“Mastering Effective Interviewing Skills and Situational Interviews in a Professional Setting”: Dr. Sylvia Martin, Chief Nursing Officer at Kaiser Permanente (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: Welcome back to ELEVATE Virtual Conference. My name’s Angie Chang, founder of Girl Geek X, and with us today we have Dr. Sylvia Martin, the Chief Nursing Officer at Kaiser Permanente. She spent over a decade as a hospital administrator at Stanford Children’s Health and earned her doctorate in nursing practice from Yale University. She has earned both her MS and BS from the University of Alabama Huntsville. We welcome today Dr. Sylvia Martin.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: Welcome to this girl geek presentation on mastering effective interviewing skills and situational interviews in the professional setting. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Sylvia Martin. I am a Chief Nursing Officer with over 25 years of healthcare experience and many years of hiring team members at all levels. I received my doctorate degree in nursing from Yale University, completing my dissertation on moral courage. In my free time, I enjoy spending it with my family or volunteering in the community.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: In my current role, I conduct situational interviews because I found them to be effective in helping me identify the desired characteristics and strengths of those I’m interviewing.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: I’d like to start out by establishing a shared understanding of the purpose of interviews, and that is making an assessment of your skills, qualification, critical thinking, and even your potential. From an interviewer’s perspective, we’re seeking the best candidate for the organization, for the department, for the team, and the role. From an interviewee’s perspective, this is your opportunity to shine, to showcase your skills, your ability to make a constructive impact, and you want to market what you bring to the table and even brag about what you’ve accomplished. This is your time to really put it out there for people to see how great you are and why they need to hire you.

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Dr. Sylvia Martin: One of the most important things you want to be able to do in any interview is build a rapport and connection with those who are interviewing you. Most commonly, you’ll either be interviewing with one individual or you’ll have a panel that you’ll be interviewing with, meaning that you’ll have anywhere from three to 10 people that may be there to hear what you have to say in the interview.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: I usually conduct panel interviews. This allows different perspectives to have input on the hiring decision, which I really appreciate. Now, some of the ways that you can incorporate into your interactions in the interview to help build this rapport and connection is starting with a warm greeting. Use active listening skills. Your body language matters if you need to take notes so you can use the interviewer’s name when you speak to them.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: You want to share stories and communications that will highlight your characteristics and your strengths and what you have to bring to the team that will help everyone succeed. Give them that energy enthusiasm that will help inspire them around the opportunity to work with you. Find common ground. Cautiously use humor when that can be appropriate. Ask about their role.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: Showing curiosity is a great way to engage and connect with people and expressing gratitude. It’s always a connecting formality to say thank you and be gracious about the time people are spending to get to know you and to find out why you would be the best person for the role.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: It’s also important to communicate confidence and establish credibility in the short time you have in your interview. I call this commanding the room. To command the room in your panel interview, it will demonstrate confidence and that you’re present and you can communicate effectively. You want to come in with a brief, impactful introduction that highlights your background and skills and your energy and enthusiasm for the opportunity in front of you and the role. This can be done with a confident, clear tone, concise statements, confident body language and posture, making appropriate eye contact, and avoiding fidgeting and body movements that may distract from what you’re trying to communicate.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: Remember, commanding the room is not about dominating the conversation, but rather demonstrating your competence, professionalism, and your ability to engage effectively with a diverse panel. Practice and preparation will go a long way in boosting your confidence and helping you make a lasting impression. When done with grace, it will get everyone’s attention and make them curious to know what is different about you, and that’s a good thing because you’re about to tell them.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: There are different types of interviews that can be conducted when you go in for an interview for a new job. There are behavioral interviews, situational interviews, competency-based, and traditional interviews. For the focus of this presentation, we are going to talk about situational interviews, where an assessment is made for problem solving, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and decision-making. What else can we learn in situational interviews?

Dr. Sylvia Martin: The author Janneke Oostrom wrote an article on situational interviewing and in her research found that there was considerable similarity between what an interviewee says they would do and their actual behaviors and corresponding work situations. What does that mean? It connects the intentions to actual behaviors, and situational interviewing will highlight the ability of the interviewee to correctly decipher situational demands.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: When I ask a question, I can see are they able to line up what I’m asking with what that situation would or does demand in their answer, either from experience or from hypothesis, right? Showing your confidence in the ability to influence in a positive way to find the desired outcomes or learn from a situation, and then an assessment of authentic characteristics versus an interview persona. Say, where a person might come to an interview and only share ideal responses. Situational interviewing will give you a more accurate reflection of the person’s real life responses to give you an authentic look at who that person is and what they have to bring to your team.

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Dr. Sylvia Martin: Now, when you’re being asked questions in a situational interview, the best evidence-based methods to respond is by using the star method. STAR is an acronym for situation, task, action, and result. It is much easier to share a focused answer providing the interviewer with a digestible but compelling narrative. Sometimes people may tend to provide too much detail and their answers get too long, thus their main points get sort of lost in the dialogue. You want to focus on one or two sentences for each letter of the acronym.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: Choose a few strong, versatile example stories that you’ll practice and have ready, making sure that they are still authentic in your experience and responses in the past or your intentions in how you know you would behave to respond to these situations. Your situation is going to describe the context and the challenges that you faced. Your task explains what you needed to achieve and why it was strategically important. The action is outline the steps that you took to develop and execute the plan and your results, highlighting the positive outcomes such as enhanced customer satisfaction. Or clearly explaining what you learned from the situation and what you would do differently next time if it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: It’s important to be prepared for possible questions in a situational interview. On this slide I’m sharing some of the more common questions you may encounter. You would want to have your STAR method response prepared or at least formulated in your mind for these or similar questions. I’m going to demonstrate a couple of questions and responses to show you what this would look like.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: The question is, “Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed at work and your manager asked you to take on an additional task or initiative.” My situation, I had several complex projects requiring almost all of my time. They were engaging and allowed me to collaborate with other teams. The task one of my team members received a well-deserved promotion, meaning I needed to hire a replacement team member.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: The action, I acknowledged my limited time and capacity and talked with my manager and the colleague to gain support with the hiring process. The result, my colleague agreed to complete the screening and first round interviews, allowing me the time I needed to wind down my projects, then take over the final round of the interviews, completing the process in a timely manner without delaying the completion of my projects.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: A second scenario would be “Tell me about a time when you had to handle a difficult team member. How did you address the situation?” In my previous role as a project manager, I was leading a cross-functional team responsible for developing a new product. One of my team members consistently missed deadlines and had a negative attitude, and both were affecting team morale. The success of the project depended on timely deliveries from every team member. It was crucial that I addressed the performance issues and improve the collaboration within the team.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: First, I scheduled a private meeting with the employee to discuss the challenges and concerns. I wanted to understand the root cause of the behavior and address any underlying issues. During our conversation, I discovered that the employee felt completely overwhelmed with his workload and felt he didn’t have enough support.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: Next, I decided to work very closely with the employee to develop a clear action plan. I allocated specific tasks that aligned with their strengths and expertise, and I provided additional resources to help manage the workload. I also started regular check-ins to monitor progress and offer guidance. To improve the team morale, I organized team building activities and open communication and collaboration. During team meetings, I highlighted individual and team achievements, celebrating milestones and success, which positively reinforced a culture of appreciation and recognition.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: As a result, the employee’s performance significantly improved. They began meeting deadlines consistently with a transformation in their attitude, becoming more positive and engaged. Team morale boosted with this increased communication and a stronger sense of unity. The project met its deadlines on time with positive feedback from both internal stakeholders and customers.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: This experience taught me the importance of proactive communication, empathy, and tailored support from my team members. It reinforced my belief that addressing performance issues head on, having difficult conversations and fostering a positive team environment can lead to a remarkable improvement and successful outcomes.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: These are just a couple of examples of how you can move through the STAR method to answer situational interview questions. Before we close out this presentation, I’ll share just a few other tips for interview success. You want to make sure that you’ve researched the company, that you know how the company is doing in the market in a SWOT sort of format and where this company stands so that you can speak in an informed way around a vision for your role and how you can contribute, and that’ll help you tailor your message for what you want to communicate.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: This will give a why to your vision as well for the work that you can do at this company. You want to emphasize mutual benefits, and you want to connect your past work experience and education to what you will bring that will make you successful in this role. Give a good foundation to why they should want you there on their team, why they need you there on their team.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: Demonstrate a future oriented mindset and a proactive attitude. You want to break down your thought processes, show that you’re aligned with the company goals, mission and vision, and provide tangible examples from your experience so that they’re able to see the authenticity in all of that. You want to be a good listener and ask for feedback and be passionate and energetic and gracious and express gratitude.

