Tech industry No sure way to success, panelists say
One started out her career as a Wall Street litigator and entertainment lawyer, one began as a coder and another initially made her mark in the fashion industry. Today, all three are influential technology executives.
Startup CEOs Lisa Godwin and Casey Golden and Google executive Erika Munro Kennerly discussed the role of women in the tech world in a panel discussion at the IRLConn “In Real Life” conference for students and business professionals at the University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus. They recounted their career trajectories, while also noting the challenges and opportunities of trying to break into a hyper-competitive industry.
“I know tech seems intimidating, but once you apply it to real-life examples, that’s when it really makes sense, said Godwin, the coder, who is a consultant for The New York Times and the founder of You Are Tech, a media property covering the intersection of technology, culture and education.
Kennerly, the attorney on the panel, who now oversees initiatives to support the advancement of senior-level employees of color at Google, said that in her current role she draws heavily on personal experience.
“The navigation for more senior executives coming into these tech environments from traditional corporate backgrounds is pretty tough,” Kennerly said. “That’s why I’m in this position now, utilizing my strategic skills outside the business context to figure out, especially for people who look like me, how do we help them navigate this brand-new world.”
Golden is the founder and CEO of LuxLock, a digital platform that provides personalized shopping services. She formerly worked as an account executive at Ralph Lauren, a position that was crucial in building the skill-set she would need for her current role.
“For me, it was taking the creative side and finding the tool that’s kind of in between and saying ‘OK, how do we create this into an actual product,’” Golden said.
The panelists said they were encouraged by the growing representation of women and people of color in the tech industry, although they noted the diversification was still in a nascent stage.
All three cited the need for strong professional networks, planning and persistence to break into their field.
“That was one of the most important lessons — I needed to stop being Superwoman and thinking I knew it all myself and just ask someone for help,” Godwin said. “Just ask someone for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed or when you don’t know something.”
A dose of realism should accompany a passion for work, Kennerly said.
“Be excited and go get them, but don’t underestimate what you’re up against,” she said. “Understand that you need to figure out some way, shape or form to access” the goal.
Achieving success would also entail sacrifices, Golden said.
“Make sure you love what you’re doing,” she said. “You’re going to love it a lot more than going to a wedding or going out on Friday night or going out on a date.”
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