“The 4 Allies You Need to Boost Your Career”: Luiza Pena, Lead Application Engineer at Cadence (Video + Transcript)

March 20, 2023

Luiza Pena (Lead Application Engineer at Cadence) talks about the 4 allies you need in your career to facilitate growth. She discusses the challenges of remote work regarding career development and networking, how promote yourself in this new environment, and most importantly, how women can leverage professional relationships to go beyond their dreams.


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Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi everyone. We’re back with the next session in Elevate. We hope you’re having a wonderful time so far. We now have Luiza who’s going to be speaking to us all the way from Brazil, depending on where you are all the way or right next to you. <Laugh>

Luiza Pena: Yes.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Lead formal verification engineer at Cadence Design Systems in Brazil. She enjoys working in the semiconductor industry, driving usage, success and business across several top-notch US based companies remotely. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we love to hear that she has worked with mentorship and career counseling, volunteer projects for women all across STEM. Welcome, Luiza. We’re so happy to have you here.

Luiza Pena: Thank you very much, Sukrutha. I’ll go ahead and get started here. Good morning, good afternoon, or evening, wherever you are right now in Brazil. It’s 6:30. It’s evening already. I’m very happy to be here to talk about this topic on the four allies you need to boost your career. I want to start this topic with a short story. If you watched Rebecca’s presentation earlier today, or maybe if you visited one of our booths in the virtual lounges, you probably know more about Cadence. But in a summary, Cadence is a tech company in the electronic design automation industry (EDA). It provides software, hardware, and system solutions to customers, mainly in the semiconductor industry, but also automotive and many others. And my role at Cadence is an application engineer, and I specialize in our formal verification of hardware tool called the Jasper.

Luiza Pena: I can say that Cadence today has over 10,000 employees, and the majority of this number composes those big R&D groups that we have across the globe developing different tools as part of Cadence’s portfolio. But as an application engineer, I am part of the sales and field operations group, and my goal is to make sure that our customers are properly using the tools we develop and they are also successful in their project. My group is like a top-notch customized platinum support. Let’s see.

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Luiza Pena: My organization, even though it is not as big as R&D, it is still pretty large, maybe over 2000 people. And in this sales and field operations organization, there is a very important performance award given every quarter, two application engineers directly from our corporate vice president. It is a pretty big deal. And then one quarter while I was still, let’s say in the mid junior level, maybe I had two years in the company, I won this performance award and I was pretty happy about it, but also very surprised.

Luiza Pena: It was the first time someone from Brazil won, so as many of us women do when these situations happen, I asked myself, wait, why me? Then I asked my manager about it and he said that he’s, he just nominated me to our group director and he didn’t know how it goes after that. And well, that made me think a lot because if this award is given by the chief level vice president of our organization, it went through group directors, VPs, general managers and many other levels until we got there. How did I go so far? Maybe it was luck or something, but I didn’t believe that.

Luiza Pena: I started by reflecting upon what was the impact of the project that I was leading at the moment in your work context, positive impact maybe is providing the best technical solution or create new products, or maybe it is related to team building and developing the talents of your company. Maybe it is regarding effective management. Strengthen the company’s business position by making sure that the others are delivering what is important, right? And what all of these activities, whatever you do, can be or not relevant for the company. It depends of course, in your own competence and capacity to exceed the expectations, but it also depends on the opportunity that are offered to us and the projects that we are participating in.

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Luiza Pena: Business acumen is something very important here. If you have it, it’s much easier to make decisions in a more conscious way when opportunities are reachable to you. Business acumen is also defined as just general business understanding. I like to think that it is the ability to take a big picture, view of a situation, weight it up, and make decisions that impact positively in the company. And to do this, you need to have a good general business knowledge of your organization and the market that your company is inserted in. You also need to understand how your team, your group, and the project impact on the business. Second, you need to develop important abilities that help you understanding cause and effect and make good decisions based on that.