Dr. Sylvia Martin: These are all things that will help you build that rapport and connection and inspire the team that’s interviewing you to help you be successful in snagging that opportunity that’s in front of you for this job. Thank you so much for your time and attention today in attending this presentation, and I want to wish you all the best in your future interviews. Have a good day.

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“Things I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Career”: Rachel Rogers, VP of Product & Industry Marketing at Bentley Systems (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: I’m the founder of Girl Geek X. With us today we have Rachel Rogers, who is the vice president of product marketing at Bentley Systems. She’s been at Bentley Systems for over a decade. Prior to Bentley was a director at Autodesk and Intergraph, where she began her career as a marketing writer. She has her BSBA from the University of Alabama and Huntsville. We have with us today as well, Natalie Plummer, the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Bentley Systems, who will be moderating the Q&A. Please pop your questions into the chat, Rachel and Natalie would love to answer them. Welcome, Rachel.

Rachel Rogers: Thank you so much, Angie. Good morning from sunny San Francisco Bay Area. It’s actually going to be a beautiful day today, and I’m excited to be here, and to share some of the best advice I’ve received. As Angie just said, I’ve been in this career for the last 30 years, over three decades, and I would like to share some of the best advice, and some of the things that I’ve learned myself through trial and error over those last three decades.

Rachel Rogers: As Angie just mentioned, to share a little bit about myself, I started my career at Intergraph in Huntsville, Alabama in the nineties as a marketing writer. Then I worked in the AEC division, which supported architecture, engineering, construction. Needless to say, at that time it was definitely a male-dominated team. In the mid two thousands, I moved across country from Huntsville to the Bay Area and worked at another CAD company, Autodesk, but this time on the sales side, to really help balance out my career and learn a different aspect of the business.

Rachel Rogers: This time I was one of a handful of women on the team that supported the infrastructure division and software industry. 11 years ago I joined Bentley, the third leading infrastructure software company in the world. We’re not the third, we’re one of the major ones, but I’ve always been in infrastructure. And I’ve worked from home for the last decade leading a global team, and I’m happy to report that now I work with so many talented, exceptional women, but we’re still in a male-dominated tech field. All of these adventures over the last 30 years have really led me to where I’m today.

Rachel Rogers: I hope that today I can share some of the insight that I’ve learned that’s going to be helpful for you. I’ve narrowed it down because, trust me, I’ve learned a lot in those three decades. I’ve narrowed it down, all that plethora of advice that I’ve received to what I think is the top five. Let’s get started with the countdown.

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Rachel Rogers: Number five, or actually this could be number one too, but number five, life is not fair. I grew up in the deep south with a brother that was two years older than me. At that time, boys had the freedom to do almost anything they wanted, whereas girls did not. They could play sports, ride their bikes around the neighborhoods, stay out all day, disappear for hours without anybody know, avoid housework. You name it, they could get involved with it.

Rachel Rogers: I would often complain to my mother, “That is not fair.” And she would always say, “Who said life was fair?” It really pissed me off every single time, but she was right. As we always say, mothers are always right in the long run.

Rachel Rogers: Life is not fair, but even as adults, we can have a hard time not looking at others and not thinking that life isn’t fair. We have a tendency to focus on what’s happening to other people around us instead of focusing on how we can grow ourselves and our own careers.

Rachel Rogers: Even today I often have, and throughout my management, I’ve always had conversations with team members discussing why other colleagues were promoted instead of them, or how was somebody else chosen to do that project instead of me? Why does that person have a higher title than I do when I have more years on the job? Or the title is different.

Rachel Rogers: It’s really easy to get caught up into that. Why not me? What is it about me? We cannot control what happens to other people unless we’re in charge of making those decisions. Then often, even when we are in charge of making them, we’re still doing things on the recommendations of the people above us.

Rachel Rogers: If you spend your time worrying about your colleague’s projects, their opportunities, their career instead of yourself and your own professional growth in career, chances are you’re always going to be frustrated. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m one of the first ones that have learned this lesson.

Rachel Rogers: A lot of things are out of our control in the corporate world. Things like teams being reorganized around you, other people being promoted, not knowing about new opportunities. It’s happened to me many times, and I know I’ve reacted badly several times myself, but the best advice that I’ve received over the years has been that opportunities may not happen for you at the same pace as others.

Rachel Rogers: We each have our own unique path, and that’s the only thing that we can influence. And once you realize that you can only influence what you can control, you’re in a better place. Like how you react to things going on around you, how you advocate for yourself, and how you focus on your own career to grow your own successes. Life may not be fair, but it can be a lot easier to deal with when we focus on ourselves and not others.

Rachel Rogers: Number four, because we’re going to do kind of a David Letterman count. So number four, find your voice. I just mentioned that you need to advocate for yourself to support your own career and find your own successes. Finding your voice can be really challenging as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Or even as a person that may not like to speak in front of others, or that may not be something they’re comfortable with.

Rachel Rogers: For many years, I was the only woman on all-male teams. Remember all those engineers I just talked about? I was also one of the youngest, most times. So I would get really frustrated over the fact that guys just simply had no problems just talking over me in meetings, not listening to my ideas, just shrugging it off. It truly was like that FedEx commercial from years ago where it’s an office setting.

Rachel Rogers: A woman says, “We can use FedEx for shipping to save money in our budget.” And no one listens to her. And then a man says the exact same thing and everybody says, “Oh my gosh, that’s an incredible idea.” They heard him, they didn’t hear her.

Rachel Rogers: It’s not as funny in real life as it is in that FedEx commercial. Not that it really was funny. But men are comfortable leading conversations and they really usually don’t have a problem interrupting. Whereas women are much less prone to doing so. We’re less prone to leading it, we’re less prone to interrupting conversation. We sit back and wait to be included, oftentimes.

Rachel Rogers: You can’t wait for someone to ask you for your opinion or share your ideas. You have to speak up. You have to find your voice. You have to learn to share your ideas and your opinions, and really establish yourself as a valuable member of the team.

Rachel Rogers: Once you build your own credibility and showcase your skills and knowledge, then people around you are going to start listening more. They’re going to start asking questions of you. And they’re going to want your opinion, and they’re going to see your value, so not only are you building your own confidence in what you have to offer, but you’re also building a really strong brand for yourself.

Rachel Rogers: Make sure that you share your successes, your wins, and not only to your team, but to your manager. It’s the only way to make sure that your contributions are going to be known across the organization. You’ve got to speak for yourself so that you know you’re being seen and heard.

Rachel Rogers: You’ve also got to let people know, you need to make sure that your managers and others know what your wishes are for your career. You’re responsible for your own career growth. Let’s make sure that people know what your wins are, and make sure people know, especially your management, where you want to go with your career. Advocate for yourself, find your own voice.

Rachel Rogers: Number three, building relationships. At the beginning of my career, I used to think that I would simply grow my career based on all my hard work, my successful projects, my proven leadership, my other contributions. I was really naive, because, hopefully this isn’t too old of a phrase, but if it takes a village to raise a child, it really takes a network in support of others to help your career.

Rachel Rogers: You need a team of people inside your own organization helping support you, and helping find opportunities for you to shine, to grow, to build your own career. It’s difficult to do that just by yourself as a solo-person. You need to have that network supporting you, but building a network doesn’t just happen. I mean, you really have to invest the time and effort into connecting with people and nurturing your network. It’s difficult. It takes time.

Rachel Rogers: Your network, it can include a lot of people, like your current colleagues, past colleagues, managers, even managers from other companies you continue to stay connected to, industry groups that we can connect to, and a variety of social platforms now, alumni, other online connections. All these things are really important. These groups of people can really help pull together to help progress your career, let you know about new career opportunities within your company.

Rachel Rogers: They can help be influential in your own promotions or opportunities, new opportunities for you. And really help provide insight and support when you need it. Remember to invest the time in building them. It’s really easy to get caught up in, and I’m guilty of this as well. We get caught up in our daily job, all the urgent tasks, but we need to find the time to build those relationships so we have a support system in place when we need it.

Rachel Rogers: Remember, build your network, but just as another critical, find a mentor or a coach to help guide you. Look around your own organization, reach out to somebody you admire and ask if they have time to mentor you. I found that most people really are willing to help and invest time into giving back. I know that I really enjoy mentoring others and giving back, and for the most part others do as well. Find a mentor, it’s really going to be helpful in your career.

Rachel Rogers: Number two, and one of my personal mantras, is trust your instincts. Listen to your gut or your intuition. It’s telling you the right thing to do. Another lesson I’ve learned over the years is when I ignore that voice inside of me, things do not go well. I have so many examples of ignoring my intuition, and trusting other people’s opinion, and it not working out well for me or for my team.

