Grand Rounds Women in Tech Series: Key Insights on Leadership and Career Growth

By Sameer Soi
October 8, 2018

At Grand Rounds, we’re proud of our commitment to diversity and inclusionin the office as well as our product. The Women in Tech series that we regularly host reflects this value. We recently held an event titled “Women in Tech: Your Path to Leadership,” which was a fantastic opportunity for attendees to hear from a panel of tech industry leaders about their own paths to leadership and lessons they learned along their way.

I, myself, was introduced to Grand Rounds through a Women in Tech event that my wife, an economist and policy researcher, recommended I attend. As with my inaugural event, this one was an opportunity to hear from not only accomplished engineering and product leaders but also a perspective—women’s—that is often under-shared in the technology industry and society at large.

The panelists represented a wide variety of career trajectories, educational experiences, and roles:

  • Kimber Lockhart, CTO, One Medical
  • Amy Truong, Senior Director of Product Engineering, Planet Labs
  • Nupur Srivastava, VP of Product, Grand Rounds
  • Jayodita Sanghvi, PhD, Director of Data Science, Grand Rounds

Below are some learnings they shared during the panel discussion that are applicable to anybody along their career path in technology. Intertwined with more broadly applicable advice, there were also some nuggets of knowledge specific to being a woman in the field that can be applied across the range of gender expression.

Developing Tools for Leadership

All leaders face universal challenges: saying “No;” staying up-to-speed with the latest developments in their fields; balancing project delivery with career growth, etc. Despite the heterogeneity in experiences, a theme heard from our panelists was the value of adopting frameworks and tools for leadership, and consistently applying them day-to-day and at key decision points. For example:

  • Amy writes down her goals daily and prioritizes them; she recommended the rocks, pebble and sand framework.
  • Jayodita described staying true to the company and team vision and overarching goals despite how organizational structures and the people that thrive in them may change.
  • Kim advocated for experimentation—she takes advice from books and mentors, puts the advice into practice, and evaluates the results for herself.
  • As a leader, you have to say “No.” Both Nupur and Jayodita emphasized the importance of establishing a mutual understanding between yourself and stakeholders to whom you have to say no. Kim built upon this by finding a way to say “Yes” as well.

Finding and Utilizing Mentors

In addition to developing tools for leadership, having mentors is essential to one’s career development. Having extensive experience on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship, the panelists offered unique insights into defining successful mentor-mentee relationships. They discussed how to find a mentor in the first place and how best to capitalize on a mentor-mentee relationship. More specifically:

  • Amy described a 3×3 grid framework for thinking about and finding the mentors, where the Y-axis is your focus areas and the X-axis is the kind of mentor you need. According to her, having diverse mentors who fulfill a breadth of roles benefits both the mentee and mentor.

  • Jayodita focused in on the human connection that is necessary to identify in a mentor; a great mentor can provide a meaningful relationship and human connection beyond specific career advice.
  • Kim posed the inverse problem: as a mentee, how do you know you’re providing value to your mentor?
    • Listen to their advice, try it out, and report back. This will help the mentor grow, too.
    • Help them! You know your mentors have needs (e.g., building a team).
    • Keep in touch. Leaders are in their positions because they love growing people.

Challenges for Women Leaders

While much of the discussion was universally applicable to those looking to transition into leadership roles, the panelists also addressed gender-specific challenges to becoming an effective leader.

  • Amy quoted Netflix’s Verna Myers who said, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” As a woman leader, she challenges herself to work on the latter, whether that’s making sure she grabs coffee with all the women in her organization or gifting a copy of The Woman Who Smashed Codes for all of the women on her team.
  • Kim noted that advice from mentors or found in books should be tested through experimentation; as a woman leader, she’s found some techniques to be more successful than others.
  • Kim also noted that women often occupy fewer leadership positions in their respective communities, and thus have a unique opportunity to use their agency to support others. As such, she encouraged women to take the initiative to proactively build relationships. One challenge she experienced in building these relationships is that women can be omitted (unintentionally or otherwise) from social activities. This is a lesson to men to be mindful in being inclusive. Furthermore, it is a reminder for all of us to be inclusive across gender, ethnicity, age and other axes of diversity.

Thanks to the generous participation of our panelists, the Women in Tech event was packed with advice from passionate and accomplished leaders that left the audience feeling inspired and eager to apply their lessons learned. We’re looking forward to continuing discussions at our upcoming Girl Geek-sponsored Women In Tech event this December.

Want to grow your career while doing work that matters? We’re hiring across our tech team and looking for leaders in engineering, data science, and product management.

See open positions

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Sameer Soi

Sameer Soi

Sameer is a Senior Data Scientist at Grand Rounds. His passion and experiences lie at the intersection of data science and health care—from genomics to patient care. Sameer obtained his PhD in Computational Biology from the University of Pennsylvania.