9 Women in Tech Share Their Best Advice for Managing a Team

by Alton Zenon III
February 18, 2020
TrustRadius team
trustradius

“Understanding an employee’s personality and their personal motivations is a critical aspect to creating a productive work environment,” said Banyan Water VP of Digital Water Solutions Rebecca Busterud.

The leader at the water efficiency solution provider stressed the importance of listening and being empathic to an employee’s character and aspirations. Doing so ultimately builds trust and lets leaders adapt their management style to better fit each of their team members individually. 

And not only does listening play a key role in helping facilitate individual team member growth, it can contribute to improved plans and problem solving for the group.

“Asking the team for their ideas and knowledge shows that their opinions are valued,” said  Pingboard Director of Internal Operations Jen Eanes. “Their creative ideas or experiences can help develop a better plan to tackle a project.”

These and other women leaders across Austin share the lessons they learned that made them effective people managers and provide advice on how others with leadership ambitions can succeed in their future roles.

 

Lauren Harden
Senior Director of Data Management

Lauren Harden said she learned to lead by example, not only in her actions as senior director of data management at Compeat but in her attitude. Harden said team members embody the perspectives of their leaders, so it’s important that managers lead with positivity. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

It’s very natural for team members to mimic their leaders; it’s the traditional way for people to learn. As a manager, I learned firsthand that my outlook and interactions — whether positive or negative — transfer to my teams. Managers who are consistently positive, hopeful and determined throughout their own highs and lows build stable, high-output teams of future leaders who possess those same qualities.

 

If you want people to view you as a leader and have confidence in your abilities, things start with you.”

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

My best advice for other women managing teams is to be confident in your unique abilities, deliver on your commitments, be your authentic self in all your interactions and be an assertive communicator with your leaders. If you want people to view you as a leader and have confidence in your abilities, things start with you. Don’t doubt yourself and your capabilities and others won’t either. People want to be able to relate to you, so be yourself. Ask questions, share your ideas and get involved. These practices bring visibility and mentorship, which will go a long way toward accelerating your career.

 

Kate Duggan
Regional Accounts Director

Redgate Software Regional Accounts Director Kate Duggan said effective managers shouldn’t shy away from making tough decisions. Duggan commented on the importance of facing challenging situations head on and how to look back on them with confidence.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Sometimes, the right management decisions are the toughest, but you can’t avoid making them because lingering will cause more pain in the long run. You should feel comfortable knowing you’ve done the right thing as long as you always act with integrity, have a clear rationale for your decisions and communicate to all those affected in the right way.

 

[Leadership is] more about taking people on a journey with you than just managing them.”

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

I’ve always preferred to frame my role as one of leadership rather than management. I think good leaders can unite people around a vision, inspire change and empower people to reach their potential. When you look at it like that, I think it’s more about taking people on a journey with you than just managing them.

 

Lori Williams
Chief Delivery Officer

Chief Delivery Officer Lori Williams said she doesn’t look at titles when managing her teams at ScaleFactor. She instead leads by looking at all the qualities that make a team member who they are. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager? 

One great lesson that I learned early on was to avoid managing teams based on an organization chart. When strictly following organization charts, it puts a box around people without considering their passions, skills and abilities. Managing my team in a flat structure style helped me mold them, not based on job descriptions but the talents that they could bring to the table so we could grow together and be successful. 

 

My biggest piece of advice is a simple, three-word phrase: go for it.”

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to? 

My biggest piece of advice is a simple, three-word phrase: go for it. To get that promotion or new opportunities in a current role, never let anyone dictate your path. Ask the questions, always be learning and cultivate your own growth. It may require going outside your comfort zone. You have to earn your way through to the top of the ladder, especially in tech.

 

Jamie Tomasello
Head of Trust and Compliance

Jamie Tomasello said boundary setting is an important concept to her in her role as head of trust and safety at Duo Security. The leader said boundaries are a necessary part of a healthy work environment, and she pushes her team to set their own.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

There’s no such thing as work-life balance; it’s about work-life boundaries. In order to be a good people manager and leader, it’s important to learn how to set boundaries, establish principles, hold them and encourage the people you lead to do the same. By setting these norms, we establish a more respectful and mindful work environment, giving folks the space they need to do their best work.

 

In order to be a good people manager and leader, it’s important to learn how to set boundaries...”

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Be intentional and intersectional. Use whatever privilege you have to amplify the voices of the underrepresented. In code and in policy, we tend to inscribe our own values and experiences. 

If you build a team that is representative of the users and expanded markets you want to serve, they will anticipate and solve the problems of those users. 