Rachel Rogers: Perfect example is, years ago, we needed to hire a new product manager for the team. And even though the position was several layers below mine, I always like to interview candidates at the end to make sure that not only do they have the skills, but will they be a good fit for the overall team?

Rachel Rogers: Several colleagues and the manager interviewed the candidate. Everybody thought they had the right skills, they had the knowledge, they had the experience in the industry, they thought they would be really successful in the position. That person bubbled up to the top. I talked to them, but after I interviewed them, I really didn’t think that they were going to be a good fit personality-wise, and I thought that it could have a negative impact over the overall health of the team, but I wanted to support the manager and the team that interviewed them, so I ignored my gut and we made an offer and hired the person.

Rachel Rogers: Well, six months later, it was clear that the new colleague was very disruptive to the team. Production was down, frustration was really high, and then I had to handle the situation. It could have all been avoided if I just trusted my instinct. That little voice inside of you knows what’s best for you, learn to listen to it and to trust yourself. You know what’s best for you.

Rachel Rogers: Number one, and the most important of all, know that you can do anything. After you’ve learned to trust yourself, your intuition, you need to realize that you can do anything. Early in my career when I doubted myself, I would tell myself over and over, you can do anything. It was my mantra. I wrote it down in meetings when I was unsure of myself. I would write it down in the notes I was taking, or doodling.

Rachel Rogers: When I would feel overwhelmed by new projects, or opportunities, or having to build new teams or new companies or all the things that you’re asked to do. When you start feeling intimidated and overwhelmed by new challenges, just tell yourself, I can do anything. Have faith and belief in yourself that that’s the first step to your success, is knowing that you can do it.

Rachel Rogers: It’s really easy to get caught up in that noise, that others are smarter than you, they’re more educated, they’re more whatever, but knowing that you can do anything helps put you at ease. It gives you that confidence. It’s your greatest gift to know that you’re in charge of your life, and you can accomplish anything. Keep telling yourself that over and over until you believe it, because you can. You can do anything.

Rachel Rogers: Don’t forget. Focus on what you can control. Advocate for yourself. Build that network for support. Trust yourself and the intuition, and keep telling yourself you can do anything.

Rachel Rogers: With that, I’d like to welcome Natalie Plummer. She’s our director of diversity, equity, and inclusion to join me. And we’ve got a couple of minutes that we can ask any questions that we may have.

Natalie Plummer: I think I’m just going to go through some of the things, the questions and some of the points you raised. People can continue to put questions in the chat. I’m kind of monitoring the chat to see any questions.

Natalie Plummer: Here’s a question I want to ask you. One of the things that you said is people need to build a network. Here’s my question and it has a bunch of sub-parts because I could pick your brain all day. How do you build that network? Is it a mentor? Is it through an advocate?

Natalie Plummer: There’s a difference, and does it matter whether that advocate or mentor is a man or a woman? And does it matter if they’re even in your field?

Rachel Rogers: Oh, that is a great question. A, I don’t think it does. Many good things. I do not think it does matter that it’s in your field. Honestly, think it’s better to not be in your field because you get a different perspective. Does it matter if it’s a male or a female? Absolutely not. What matters to me, it’s somebody you admire, that you will listen to, that they, you know, will have insight. So they’ve been through things. They can coach you, you can help learn from their wisdom.

Rachel Rogers: I do not think that you have to have a woman to help you. I mean, it’s great because they can understand a lot of things, but I’ve had a lot of great male mentors. It helps me. Of course I to, I didn’t have that many women around the first 15, 20 years, so, I did. I had a lot of great guys that helped advocate for my career and helped do things. I don’t think that that matters. I think it’s whoever you’re comfortable with.

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Rachel Rogers: I do want to go back, and I think you said, what’s the difference? Your network, totally different from your coach or your mentor. And by the way, an executive coach, a great investment, one of the best things I’ve ever done. I think a mentor is great. That network is, the people that you’ve worked with, that you build, they’re all over so they can help you. Whether they’re in your current company or in other companies. Because those are the ones you’re going to look to when, maybe it’s time for you to start a new career.

Rachel Rogers: Maybe you’re looking for something else. Maybe you just want a new opportunity within your same company, but you don’t know where to start. You want to broaden, like I did. I went from always being in marketing to being to the sales side. Maybe you want to broaden your experience. Having that network will let you know new opportunities and help advise you and what’s the best direction to go,

Natalie Plummer: Then logistically, how do you go about doing it? Is it something you carve out time for at the end of your day every day? Is it a weekly event? Is it monthly? Is it going to networking events once a week? Is it going on LinkedIn and seeing people you admire, and reaching out from them? Logistically, how do you recommend it when you have a busy day and you have your life afterwards?

Rachel Rogers: I’ll have to say, I’m not the best at it. Because as I said, this was something that I learned. I was very naïve. I thought for years and years that everything’s just going to happen based on my contributions.

Rachel Rogers: I do think, yes, you have to make time for it. You do need to schedule as a part of your day. I mean the LinkedIn, the social, doing those kinds of things. Obviously you can do that after hours and be able to build your own network, but I think building your network within the company, absolutely.

Rachel Rogers: You need to schedule meetings with people. You need to ask if they have the time to chitchat with you, if they need to ask for their advice. People appreciate that too. I think making those connections, and building them and nurturing them, just like friendships, you have to nurture relationships with people.

Rachel Rogers: Having a relationship at work is not unlike having a relationship with friends, that you need to put the time in and nurture that relationship. I’m guilty of not doing that as well. We all get busy in all of our demands, and our tasks, and our deadlines. But we really need to do it. It’s going to make you feel better as well. You need that personal time. You need time to connect with people, and not just heads down doing your job.

Natalie Plummer: It’s almost part of your job, as far as just expanding your network. That’s part of it as well.

Rachel Rogers: It’s definitely part of your own personal growth. As we talked about before, one of the things that you really need to learn, and it’s hard to learn is that you’re responsible for your own career. We think that other people are, oh, I’m going to promote them, or I’m going to do that. I’m just going to sit.

Rachel Rogers: No, you have to advocate for that, and then building that network helps. Because then people know what you have accomplished, and what you’re able to do. You may have opportunities in other areas, that’s certainly happened for me. Someone else advocating for me in a totally different area because we had a relationship, or we’d work together, or they knew … I would’ve never done that if I hadn’t been volunteered for different teams, or done this or that, or reached out across organizations to build networks.

Rachel Rogers: That’s one way that you can help do that, is to definitely reach out in your own organization and talk to others.

Natalie Plummer: All right. Going on to your next slide, you mentioned trust your instincts. Now, if you’re a younger person coming into this field, or even if you’re a person who just doubts themselves a little bit, how do you know what’s your instincts versus what’s your fear? That kind of negative voice in your head?

Natalie Plummer: How do you distinguish between the two when you’re entering a new field and maybe you don’t trust yourself as much as you should?

Rachel Rogers: I think that’s a good question. We’re now at 10:20, so I don’t know if Angie, if we’re out of time or if we can just … You definitely have to, that’s a great question, about learning to listen to yourself. Not listening to the negative thoughts, but listening to the positive thoughts and trusting your gut.

Rachel Rogers: It does take experience and time. I think that we’re out of time and I totally appreciate it. I can answer other things. And Angie, I just want to say thank you for giving us, Natalie and I have the opportunity to talk today.

Angie Chang: Thank you both for joining us today. I know we will see some of your faces at the virtual booth later, so everyone who has questions for them, please hang on to them and connect with them on LinkedIn and add in the virtual booth. See you in the next session. Thank you.

Natalie Plummer:  Thank you so much.

Rachel Rogers: Thank you.

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“Rewriting the Leadership Manual: A Playbook on Influencing for Non-Influencers”: Karen Lo, Director of Engineering at JLLT (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: With us today, we have Karen, who is a director of engineering at JLL Technologies, where she leads a team of talented engineers, engineering leaders across eight products with an ability to drive innovation and strategic business goals. Prior to JLLT, she was a software engineer at Intuit and Yahoo. And as a seasoned engineering leader, we’re excited to hear about how her experience in web development, machine learning, and data informed her guidance on influencing others and decoding unspoken rules. Excited for this talk. Welcome, Karen.

Karen Lo: Thank you so much, Angie, for the very warm welcome. Hi, everyone. Thank you for tuning in today. I know you’ve got a lot of things that you could be doing, so I appreciate your time today. I will be speaking about Rewriting the Leadership Manual: A Playbook on Influencing for Non-Influencers.

