whatever is being miscommunicated without the blame or defensiveness that often comes out of more charged and frustrated language.
Diane also encouraged us to not interrupt one another, something she’s noticed that men tend to do over women. If you are speaking and someone interrupts you, she suggests simply asking the interrupter to allow you to finish your thought before they begin speaking. Above doing this for ourselves, we can all speak up and call out interrupters for others whenever we see this behavior taking place.
As an introvert, one point on communication—err, lack of communication—that stood out to me was when Diane encouraged us all to make our voices heard in meetings. Diane expressed frustration when her employees, the people she is paying to speak up with ideas, sit quietly in a meeting. As an employee of any company, we must put our ideas out there. Diane insisted that fear of saying something “stupid or silly” should never slow us down, and, if anything, it helps to calibrate ourselves for the next time we speak up.
As a startup, we are constantly changing, growing and learning. Diane has plenty of insight on all of these topics as they apply to startups, and she helped break down a few important points for us.
First off: culture. Culture is something that has been on our minds a lot here at BevSpot, and Diane encouraged us to get together and think about what we want the culture to be, rather than just defining what our culture currently is. She also shared an important lesson she learned from her own boss when she was first intimidated by a candidate and was hesitating to extend a job offer:
“A players hire A players, and B players hire C players.”
Since then, Diane has made a point to only hire team members who she feels could one day do her job themselves.
On the opposite of hiring issues, Diane briefly discussed the need to let go of “energy vampires.” This is how Diane describes employees who are toxic. She explained that no matter what level position they hold or how much knowledge a person may have, if they’re being an “energy vampire” and stifling more than one member of a team, they’re not worth keeping.
Lastly, Diane encouraged us all to find our work-life balance. After having her first child, Diane was presented with this challenge. She overcame it by being present at work while she was in the office and present with her family once she was at home. She promised us all that our work will always be there the next morning and that it’s okay to throw it all in your desk drawer at the end of each day.
Now, Diane focuses on her most important responsibilities by prioritizing her tasks frequently. She comes to terms with the fact that the tasks at the bottom of her list will likely not be completed, but rests easy knowing that if their importance factor changes, they can always be reprioritized to the top of her list.
Diane ended our discussion with two key pieces of advice: be kind, and network.
Kindness is something that people notice, and it does pay off, whether we may realize it or not. Additionally, she challenged us all to make one networking call a week, regardless of whether we are job searching or not.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about Diane’s conversation with BevSpot or are just looking for a new connection, shoot me an email—I’ll be looking to fill my calendar with calls and coffees!
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