 

Nicole Smith
Director of Sales Operations

Failure is a part of growth, and Restaurant365 Director of Sales Operations Nicole Smith said she teaches her team to embrace the notion that they may make mistakes. And when they do, Smith said she’s there to help her team turn failures into improvements.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Let people shine and solve things on their own. I’m a firm believer in hiring people smarter than me and letting them do their best work. Part of this idea is trusting them to do the right thing. I teach them that it’s okay to fail and about the importance of “failing fast,” while consistently providing coaching to make them even better. Practicing this as a manager has helped me continue to learn and grow while also helping my team members get to the next level.

 

Listen first and talk second.” 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Listen first and talk second. It’s important to be a sounding board and to provide compassion and empathy, as well as to be an advocate for what employees need. Likewise, it’s important to truly understand what’s working and what’s not for your team and take action based on their feedback.

 

Jennifer Griffin
VP of Customer Success

Having a mentor to provide advice, or simply listen, is a resource Jennifer Griffin said would benefit women along their leadership journeys. The VP of Customer Success at TrustRadius said even when a leader might be sure of their next move, it sometimes helps to get reassurance.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

After being frustrated with a former manager of mine who was rarely accessible and would often cancel one-on-ones at the last minute, I focused on avoiding that in how I manage my own teams. While my calendar may be crazy and I may have to move a one-on-one, I always own finding a new time to meet. I prioritize meeting with my folks if they ask, “Can I get five minutes today?” Being accessible and approachable is something I take pride in and work at. I’ve found this has led to building stronger relationships with employees, which benefits the whole team.

 

Managing teams is challenging... so having someone to bounce ideas off of is a must.”

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Find a mentor or a sounding board. Managing teams is challenging and you will inevitably hit a roadblock, so having someone to bounce ideas off of is a must. Sometimes you know exactly what you need to do, but having a sounding board can help you solidify your ideas or help you look at the issue from a different perspective. I’ve always valued my network and professional relationships for advice and mentorship far more than for finding my next job.

 

Jen Eanes
Director of Internal Operations

It’s impossible for one person to know everything. Pingboard Director of Internal Operations Jen Eanes said this holds true for leaders, and managers should tap into the collective knowledge of their teams to solve problems.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

The manager does not always have the answer, even if they have years of experience in an industry or at a company. It’s important to utilize a team’s diverse job experiences and backgrounds when a new project or problem comes up and get their input. Asking the team for their ideas and knowledge shows that their opinions are valued. Their creative ideas or experiences can help develop a better plan to tackle a project. As team members contribute, always recognize them within the company to celebrate their work and set an example for other managers.

 

Don’t shy away from tough experiences or situations.” 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Talk to the managers you admire about how they approach growing their teams and managing their careers. Support your team members’ growth and aspirations, even if it means they move away from working on your team someday. 

Don’t shy away from tough experiences or situations. My favorite mentor and a longtime manager of mine always reminds me that we grow from tackling uncomfortable or challenging workplace situations head on.

 

Rebecca Busterud
VP of Digital Water Solutions

Banyan Water’s VP of Digital Water Solutions Rebecca Busterud said she learned to invest in understanding what drives her team members. Busterud said learning an employee’s motivations helped her lead them better individually while giving them a greater sense of agency in how those goals contribute to the team’s efforts.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

One size doesn’t fit all. Understanding an employee’s personality and their personal motivations is a critical aspect to creating a productive work environment. No two people are alike, from either a natural talent or experience perspective. I believe that finding an individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses is critical for their personal growth and for the health of a business. The more I’ve been able to understand an employee’s personal drive, the better I’ve been able to help them grow and contribute to the team. 

 

Create shared goals and ownership by involving your team in your role as a leader.”

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to? 

Create shared goals and ownership by involving your team in your role as a leader. This strategy makes it easier to delegate and makes the broader team more efficient. Take the time to understand each person’s personal career goals at a high level, and how those goals can align with their contribution in their current role. 

 

ThousandEyes VP of Global People Operations Jennifer Taylor and Director of People Operations Kim Chaplin have almost 30 years of HR and people management experiences between them. The two leaders discuss the roles that vulnerability and ego-less thinking play in effectively managing teams. 

Jennifer Taylor
VP of Global People Operations

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Taylor: Without a foundation of trust, you will not achieve your full potential as a team. Trust must be built by taking time to be vulnerable, making personal connections, setting clear objectives and providing actionable feedback. 

Last but not least, make time for fun and keep a sense of humor about the journey.

 

Kim Chaplin
Director of People Operations

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Chaplin: Don’t take things personally. I struggled with taking things both positive and negative personally. I worried whether I was good enough or doing the job well. When you focus on working as a team and pulling in the same direction, you take your ego out of it. When you focus on other people and how you can best support them, you actually reduce your anxiety about your own performance. 

There are the “unspoken norms” that can create a positive or negative working relationship. I find that idea to be even more true as a woman. So explain to your team “how to manage” their manager. Stereotyping and discrimination is often not intentional and everyone has their preferences on how they like to work.

 

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