Karen Lo: For this talk, I was inspired by the other woman on my team and wanted to really write down the different things that I learned over the years and how I’ve applied them through every position I’ve had outside of just my management position that have helped me over the years in providing me with an influencing style, whereas I’m typically somebody who’s not really that open spoken or talking about my own promotions, things like that. This is my approach for how I’ve been influencing, and let me go to the next slide.

Karen Lo: Here’s an overview. It will consist of three parts. Part one, learn the rules to break the rules, part two, de-weaponizing incompetence, and part three, legitimizing invisible work. I’ll dive deeply into each of these parts, and please feel free to type in any questions you have so I can answer them later.

Karen Lo: Part one, learn the rules to break the rules. No one likes to be solutioned at. I know that I don’t like to, especially when sometimes I’m just trying to rant about something, whether it’s about a process that’s really annoying or something that seems to be broken from my point of view. And sometimes I just want somebody to listen to me without providing me with solutions.

Karen Lo: I think that this applies to several people, especially when you join a new team, right? You don’t want to be the person who thinks that they know everything already before they’ve actually understood the nuances of each problem. When you listen and observe, which is step one, you are listening and validating that a problem or challenge exists. This in itself is empowerment. If you validate to somebody that, “Hey, I hear you and I totally understand your pain,” sometimes you may not have to agree with it, but just by saying you hear them, that provides a lot of trust that the person will have in you that, hey, you’re actually trying to listen to the problems that they have.

Karen Lo: A couple of examples of how you might see this conversation play out in real life is sometimes you might say something like, “Hey, I empathize with you feeling frustrated with the engineering team’s technical setbacks, and that is causing you to lose trust in our ability to deliver.” Sometimes you’re talking to a product manager or sometimes even a client, and we have engineering setbacks all the time, but it doesn’t mean that people are happy with it. And so you saying that instead of being very defensive about, oh, we have to do this or we have to do that, just acknowledging that goes really far.

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Karen Lo: Another example is, “Oh, I thought the ticketing system was really cumbersome and unnecessary, but I now see it was put in place because people kept pinging your team for help and updates without sufficient details.” We all know that context switching is incredibly expensive. And so if a team has put a ticketing process in place and it is annoying to go through, sometimes you just want to see, hey, how did we get there in the first place?

Karen Lo: This is step one, first, listening and observing. Once you’ve listened and you feel comfortable enough to say something, step two is offering intentional support. This is very different than offering support. How many of you have ever found yourself in a position where you yourself have said or someone has said to you, “Hey, let me know if you need anything.” That kind of puts the receiving end in a position where they’re like, “Well, I have to put in extra work to reach out to this person to tell them what I need.”

Karen Lo: A couple of examples for what you can use instead that’ll be more effective are, “Hey, would you mind if I reached out to my leadership team about this? I think they’ll be able to help, and I’ll CC you in the email.” Or, “How about I take this off your plate?” Or, “I know a person who can help. Let me start a group chat.” Or, “I’ve faced a similar issue. Let me send you the documentation on how to fix it.” Each of these things are very intentional in you actually recommending a path forward and providing them with just a yes/no instead of, “Hey, tell me whatever you want under the sun,” because that is probably not going to happen and they’re probably not going to ask you for help.

Karen Lo: Part two, once you’ve listened and you’ve gained some credibility, the second part is to de-weaponize incompetence. I know this has many charged words, de-weaponizing and incompetence, but how many of you have ever been in a position where you’ve done something because you were either faster at it, you could do it faster, someone else asked you to do it because you were better at it, or you were maybe somebody who did it more thoroughly? Sometimes people are like, “Hey, can you do this? You tend to be a lot better at it than I am.”

Karen Lo: These are signs that I’m just sharing on how to be mindful of when you see this happening. Because while not all requests are inherently bad, sometimes you’re asked to perform a task that you may not really feel like you should be the one doing, but then you find yourself gaslighting yourself by saying, “Oh, well, that engineer or that manager is too busy. I guess I’m the only one who could do it.” Or for example, am I being asked…

Karen Lo: These are the different ways, I guess, to pinpoint if this is happening to you. First one is, am I being asked to do something purely because I’m better or faster at it? Am I being asked to undermine a process for someone else’s convenience? Is someone asking for help but expecting me to do the bulk of the work? Or is someone using urgency or impending deadlines to convince me to do something that could otherwise be done by someone else?

Karen Lo: Step one, identifying when you’re being put in a position where someone may be using incompetence to get you to do something, whether or not it’s intentional or not, right? Some people, that’s just the way that they operate and it’s not really meant to be hurting you or anything, but you need to identify if you think you’re being hurt by it and being put in a position where you’re doing work that you think could be done by other people or that person themselves. So remember, we’re all data-driven people here, so no need to use data to gaslight yourself too.

Karen Lo:  Once you’ve identified if you’re in that position, step two is mitigating. Once you have that in mind, you’re like, “Okay, what can I do now?” You control the precedent that you set. You give yourself a choice. In a lot of these positions, when I’ve been part of situations like this, I typically think to myself, “Oh, I don’t have a choice,” or, “Oh, I have to do it.” Which sometimes you accept that you have to do it, but sometimes you don’t.

Karen Lo: A couple of ways that you might be able to mitigate the situation is you can say something like, “Hey, I appreciate that you think I’m someone who’s much better at this, but let’s spend some time for me to watch and provide some feedback as you go through the steps so you also become proficient.” This puts them in the position where they’re actually doing the work and you’re just providing feedback so that they become better at it. And that way in the future, it’s less likely that they will say something like, “Hey, can you just do this? You’re a lot better at it.”

Karen Lo: Second way is, “I understand the urgency of this request. However, I want you to be aware that if we bypass the existing processes to release sooner, we risk breaking core functionality and need to perform an emergency rollback. But I’m happy to oblige if you are willing to accept that risk.” Instead of saying, “Hey, I didn’t have a choice. That director asked me to release this right now and bypass going through QA or going through our regular things.”

Karen Lo: At the end of the day, you’re the one who signed off on doing this thing and you’re the one who actually executed it. Instead of saying that you don’t have a choice, you reflect this back at the requester. And when you reflect the responsibility back at the requester, they need to provide you with an official sign-off on the thing that they’re asking you to do because then you will truly be giving them the option to do it or not and not feeling like you yourself had to break rules in order to accomplish something for someone else.

Karen Lo: One more example is, “Hey, let’s discuss with our manager PM to see what the urgency and priority is. I have work on my plate that will be dropped if I need to jump on the task you’re requesting help with.” This is probably a very common scenario in which you might get pinged by somebody else, or maybe your PM themselves will ask you, “Hey, can you jump on this very urgent bug or deliver on this feature by the end of the week?”

Karen Lo: Well, you can reflect that back to them and say, “All right, I will do it. But just to let you know, I’m working on this thing that we discussed at the beginning of the sprint, and that for sure will slip. Is that the choice you want me to make?” And that way they have to think about what the prioritization is and you do not drop it and then have repercussions at the end when maybe you ended up not delivering on the initial work that you had signed up for at the beginning of the sprint. All right, so that was part two.

Karen Lo: Part three is legitimizing invisible work. What exactly is invisible work? I think a lot of us have done this type of work before. Invisible work is generally very habitual work that we do. Maybe it’s setting up meetings, writing documentation, taking notes to send for a meeting afterwards, remembering people’s birthdays, and celebrating milestones. I don’t know if that sounds familiar to you, but those are a lot of things that I personally have done that felt invisible.

Karen Lo: The first step to legitimize that type of thing is we want to cascade the recognition. Instead of you saying, “Hey, I’m doing all this stuff, guys. I should be recognized for it.” It’s much more about being intentional about who you recognize, how you recognize them, and just being present in being aware that someone did something that maybe went above and beyond, or they did exactly what was within their job description, but they did it really well.

Karen Lo: When you create a feedback loop that takes away pressure to self-promote, you promote other people to start doing the same thing. An example is maybe you’re sending an email to a person that you enjoyed working with, or sorry, maybe you really enjoyed working with somebody. You send an email to their manager, your manager, letting them know about this positive experience you had and how the person assigned helped you accomplish your tasks. Stuff like this that’s day- to-day, they generally are not recognized, but I don’t think there’s any harm in just saying, “Hey, thanks so much for helping me with this request. I know you guys are swamped with a lot of things, but just by the way, I don’t know if you even realize how important it was for me, but this helped me unblock my deployment. And normally, I’m waiting two weeks back and forth.” Something like that, it goes a long way.

