Looking back at my career, I’ve come a long way from debugging my first piece of code to becoming Senior Manager of Client Services at Andela. When I started college, I took an introduction to computer science course that changed the trajectory of my education. I spent a day trying to figure out why my code didn’t compile and the feeling of fixing it after discovering a missing semicolon solidified my desire to pursue this path.
As a woman, technologist, and leader in this industry, each phase of my career has prepared me for the next. From joining Andela as a Technical Success Manager to becoming the partner engineering team’s first female Senior Manager in that role, I’ve seen first-hand how women in tech leadership are impacting what the future of work looks like. But there’s still a long way to go. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report shares that only 21% of C-suite leaders are women. Even more, only 4% of C-suite leaders are women of color. That’s why we’re taking part in the conversation for change at the World Procurement Congress in London, June 13–15, 2022. Find Andela and our partners at booth #6 to get involved.
At Andela, where nearly half of our executive team are women, our own experts work toward great change every day, and I’m proud to be in senior management among them, including Director of Talent Partnerships Agnes Muthoni, VP of Product Courtney Machi, Head of Product Design Victoria Marafetti, and Chief of Staff Mary Decker, to name a few. There are so many ways we can take actionable steps towards building real gender equity in the workplace, but a few insights have stood out to me during my own journey.
When you realize you’re overqualified, shoot higher
My first interaction with Andela actually came because I applied to the fellowship program for developers in Nigeria. After kicking off my career at General Electric in Atlanta, Georgia, I wanted to invest my skills in Nigeria’s growing startup scene. But as I was receiving the emails for the boot camp, I realized I was overqualified for the opportunity, so I made the decision to set it aside and instead found a software project management role with a FinTech company. I honed my skills with that position for a year, then started my own consulting firm and launched a coding camp for kids.
When Andela came back on my radar, I was even more so in a place where my specialized skillset could be leveraged to further the company’s impact. I connected with the company’s mission of connecting brilliance with opportunity and decided to apply for the Technical Success Manager role. I’ve been growing my career and my team here ever since. I always remember the Hewlett Packard report finding that men apply for jobs when they only meet 60% of the qualifications while women only do if they meet 100% of them.
The system has been set up so that we tend to put ourselves out of the race before we even begin. If there’s something that you feel like you’re qualified for, the worst that would happen is that you don’t get it. If you feel you’re overqualified for something, that’s an opportunity to shoot higher. Going through with the Andela fellowship would have felt like going backward in my career. What else could I achieve with the skills that I had at the time? I knew I could do better and I’m glad I did because I was able to eventually come back to an opportunity that better fit my career goals.
Especially on a remote team, celebrate and be celebrated for your achievements
I’m a believer that remote work is great. For me, being able to achieve work-life balance as a remote teammate has been a game-changer. Especially for women who are making life decisions around motherhood, marriage, or other personal pursuits, remote work offers flexibility in career growth that in-person environments might not.
But I do feel there’s a risk for women to downplay our achievements in remote settings. It’s easy to get lost in that distributed culture and not be as visible. I encourage all women to essentially blow their own horns as often as they can and make sure that when they reach an achievement they share it with their team. Otherwise, you’re a face on Zoom or a name on Slack. It’s okay to celebrate your wins more consistently in addition to noting them for performance reviews.
For managers looking to empower women in the workplace, find opportunities to celebrate their work as often as possible. Remote work can move quickly, and with so many changing parts, small achievements may slip through the cracks. It’s important to give women in the workplace the visibility we deserve.
As your career grows, learn how to manage managers
At a certain point, you’ll be managing people who manage other people. When I started at Andela as a Technical Success Manager, I managed over 40 engineers and was accountable for their technical delivery. I provided high-level technical leadership on both the talent and client-side to fix broken processes or offer technical insights. Because I was managing engineers who were growing their own careers, I offered mentorship and support.
When I leveled up to a Senior Manager position, I had to transition my mindset to manage other managers instead of managing engineers. There was definitely a tangible shift that I felt, especially when it came to how I approached my own leadership practice. Instead of focusing on the nitty-gritty of technical delivery, I found myself setting up more complex structures and processes for our team to be successful. Instead of managing skillsets, I would call it more people management. At this level, I’m also working with different management styles when it comes to the managers who report to me.
As a leader, I want to cultivate an inclusive environment where my teammates feel empowered to share opinions and suggestions that will affect the company’s larger impact. Collaboration is also very important. I work to make sure my teammates have the agency to seek support and cross-collaborate across pods to make progress.
For women seeking to grow into senior leadership, and for managers working to empower these teammates, it’s critical that they feel supported in stepping into a higher managerial role. So often women are asked to step up without being given the right support. At Andela, our open-door policy has given me the opportunity to reach out to my manager when I need support, or her manager, or even her manager’s manager. That accessibility has made all the difference in my journey.
There’s more work to do but real change happens every day
As referenced in the McKinsey 2021 Women in the Workplace report, if hiring and promotion rates continue as they are, women in manager roles will only increase 1% in next 10 years. That has to change. Beyond that, the right structures have to be built so women feel empowered and confident in their management roles. Promotions are less helpful towards cultivating gender equity in the workplace if women continue to burn out without the right support.
That’s part of the work that I do every day to further our mission of connecting brilliance with opportunity so talented technologists can work with some of the world’s top and largest companies that they otherwise might not have the chance to engage. That’s what keeps me going.
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