Luiza Pena: You can ask yourself, is this project I’m working or this feature that I’m developing going to have a good positive impact in the overall company’s business? And finally, networking awareness. This is the focus of this presentation. While I’m pretty sure the previous two topics are covered by other presentations in this conference, right?

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Luiza Pena: You need to build self-awareness by understanding your position and where you can go in the company – what are your strengths and where you can 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 and I like this idea a lot.

Luiza Pena: We need to be intentional about forming relationships and building our networks. This is something that men are doing all the time, and sometimes it’s not clear to us women that we have this power at our hands. And the question that we have here is, who are these people that we need to proactively connect with?

Luiza Pena: And then we reach the four allies idea. This is a concept that is widely spread in the corporate world. You can search about it on the internet and see different opinions about this same topic, but the general idea is that by connecting and collaborating with these four stakeholders, you can develop your knowledge skills and boost your influence.

Luiza Pena: The first of them is a mentor. Mentors are the ones who support, guide and advise you. This is a very flexible role, it can be someone in your company or out outside your company and can last like long or short. This guidance can be either technical or personal or even develop a soft skill that you’re lacking, but they are the ones that are going to share your joys and challenges professionally. Hopefully you are going to have many of them through your career along different levels of experience. Okay?

Luiza Pena: The next line in our list are the sponsors. Sponsors are the ones who provide you with different types of opportunities. These opportunities can be either a promotion, giving visibility of something that you’ve done, networking events – so they are generally part of the organization different from the mentor. That is like a more flexible role. They can be maybe a supervisor or manager or a senior level for colleague that can open doors for you. They are going to fight for you in forums that you don’t have access to, but they expect you to work hard and reflect positively on them as a result, since they are giving you opportunities. And because of that, sponsors usually give you honest and direct feedback, including the tough stuff. And I like to say that my mentors have made me the person I am, but my sponsors have gotten me to the position I am in today. I guess this is the main difference between the two of them.

Luiza Pena: And we go to the next ally which is the role model. Role models are the people who you may or may not know well, might be like a famous celebrity or something, but they demonstrate talents that you want to emulate and act habits that you want to develop. As for me, I have role models for technical expertise, mindset, or a ideological position, or they just have astounded me with their tireless advocacy for women and other important causes that I also fight for, or maybe they have shown me how to handle with a diversity, with resilience, assertiveness, and grace. This is also an inspiration for me, and they are crucial for your growth, even sometimes you don’t know these people, but because developing yourself as a person will make you proud and give you strength, inspiration, and motivation to take the next steps and succeed. Okay? They are also very important.

Luiza Pena: Last but not least, the best friend at work. <laugh> This concept has garnered some criticism, but in my opinion, there is no doubt that a friend at work help you. You know, it helps the day go by more quickly because they give you emotional support. They can boost your confidence on taking important steps and decisions in your career. And the message that I want to give here is that if you are lucky enough to find this person and truly connect with someone at work, don’t hesitate to do that just because they are in the workplace, okay? Because having this person is also very important for your career development.

Luiza Pena: And if we go back to our initial story, these are my guesses of what I think the stakeholders of the story thought about my nomination of that important performance award. Okay? Keep in mind that the idea here also applies to an important decision that your superiors are making about your career, like a promotion or deciding to give you a new project. And first, with my manager, he is the one who knows my job, right? He probably decided to nominate me and provided a lot of technical details to pass along. And when they came to our director, he still understands the technical aspects of what we are doing, right? But he probably thought that it was impressive. And by promoting that it will also promote his team overall. When it goes to a general manager or a group director, they might not even know who you are, and they are probably more focused about the project relevance or the customer importance.

Luiza Pena: This is why business acumen is important here, because you should be asking for opportunities matching two things you believe you can truly contribute to them with your skills, and you believe they have a good impact in the organization, and it is a relevant activity, okay? But the real magic happened here.