Karen Lo: Another way you can do this is privately pinging a person in leadership or maybe even a peer to suggest that they provide recognition for this person because you think that it’s important that they know that this person either helped to go through an architectural review for the first time when the company is trying to make that more standardized. Maybe they did something really well. Maybe they performed their on-call duties really well and the incident management team would love to know that.

Karen Lo: You are just directing the people who might care about it and you’re surfacing what you want to talk about and recognize them for, but you’re not doing it yourself. You’re asking someone else to do it. And generally they’ll probably say, “Oh yeah, I would love to recognize this person.” Or even just give a quick shout-out or send an email just to let broadly more people know about the work that this person did.

Karen Lo: And step two is setting up a framework. Like I mentioned before, invisible work is generally habitual work. And habitual work is the prime candidate for automation and structure because we know that if you’re going to be repeating the same thing over and over, why not make life a little bit easier for not just yourself but everyone else?

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Karen Lo: First thing that goes into this is to set up the framework. What does it look like if you were to repeat this task and be able to share it across not just your team, but maybe other teams as well? Because remember, a framework is something that is repeatable structure-wise, but not all the steps in a framework need to be the same. So they can always be adapted to fit any other use case.

Karen Lo: Some prime examples of how you might set up, or what you might set up a framework for are scrum leader responsibilities, maybe meeting scheduling, team engagement activities, documenting, metric reporting. All of these things you can put together, hey, as a scrum leader, every week you have stand-ups that you run, grooming sessions, sprint planning, retros, sprint review. These are all very straightforward things that every time you’re a scrum leader, you’re probably going to be doing these things.

Karen Lo: Something like team engagement activities and planning, why don’t you just have everybody put in their birthdays and then maybe integrate with a Slack bot so that it reminds everyone when it’s their birthdays. Things like that are prime examples of how you can set up a framework. And of course, there’s many other ways you can do it, but these are just some examples for you to look at.

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Karen Lo: The last step of this playbook for part three is to democratize that. Now that you have the invisible work lined out step by step, it is something that you don’t have to do by yourself anymore. Once you have that together, you can then set up a meeting and say, “Hey everyone, here’s a framework I put together for what you would do as a scrum leader. It would be really great if we each owned, every one of us owned the scrum process because this is for us and this is for our team. I’ve laid it out really simply so that you just need to follow these things and then this is the way that you lead them. And I can definitely provide some feedback along the way. I’m not going anywhere, but I want this to become something that is a shared responsibility.” And like I mentioned earlier, automated birthday milestone reminders.

Karen Lo: Third one is to have explicit driver expectations outlined on who does what and when documented and frequently referenced. And I say frequently referenced because we all know we write documentation that goes into the abyss and no one ever reads it ever again. The framework type of documentation is what I would generally expect drivers to frequently reference until they forget about what is expected of me and they just know, and then they share it with anyone else who joins the team because then those people will also be taking on the responsibility.

Karen Lo: And finally, we want to incorporate team citizenship as a value and form of recognition. You don’t have to be a manager to do this, but if you are in a management or leadership position, it is critical that you are recognizing citizenship. Because it’s so easy for us to get bogged down by the day-to-day things of we’re coding or we’re going to meetings about things and we’re creating pull requests. And we know what our work is. But the part that’s important is the way that we interact with each other. That doesn’t always get intentionally highlighted.

Karen Lo: Intentionally highlighting, “Hey, thanks so much for replying back to me so quickly.” Or, oh, so-and-so, I was running into an issue and they were like, “Why don’t we hop on a chat and I’ll walk you through this thing?” And it just goes a really long way to providing a very healthy culture in which people start to be a lot more mindful about the things that they recognize each other for. And then they’re more aware of what they’re doing so that they can share the love with everybody else. And eventually you create a culture in which people recognize each other without needing to prompt for, “Hey, you should probably recognize that person,” into your culture.”

Karen Lo: That’s pretty much in a nutshell three parts for how I have learned to influence over the years. I hope that this has provided everyone with at least some nuggets of knowledge. Again, thank you so much for joining me today. I know you guys are busy, so have a great rest of your day.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Karen. I know you wanted to share your slides. If you could do that on LinkedIn or whatever social network that you prefer, we can reshare it and people can save it and look at it for themselves. You can always replay this as well. Thank you so much for joining us, and we’ll be hopping to our next session.

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12 Latine/x Women in Tech You Should Know

latinex girl geek x speakers citlalli solano leonce aubrey blanche sandra lopez jomayra herrera

As we kick off Latine/X Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15, 2023), we’re spotlighting and celebrating some of the inspiring Latine/x women who’ve joined the Girl Geek X community as SPEAKERS and THOUGHT LEADERS at our various Girl Geek Dinners and ELEVATE Virtual Conferences over the past 15 years.

#1 – Aubrey Blanche-Sarellano – Culture Amp Senior Director, People Operations & Strategic Programs

aubrey blanche sarellano culture amp
Aubrey is The Mathpath (Math Nerd + Empath), Senior Director of People Operations & Strategic Programs at Culture Amp, and a startup investor and advisor.

Through all her work, she seeks to question, reimagine, and redesign the systems and practices that surround us to ensure that all people can access equitable opportunities and build a better world. Her work is undergirded by her training in social scientific methods and grounded in the fundamental dignity and value of every person.

Her professional expertise covers a broad range of equitable enterprise operations, from talent lifecycle programs and accessible product development to event design and communications & media. She is the inventor of the balanced teams approach to building proportional representation and a culture of belonging in the workplace, as well as the Balanced Teams Diversity Assessment in the Atlassian Team Playbook. She works to open source these methods for all practitioners and business leaders, and releases thought leadership and tools to create positive change at aubreyblanche.com.

She is an advisor to a variety of groups seeking to build a more just world, including Aleria Research and Joonko. Her work has been featured in Wired, the Wall Street Journal, the Australian Financial Review, USA Today, Re/Code, First Round Review, and more. She also has previous academic affiliations with Stanford and Northwestern, and an appointment at the Equity by Design Lab at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Despite the accolades listed here, she asks that you engage with her work to judge her competence: traditional proxies of merit and/or competence help reinforce the systems that keep incredible people from the opportunities they deserve.

We met Aubrey when she first joined us as a speaker for a Girl Geek Dinner while working at Atlassian, where she joined a panel titled “Thank u, next: How “diversity” gets in the way of gender equity.” Then while working at Culture Amp, she joined us for a 2020 ELEVATE talk titled “Every Job is a D&I Job. Every. Job.” where she explained how we can all have an impact in our current roles, without taking a job that focuses specifically on diversity & inclusion.

Our favorite quote from Aubrey:

“When you take a diversity and inclusion job, in most organizations, you give up all of your power but still have all of the responsibility. So what I’m suggesting is that you go into a place in an organization where you have great power, and then take great responsibility.

Let’s say you’re a Director of Marketing. You’re responsible for hiring and promotions, compensation of your people, the culture in your organization, you probably have control of a budget, and you have influence over how others in the organization act and think about these issues. You can simply demand that the hiring processes in your organization are fair and that they’re audited. You can insist on pay equity audits to make sure that people are compensated commensurate with their value. For the culture, you can enforce standards of behavior and respect for other people. And you can influence, just by your behavior, the way that other leaders in your organization can show up as allies.

So when I say don’t get a diversity and inclusion job, I’m not telling you to give up on creating systemic change. What I’m recommending is that you go from influencing people to bring equity and justice in the world to actually bringing equity and justice into the world yourself.

#2 – Cindy Alvarez – Microsoft Director of UX, PowerPoint

cindy alvarez microsoft
Cindy is the author of “Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy” and Director of UX at PowerPoint (Microsoft). Previously, she was the Director of Customer Research at GitHub, and also served as Director of User Experience for Yammer (a Microsoft company).

She has over a dozen years’ experience leading design, product management, user research, and customer development for startups, and used that background to drive intrapreneurial change within Microsoft.

Cindy has spoken at Girl Geek Dinners at Yammer, GitHub, and she joined us virtually for our inaugural ELEVATE virtual conference in 2018, with an evergreen talk titled: The Customer Is Not Always Right.”

Here’s one of the top takeaways from Cindy’s ELEVATE talk:

“A lot of us, when we’re interacting with customers and hear a demand for features, it’s hard to ask why. But it’s useful to take that step back. I like to announce it as such, and say, ‘Just a second. I want to be sure I understand something. It sounds like you’re asking for this feature. Just to be sure I understand, if we had already built it, what would it allow you to do? Essentially, how would it make your life better if you had this thing?’

When you ask people some polite version of ‘how would it make your life better?’ a lot of times you get a non-answer. You’ll get an answer like, ‘Well, it would just be nice to have,’ or ‘your competitor has it.’

