“It’s all about who you know.” We’ve all hear cynics say the best jobs and promotions go to candidates with connections rather than talent or a great track record. The truth is that fast climbers have both. Fortunately, motivated women in tech can cultivate key relationships that can accelerate their career trajectories, said Cristina Greysman, vice president of partner recruitment for SAP and the keynote speaker at CompTIA’s Advancing Women in Technology (AWIT) Community meeting at ChannelCon. Greysman, a 20-year IT veteran who recently joined SAP, advised women in tech to develop their own personal board of directors. “The position I have today at SAP is because of [that],” she said. “The idea of the ‘old boys’ network’ is still how a lot of business gets done in corporate America. As women, we need to create an ‘old boys’ network’ ourselves.”
Greysman explained that your personal board should include the following five career-boosting relationships:
- Mentors: Mentors are in your industry in roles you want to have inside or outside of your organization. Mentors engage with you in a formal or informal way. The key is that you know them. If you don’t know them, Greysman says, they are a role model.
- Sponsors: Sponsors are in your organization and advocate for you when you’re not in the room. Is your name brought up when executives discuss plum assignments, promotions and raises? It can depend on the quantity and quality of the sponsors that you have, Greysman said, encouraging women to develop more than one sponsor. And, she noted, you can attract sponsors at any point in your career, not just when you are starting out.
- Mentees: Mentees are people that you mentor either formally or informally. This can be done at any age or point in your career. We all have something we can teach or share with someone else. “I am a believer in paying it back and paying it forward,” Greysman said. “I don’t care if you are new or been in the industry 30 years, you can mentor someone else.”
- Reverse Mentors: Reverse mentors first came about when millennials began to teach baby boomers about social media. “It doesn’t have to be limited to that,” said Greysman, who explained it can be peers teaching peers. “We all have somebody that we can learn something from. It’s a very safe and inexpensive way to learn something.”
- Pacing Partner: Pacing partners are peers that challenge you to be your best. They are a sounding board and often play devil’s advocate. Conversations and collaboration with these individuals tend to make your ideas, presentations, solutions and resolutions more powerful.
Understanding who makes up your personal board is step one. Step two is assembling your advisory board. Greysman calls this “networking on purpose.” Here’s how to do it:
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- Analyze your network: Who do you currently know who can play these roles on your personal board of directors? “I encourage you to have more than one [of each] for diversity of thought,” she said. “If you think there is a role missing, then that’s something you want to work on.”
- Get visible: Mentors and sponsors in particular want to back women with high potential. “The more visible you are – in your organization or industry – that’s a great way to attract sponsors and mentors,” said Greysman. “It’s a great way to attract mentees as well.”
- Pay It Forward: Play the roles in your career that you want to attract. “Be the change,” said Greysman, noting the ChannelCon theme. “Be the change you want to see.” She explained that the more you act as a mentor, the more likely you are to attract a mentor.
- Know yourself: Know who you are as a person and as a professional. Know what you want to do and where you want to go. “Mentors and sponsors want to help you, but it’s harder for them if you don’t know where you want to go,” Greysman said.
- Be deliberate: Building a personal board is not something that happens by accident. Greysman said once she began networking on purpose, that when she started to see the level of her responsibility, seniority and income change. “If you don’t want to make more money, this probably isn’t for you. If you do, then get really on purpose about how you are building that board of advisers around you and it will take your career to the next level.”