Luiza Pena: The vice president of my group was the person who idealized the creation of my team in Brazil some years ago. We didn’t have application engineers in Brazil before, and it was her personal project and showing the impressive things that we were down here would also reflect up upon her own success. She was the one who developed the talents here, and look what these young talents are producing. This is like great for her organization and showing the good work that everybody was doing. I think this was the most important part here.

Luiza Pena: And finally, in the very upper executive levels like corporate VP or a chief level officer, they will trust the judgment of their leaders in general, and they will always try to match the company’s culture and business. This person particularly is an amazing advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. And they believe in promoting young talents as it is also important for Cadence as a company. That might have impacted in the decision. If we translate this story, we can say that for your direct management is your hard work and your excellence that really matters, okay?

Luiza Pena: And for a unit level, you need to somehow exceed the expectations and do something that raises the bar for the team. And again, Rebecca mentioned it about knowing what you stand out and what are your key qualities really helps fighting your way here to, exceed the expectations. For the group level is the project relevance and a matching with the group’s goals that is going to matter. For the VP level, then it is business impact, customer impact. And in my case, it also had a matching with the goals of the the VP. And finally, in addition to business impact, the C level is going to be also worried about alignment with the company’s future and goals.

Luiza Pena: In this story, I can say that my manager was my mentor because he helped me a lot guiding me on leading this project but he was also a sponsor by doing the first nomination after all right? And I can say that my personal influence alone can reach from direct management to unit level maybe. And I want to mention that I had a very important friend during this phase that helped me go to through very challenging situations. And finally, I guess my main sponsor in this story was the VP and her influence was the one that made the nomination go through all the levels. Okay?

Luiza Pena: I think this is the important part that I could understand afterward, and I was doing the right thing by not knowing that I was doing the right thing. But it is very important to be conscious about this. And finally, one challenge that we have to connect with these four allies is when we work remotely. I’m based in Brazil, but most of my colleagues and customers are based in US.

Luiza Pena: Since many of us are remote, it’s even more important to embrace the opportunities to build our network within the company. One thing that we suggested to our manager, for example, is to pair juniors with seniors in our group in a official mentorship program, so every new person who joins the team has weekly or bi-weekly meetings with a senior colleague from a different location for a period of one year. This is official, and that encourages people, you know, to connect.

Luiza Pena: Another idea is if your company doesn’t give periodical updates on company’s goals and business position, you can ask for example, your manager to give like a quarterly update on what are the plans for the, the project that you are developing and the overall situation of the business. This is something that you can plant some seeds with some key people to provide more information to build your business acumen and finally be interactive with your peers. The opportunity to communicate are, you know difficult when we have this remote or, or hybrid work. Whenever you have the opportunity to have like a one-on-one or a meeting with a manager or a senior person in your team, make your intentions clear. Being assertive in your one-on-one communications is very important and show your intention on taking the next steps in your career.

Luiza Pena: Sometimes they make assumptions and they don’t even know that you are considering taking the next steps. So make your intentions clear so you they can you know, remind about you when these opportunities show up. And finally, don’t miss the in remote or in-person connection opportunities. My current most active mentor, I met him in the World Cup chat in the internal chat in the company. And we started, you know, talking there about football. And then I realized that he had awesome skills and then I asked him if we could meet like monthly just to discuss different topics. It was really out of the blue, but a very nice surprise.

Luiza Pena: To finish, support the women around you, mentor or sponsor if you have the opportunity. And maybe they are more approachable if you’re seeking for mentorship or sponsorship, but our presence in the STEM communities is still not as expansive as we wanted. Be open-minded ask for mentorship from men also, because otherwise we would be relying with few people. We want to expand our influence and also reach to places that some women are not reaching today. This is what I had to share. It is a lot of information, but I just wanted to plant this seed and open your mind that you start paying attention on those stakeholders in your own company and whatever step you are in your career. Okay? Thank you very much for attending.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you, Luiza, for the wonderful insights people have absolutely loved it, and you’ll see it in the comments. Thank you everyone.

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