Once in a while, you might hear: ‘Oh, you know, it would take me half the time to sort my data. Oh, I wouldn’t have to waste head count on this position. We could start coding tomorrow.’ When people have a story, that’s something worth doing.”

#3 – Citlalli Solano Leonce – Palo Alto Networks Director of Engineering

citlalli solano leonce palo alto networks

Citlalli is a Director of Engineering (Network Security) at Palo Alto Networks. She has also worked as Director of Engineering at Splunk, where she oversaw the Enterprise Security team. Citlalli previously served as Director of Cloud Security Engineering at Palo Alto Networks, where teams develop the backend of the Public Cloud Security service that protects enterprises as they unleash the power of the cloud.

Citlalli has navigated her teams through M&A integrations while successfully building highly distributed API-based SaaS security platforms.

Earlier in her career, she developed software for CirroSecure, Cisco, Apple and The Central Bank of Mexico. Citlalli holds a BS in Computer Systems Engineering from Tecnolgico de Monterrey in Mexico, and an MS in Information Security Technology and Management from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh PA. She’s also an advisor at Techmmunity.

Citlalli joined us for a panel on “Building High Performance Teams” at ELEVATE 2019 that’s packed full of useful insights for managers, and at a Palo Alto Girl Geek Dinner where she gave a lightning talk.

Our favorite words of wisdom from Citlalli: “One of my values is transparency, so as a leader, I would rather know the good, the bad, and the ugly upfront, because then I can do something about it. During interviews, I’m very transparent. I’ll say: ‘I think you’re a great fit. I really want you to work for us, but you’re going to face this, this, this, and that,’ and even in the questions ask them, ‘How have you dealt with this type of situation?’ So, ‘Tell me the worst mistake you’ve made and how you came out of it.’ And you can tell when people have done it before or learned something, and that reflects their own transparency.”

#4 – Diane Gonzalez – Amazon VP of Technology

diane gonzalez amazon vp technology
As a pioneering woman in tech, Diane began her tech career at Hewlett-Packard as a Senior Software Engineer in the 80’s. Diane is a proven, respected technology executive, currently serving as Vice President of Technology at Amazon, and she previously oversaw Amazon’s AWS Commerce Platform in a VP role.

Prior to joining Amazon, she was Vice President/GM of Platform Services at VMware. She was also Vice President of Engineering for the Online Services Division at Citrix. She has worked as an Executive Consultant with several start-ups where she functioned as the Vice President of Engineering, and served as VP of Product Development at Intuit. She is an active member in various women and minority forums.

Diane joined us as a speaker at one of our earliest Girl Geek Dinners in San Francisco — way back in 2012! Her talk remains relevant today: “Dealing with transitions and change in Engineering.

Our favorite excerpt from her talk: “In my career, I’ve never really met anyone who would admit to being a bad decision maker. We all think we’re good decision makers. Maybe that’s true. I mean, we’ve all probably made bad decisions in the past. But in my opinion, the worst thing is no decision. There’s a lot of analysis paralysis. Probably one of the most important things around making a decision… is to make a decision. You can’t just pore over the information over and over again.

Part of what I do is make sure I really understand the opportunity. Determine the expected return on investment — is the return sufficient to out weight other possibilities? What is the opportunity cost for investing in this instead of something else? You could be doing something really cool, but completely miss out on another opportunity. You have to really understand and think about what that means to you. Solicit different opinions. Have a sounding board, share your thought process, get feedback. Then step back, look at the facts, and make the decision. People get caught up in the should I, or shouldn’t I, and you just have to be bold sometimes and make those decisions.”

#5 – Geysa Dantas – ServiceNow VP of Product Management

geysa dantes cisco

Geysa is the Vice President of Product Management at ServiceNow. Previously, she served as Senior Director of Product Management, Customer Experience at AppDynamics. She also worked at Adobe and Get Satisfaction as a Director of Product Management.

Originally from Brazil, Geysa graduated in the top 5% of her class from Universidade Federal da Bahia with a degree in Computer Science. She started her career as a programmer, but later went back to school to get her MBA in Marketing and Finance and then switched careers to move from development to Product Management. Through a series of big and small companies, Geysa found herself at AppDynamics to rejoin their CEO David Wadhwani who she worked closely with at Adobe, to build AppDynamics Customer Experience.

#6 – Jessica Dene Earley-Cha

jessica dene earley cha g
Jessica (she/her) is a Latina developer, educator and advocate in tech. Most recently, she served as a developer relations engineer at Google, connecting with developers and creating resources. She is on the board of Girl Develop It and a Women Techmakers ambassador. Jessica worked with at-risk youth and adults facing mental health challenges before pivoting to working in tech.

At our recent ELEVATE Virtual Conference & Career Fair on September 6th, she shared her 7-step tried-and-proven process for excelling in technical interviews. She covered whiteboarding tips and tricks, how to navigate difficult questions, and resources for frontend and systems architecture.

Our favorite advice from Jessica: Next time you get stumped during a whiteboarding exercise, don’t panic. You’re not going to say “I don’t know,” and you don’t have to apologize or feel bad for not instantly knowing the answer or the next step. Instead, try: “Hmmmm. This is interesting.

Saying “this is interesting” buys you time.

Now you can think about it, or discuss why you find it interesting. You can think through it out loud, or turn it into a collaborative discussion without getting flustered.

Don’t let getting stumped on a whiteboard — which isn’t even part of the actual job — ruin an otherwise great interview!

#7 – Jomayra Herrera – Reach Capital Partner

jomayra herrera reach capital

Jomayra has experience working with early and growth-stage companies both as an investor and an operator. She is currently a Partner at Reach Capital, and sits on the Board of Directors at both SomosVC and WorkWhile. Previously, she was a Principal at Cowboy Ventures, and prior to that, she spent nearly 3 years as an investor at Emerson Collective.

As an early hire on the investing team, she played an important role in creating internal processes, building key investment theses, and helping to grow the team. During her time there, she worked on a diverse range of investments, including traditional venture investments and buyouts, and developed a special interest in companies tackling issues related to the Future of Work. She also worked at BloomBoard, an early-stage education technology company, where she focused on customer success and growth.

She is incredibly passionate about partnering with entrepreneurs to help grow and scale their companies.

At ELEVATE 2020, Jomayra gave a talk on “The Link Between the Future of Work, Education and Care:”

“We’re seeing a flipping of the whole employment model on its head, which is the ability to not even rely on the concept of an employer to generate income. Self-employment isn’t new, but what is new are platforms that help to enable new types of self-employment. So if you’re a writer, you no longer have to rely on large publishers to monetize your writing. You can use Substack. If you are an educator and you want to teach about art or poetry or creative writing, you can use Outschool and generate either supplemental income, or something that actually generates a majority of your income and have that optionality on your own. We’re moving into a world where you have more ownership over your career than ever before. And with the rise of options, the rise of data, and the rise of having access to communities that can help you, we have the ability to be more conscious workers.”

#8 – Lili Gangas – Kapor Center Chief Technology Community Officer

lili gangas kapor center

Lili is the Chief Technology Community Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact. In her role, Lili helps catalyze Oakland’s emergence as a social impact hub of tech done right – where tech, diverse talent, and action driven partnerships can tackle pressing social and economic inequities of our communities head-on.

Lili advises inclusive tech entrepreneurship ecosystem building activities Oakland initiatives such as Oakland Startup Network, TechHire Oakland, Latinx in Tech, Kapor Center Innovation Lab.

Before coming to the Kapor Center, Lili was an Associate Principal at Accenture Technology Lab’s Open Innovation team, based out of Silicon Valley, building bridges between startups and commercial clients. She was also a founding member of the Innovation Services team at Booz Allen specializing in crowdsourcing, prize challenges, and open data solutions at the federal level. Before that, Lili could be found in the lab working on software and hardware solutions for the aerospace industry as a Senior Multi-Disciplined Software Engineer at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.

Lili is a proud immigrant from Bolivia who believes in fostering inclusive tech ecosystems for all. She’s been an active Startup Weekend organizer – helping launch Women’s Edition, Impact Edition, and Latinx in Tech Editions. She also helped organize the first ever TEDxOakland. She is an advisor to tech focused nonprofits such as AI-4-All.org, 1Degree.org and Dreamwakers.org.

Lili holds an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California and Systems Engineering Certification from UCLA Extension.

In her 2019 Girl Geek X talk, “Tech Stayers & Leavers,” Lili shared some poignant advice for managers and execs who want to stop women from leaving their companies:

“If you’re a C-Suite exec at a tech company, or you’re a manager, there are ways that you can directly really help create a more level playing field for everybody in your workplace, and ultimately, women, we really just want to have equal pay. We cannot believe that we’re in 2019 and we still have issues that we’re still being underpaid. Specifically, Latinas in the US are significantly underpaid. They’re about 56 cents on the dollar compared to a white male.

Second, improving company leadership is critical. Without having the C-Suite, the CEO, and also the managers across the different angles being able to advocate and really create and put forward new policies… this is going to continue. We have to lead by example. 

Promotion is also important. This is an area where a lot of women that were surveyed, specifically expressed that this is why they were leaving, in addition to wanting to have a better work/life balance. If you’re not finding the opportunity internally, you’re going to leave. But sometimes if your job at the moment is providing you a great work/life flexibility, it’s harder to make that change. Sometimes our careers start plateauing, but we have to be mindful that there are other opportunities and options. Ultimately, we just want to have a much more positive and respectful work environment.”

#9 – Luiza Pena – Cadence Lead Application Engineer

luiza pena cadence

Luiza is a Lead Formal Verification Engineer at Cadence Design Systems in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She is working in the Semiconductor industry by driving usage success and business across several top notch US-based companies remotely. She believes women can boost their career through good strategies and overcome the networking challenges of remote work. With this mindset, she has worked with mentorship and career counseling volunteer projects for STEM women inside and outside Brazil.

Luiza joined us on International Women’s Day at ELEVATE 2023 to share her top career advice: “The 4 Allies You Need to Boost Your Career.”

Our fave quote from Luiza’s talk: “You need to build self-awareness by understanding your position and where you can go in the company – what are your strengths and where can you get with these skills that you can stand out? And you always need to work on your personal branding so people see what you’re doing and the results that you’re getting. And you need to understand who are the key people that are going to help you amplify your impact and take the next step in your career. This is stakeholder’s awareness. Be intentional and pro-actively connect with the people who can help your career.

#10 – Maria Lucena – Fidelity Investments Director of Architecture

maria lucena fidelity director architecture

Maria is a Director of Architecture at Fidelity Investments, and has been in Software Development for over a decade. She started as a freelance web developer in 2009, with only a Web Development Diploma.

As a working mom/wife with limited education, she had to build her skills and learn on the job. HTML, CSS, JavaScript with MySQL were her bread and butter.

Once she had a solid portfolio, she landed a compelling opportunity at Santander Bank in Boston. After working with Java, Oracle, Microsoft SQL servers, and Angular 1, Maria was ready for her next adventure.

In 2015, she was going to school part-time for her Associate’s in IT and landed a job at Fidelity Investments. Here’s where Maria’s career took off. She is a full-stack engineer, but her best work has been backend work, which is where she prefers to spend her days. In the last two years, she has applied for two patents with a college at Fidelity, one of which has been accepted.

During our ELEVATE 2022 Virtual Conference, Maria partnered with her colleague Divya Mahajan (Director of Architecture at Fidelity Investments) to give a tech talk on “AWS, GraphQL, with Apollo, Vue.JS: Delivering Enterprise-Grade Applications.

#11 – Rocio Montes – Github Senior Engineering Manager

rocio montes github

Rocio is a Senior Engineering Manager at Github. She leads the Actions Compute team, ensuring the massive capacity required to power Actions runners. Prior to this role, she was engineering manager and tech lead for inner source and open source at Intuit. She is a true community builder, and works to connect and collaborate with software engineers to deliver amazing end-to-end solutions.

She is also currently Co-Chair for Grace Hopper Conference’ Open Source Day.

Outside of work, Rocio is the Co-founder of “Emar”, a small business with a mission to connect US small businesses with technology needs to software engineering interns in Peru.

We’ve featured Rocio as a speaker at multiple Girl Geek X events! Her first session was an engaging conversation with Intuit CTO Marianna Tessel, titled “How to Quickly Ramp Up on Open Source.”
Rocio was invited back again for our March 2022 International Women’s Day conference, and spoke on a career panel: “It’s A Hot Job Market. Do You Stay or Do You Leave?

Our favorite takeaway from Rocio’s talks: When planning your next career move or making a big decision, go back to “What are you passionate about? What excites you in the morning?”

Let what you’re passionate about drive you to really find the right role or company, and to make the leap to changing roles.

#12 – Sandra Lopez – Microsoft GM / VP / CMO

sandra lopez microsoft

Sandra is an internationally recognized business leader, currently serving as GM/VP/CMO at Microsoft. Prior to joining Microsoft, she built an impressive career at Intel spanning nearly 16 years and leading multiple departments. Most recently, she held the role of Vice President for Intel Sports and Media, responsible for partnering with the sports and media industry to provide the future fans and consumers with the next generation of immersive media experiences. Her team at Intel was focused on leading the business, marketing, and market development efforts of Intel Sports and Intel Studios.

She also previously worked within Intel’s New Technology Group, leading and managing the Fashion wearable business. In this role, she was a vocal advocate for the convergence between fashion and technology. Earlier in her Intel career, she held various roles within corporate marketing, including director of new business marketing and director of consumer marketing. In the latter role, she led Intel’s brand repositioning work to earn an Intel Achievement Award in 2010. She also earned industry honors.

Before joining Intel in 2005, she worked at Adobe Systems Inc., Macromedia, Computer Associates International Inc. and several other technology companies where she earned a reputation for transforming and growing businesses. She holds a bachelor’s of science degree in economics and textiles and clothing from the University of California at Davis. In addition, she attended the Stanford Intel Accelerator Program. As part of contributing to the community, she is focused on building the next generation of women leaders and is a vocal advocate for equality.

Since 2018, Sandra has co-chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on AR/VR. She has been recognized as one of the “Most Powerful Latinas” (ALPFA), Most Powerful Women in Tech” (National Diversity Council), “Top Women in Media” (Cynopsis), “Top 10 Latina Executives” (LatinaStyle), “Top 100 Most Influential Latina” (Latino Leaders) , “Most Influential and Notable Hispanic Professionals in Information Technology” (HiTec) and “Game Changer” (Sports Business Journal).

Sandra has spoken at several Girl Geek X events going back as far as 2015, including our 2019 ELEVATE International Women’s Day Virtual Conference, where she shared poignant advice on being yourself in her keynote talk: “Being Unapologetically You.

One of our favorite takeaways from Sandra’s talks: “If I could go back and advise my younger self, my advice would be… be your unapologetic you.

In being yourself, in refusing to assimilate or mold yourself to your surroundings, once you stop trying so hard to fit it… you discover what you’re capable of. In the process, you gain confidence, and you find your voice.

“As a Latina, when you’re born, the culture tells you never to challenge seniority. But challenging seniority in a corporate setting is really about intellectual curiosity, and trying to do what’s right for the business. And so, I have found the confidence and the voice to have those conversations by being my unapologetic self.”

Honorable Mentions – Latine/X Women We’d Love to Hear From!

The above list is just a snapshot of the dozens of remarkable Latine/X leaders and innovators who’ve joined us at Girl Geek X / Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners over the past 15+ years. There are many more we’d love to invite back to speak again, or feature at a Girl Geek event for the first time!

Adriana Rojas Garzón – Vice President & Assistant General Counsel, Bain Capital

Alejandra Meza – Head of Product Design, Huckleberry Labs

Alma Islas – Global Deployment Manager & Co-Founder of Oracle Latinos Alliance, Oracle

Amy Jiménez Márquez – VP of Experience Design, Zillow

Ana Arriola – Director of Product Design, AI & Insights, Cloud + AI, Microsoft

Ana Corrales – Chief Operating Officer, Google Consumer Hardware

Ana Pompa Alarcón – CEO, Founders Registry

Annie Benitez Pelaez – Vice President of Product Management, Genesys

Beatriz Copelli – SVP, CIO North America, Danone

Carolina Barcenas – Head of Platform Data Science, Airbnb

Carolina Galleguillos – Senior Machine Learning Engineer, Google

Catalina LaverdeEngineering Manager at Spotify

Christina Cuarón – Managing & Chief Operating Officer, Core Technology Infrastructure, Bank of America

Claudia Barrera – Senior Vice President Global Applications, Colgate-Palmolive

Cristina Rodriguez – VP / GM, Wireless Access Network Division, Intel Corporation

Cristina Rufeisen – Senior Director IT, Program Management, Electronic Arts (EA)

Cynthia Maxwell – Vice President of Software Engineering, Disney Entertainment and ESPN Technology

Dena R. Jones – Vice President, Office of the CIO, Fannie Mae

Denise Hernandez – Program Manager, Artificial Intelligence, Meta

Diana Centeno-Gomez, Chief, Smart Sensing and Electronics Systems Branch, NASA Glenn Research Center

Diana Toscas – Director of Engineering, Developer Productivity & Operations, PayPal Checkout

Diana TrujilloAerospace Engineer & Flight Director, Artemis Program, NASA

Élida Cruz – Vice President, Head of Business Experience Design, Capital One

Elizabeth Agosto – COO, Global Cybersecurity, BNY Mellon

Ester Peña – VP, Software Engineering, Travelers

Evelyn Miralles – Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Xploration LLC

Gloria Candelario Hossri – Associate Vice President, Digital Supply Chain, Merck

Grecia Castaldi – Director of Community, Women Who Code

Gretel Perera – Co-Founder, Latinas in Technology

Guayente Sanmartin – General Manager, Global Head of Commercial Systems & Displays Solutions, HP

Gyssela Moreno-Stephens – Strategy and Integration, Business Execution Director, Wells Fargo

Ina Fried – Chief Technology Correspondent, Axios

Irma Olguin Jr. – Co-Founder & CEO, Bitwise Industries

Jacqueline Guichelaar – Customer Experience Officer, APAC, Cisco

Julie AcostaSenior Web Analytics Manager, AutoZone

Katia Beauchamp – CEO, Victoria Beckham Beauty & Co-Founder, Birchbox

Katty Coulson – Vice President IT & CIO, Oracle NetSuite

Keria Bermúdez-Hernández, PhD – Principal Data Scientist, Sonos

Kristen Sonday – Co-Founder, Paladin

Lidia Fonseca – Chief Digital and Technology Officer, Executive Vice President, Pfizer

Lidiane Jones – CEO, Slack (Salesforce)

Lidia Santos – Vice President of Information Technology, UPS

Lilian Rincon – Senior Director of Product Management, Google

Lisa Morales-Hellebo – Co-Founder, The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation / Co-Founder & General Partner, REFASHIOND Ventures

Liz Munoz – Chief Creative Officer, Torrid

Loni Olazaba – Director, Technical Recruiting, Robinhood

Lori Castillo Martinez – EVP & Chief Equality Officer, Salesforce

Lynette Midy Senior Director Of Engineering, SpotHero

Marcela Escobar Alava – Deputy CIO, White House, Executive Office of the President

Maria Cuba – Director, Community Partnerships, Airbnb

Mariely Bandas-Franzetti – Vice President, Information Technology, Cisco

May Garcia – Senior Producer, Internal Game Studios, Netflix

Megan Hogan – Global Head of Talent & Chief Diversity Officer, Goldman Sachs

Miriam Flores – Software Engineer III, BlackRock

Monica Caldas – EVP, Global Chief Information Officer, Liberty Mutual Insurance

Monica Esparza Younger – Vice President, Dell Financial Services IT, Dell Technologies

Nellie Borrero – Managing Director, Senior Strategic Advisor – Global Inclusion & Diversity, Accenture

Patty Arvielo – Co-Founder & President, New American Funding

Pilar Manchón, PhD – Senior Director of Engineering, AI Research Strategy, Google

Rachel ten Brink – General Partner & Co-Founder, Red Bike Capital

Roasanna Durruthy – VP, Global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, LinkedIn

Rocío Medina van Nierop – CEO & Co-Founder, Latinas in Tech

Rosa Gonzalez Welton – Director of Product Management, Intuit

Sandra Mosquera – Vice President & API Marketplace Product Manager, JP Morgan Chase

Sandra Rivera – Executive Vice President & General Manager of the Data Center and AI Group, Intel Corporation

Sarah Ricketts – Director Business Solutions, Intuit Mailchimp

Susan Doniz – Chief Information Officer, Boeing

Tanya Menendez – Co-Founder & CEO, Snowball Wealth

Tatiana Dominguez – Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Deloitte

Thamara Ramirez-Walker – Global Vice President Sustainability ESG Marketing, SAP

Want to speak at a future Girl Geek X event or know someone who should?

We’re always looking for inspiring stories, unique voices, and helpful insights from both new and established speakers! We host IRL events in the San Francisco Bay Area, plus virtual events every quarter, and submissions are accepted on a rolling basis. Read about what types of talks we’re looking for, then submit your speaker proposal here!

We also accept speaker suggestions/nominations, so if there’s an awesome Latine/X woman or non-binary individual you think we should invite to speak at a future Girl Geek X event, head on over to our LinkedIn post and tag her in the comments!

Plus We Have Bay Area Volunteer Opportunities for Latine/X Month!

On Monday, October 2, 2023 (1:00pm-2:30pm), Girl Geek X Community Volunteers will read books to 2-3 elementary school classes that celebrate Latine/x culture in a 90-minute volunteer shift. Books and sample questions to guide conversations are provided by the nonprofit Oakland Public Education Fund.

Volunteers do not need to identify as Latine/x to participate, and those who do identify as such are encouraged to participate and share about their culture with students.


Latinex read in oakland school

Best of ELEVATE 2023: From Introverted Leaders to Technical Interviewing, Career Playbooks (Videos + Jobs)

girl geek x elevate fall conference speakers

Girl Geek X’s highly-anticipated ELEVATE Conference and Career Fair on September 6, 2023 hosted over 1.5k mid-to-senior women in tech around the world online for inspiration, connection, and learning. 

Thank you to our inspiring speakers & sponsors for helping make ELEVATE conference an incredible experience. Check out our sponsor’s remote/flexible jobs – they are actively hiring! Please spread the word and help a girl geek find her next role in tech!

Here are the most popular talks from September 6th’s ELEVATE 2023! You can watch (or re-watch) them at the links below:

  1. Why Companies Need More Introverted Leaders (Keynote) – Nicole Husain, Chief Operating Officer at Lighthouse Labs
  2. Career Fair Kickoff: Employer & Company Introductions – Bentley Systems  – Gen Taurand, Product Manager at Bentley Systems, Stephanie Robinson, Director of Services at Cohesive / Bentley System, & Meghan Goff, Manager of Talent Acquisition at Bentley Systems introduce themselves, the company, roles & hiring process.
  3. Level Up Your Technical Interviewing Techniques – Jessica Dene Earley-Cha, formerly Developer Relations Engineer at Google
  4. Company Introductions – The New Club  – Laura Du, CEO & Founder at The New Club, & Danielle McLaughlin, Founding Head of Talent at The New Club
  5. Things I Wish I Had Known Earlier in my Career – Rachel Rogers, VP of Industry & Product Marketing at Bentley Systems, & Natalie Plummer, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Bentley Systems
  6. Rewriting the Leadership Manual: Playbook on Influencing for Non-Influencers – Karen Lo, Director of Engineering at JLL Technologies
  7. Cloud Migration Trends: What You Should Know – Whitney Stewart, Senior Cloud Solutions Specialist at Microsoft
  8. Mastering Effective Interviewing Skills  and Situational Interviews in a Professional Setting Sylvia Martin, Chief Nursing Officer at Kaiser Permanente
  9. Breaking into Product from Engineering – Rekha Venkatakrishnan, Amazon Head of Product
  10. The Many Facets of the Staff Engineer – Stacey Shkuratoff, Staff Software Engineer at Guild

Employers joined for introductions and virtual booths – see who joined below:

elevate june speakers sponsors
Elevate Conference Sept Booth Bentley Systems Natalie Plummer Meghan Goff Stephanie Robinson Gen Taurand
Elevate Virtual Booth The New Club Laura Du Danielle McLaughlin

40 Mentors kicked off the conference – volunteering in the Mentor Lounge that was buzzing with questions and advice on everything from engineering, product, security, AI, healthtech, non-coding roles in tech – to interviewing and career search tips.

Mentors joined from companies like Google, Airbnb, Amazon, Autodesk, Twilio, Fastly, Okta, Bayer, Alphawave Semi, Anthropic, Kohl’s, Riot Games and more. Mentors ranged from CTO to engineering managers, VPs to product managers and engineers.

elevate mentors lounge sept
elevate virtual career fair for mid-senior women in tech, 2023
If your company is looking to recruit more women this year, please don’t let them miss out on our next Conference & Career Fair sponsorship opportunity! 

We want to hear from you. The next ELEVATE Conferences are December 6th, 2023 and March 8, 2024. We also partner with companies on Girl Geek Dinners in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Please email sponsors@girlgeek.io and we’ll be in touch.

Thank you in advance!

– Angie Chang, Sukrutha Bhadouria, Amy Weicker, Amanda Beaty and the team at Girl Geek X
girl geek x elevate fall conference speakers words

September 6th, 2023 ELEVATE Conference & Career Fair was a hit!

Looking forward to December 6, 2023 and March 8th, 2024 (International Women’s Day) ELEVATE Virtual Conferences!