Assert Yourself, Speak out and Other Tips to Help Women in Tech Break Into Management

Three San Francisco women tech leaders share their advice for how individual contributors can prepare themselves to move into leadership roles.

Written by Michael Hines
Published on Nov. 13, 2023
Assert Yourself, Speak out and Other Tips to Help Women in Tech Break Into Management
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Women hold fewer than one-third of leadership positions in the tech industry, according to a 2023 report by leadership development and human resources consulting firm DDI. While that figure is down due largely to the pandemic, DDI’s report notes that the high-water mark for women leaders in tech has only ever reached 33%.

The data doesn’t lie: Women still have to work harder than men to break into management. 

Madison Ramirez, print operations lead at Canva, has experienced this firsthand. Ramirez told Built In San Francisco she touched the glass ceiling early in her career in the print industry before smashing through it by asserting herself and owning her skills and expertise.

Taylor Riesselman, director of product management at travel marketing platform Sojern, had to speak out to reach her career goals. For Riesselman, asking a self-described “unpopular” question in a meeting helped accelerate her career as a leader. Terri Capriolo, SVP at additive manufacturing company Carbon, echoed that sentiment, specifically regarding speaking out and asking for leadership opportunities as an individual contributor.

Ramirez, Riesselman and Capriolo have all made the uphill climb into leadership roles as women in tech and offered their advice to Built In San Francisco about how the next generation can do the same.

 

Madison Ramirez
Global Print Operations Lead • Canva

Canva is a browser-based graphic design tool offering a wide variety of templates for social media graphics, presentations, websites and more.

 

How can individual contributors prepare for management roles?

Develop and learn about your personal management style. Nobody knows exactly how to be a manager when they first start, and finding my personal management style was definitely not something I knew to do proactively. It was a lot of learning on the go and obtaining skills from leaders or managers I looked up to in my network. 

I’ve found that often, individuals get promoted into management without having the exact know-how to guide a team. And, of course, every team comes with a variety of personal working styles. People have different drivers and motivators, and it can be a challenge to support everyone individually while simultaneously building a structure that helps people work together as a team. 

Learning what personally motivates you and how you’d prefer to lead a team is crucial. As I’ve grown into my management role, I’ve found that a more democratic or coaching style of management works well for me and my team. My team works well when everyone feels empowered, can take pride in their work, has a voice and knows they play a role in decision-making.

 

Learning what personally motivates you and how you’d prefer to lead a team is crucial.”

 

Share a moment or achievement that accelerated your career.

As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve looked for growth opportunities and ways to gain more industry knowledge. I wanted to find a place for myself in print, but in past roles, I felt like I hit the proverbial ceiling in an industry that has historically been heavily male-dominated. With that lens, it can be tough to break down barriers. I worked on asserting myself and owning my craft, skills and knowledge base, which is imperative no matter the industry or situation.

When we began growing the print operations team at Canva a few years ago, we’d barely scraped the surface of print’s capabilities. I started as more of a mentor, working to build a very diverse group across regions, time zones and cultures. As we’ve scaled, varying print knowledge has been brought to the table. We’ve found ways to work well together and have grown exponentially.  

Finding a company with core values of growth and innovation — and with crazy big goals — gave me a platform to accelerate my career. This not only helped me build a diverse team that could dream up and achieve big goals but also encouraged us to continue to grow and learn from each other in the process.

 

What is one trait or skill all good managers have?

Trust. Being able to count on your manager enables you to be vulnerable in difficult situations and helps lay the foundation for open communication and transparency. Trust can also allow individuals and managers alike to advocate for personal growth and success. I really value it when there is trust among a team and everyone is treated and thought of as a stakeholder or collaborator.

Encouraging individuals to voice opinions and be innovative and proactive helps create a team environment that enables people to grow in their desired career paths, ideally with a manager who supports them in their growth.

 

 

Terri Capriolo
Senior Vice President of Oral Health • Carbon, Inc.

Companies use Carbon’s idea-to-production platform to design, prototype and produce products using 3D printing technology.

 

How can individual contributors prepare for management roles?

There are a variety of things individual contributors (ICs) can do to prepare for management roles. It can start very simply by stepping up within their team, taking initiative and seeking out opportunities to develop their skills. It is good for them to look for opportunities to take on additional responsibilities and demonstrate leadership potential within their current role. They can also seek feedback from colleagues and supervisors to identify areas for improvement.  

Additionally, ICs can take advantage of training and development programs that may be offered internally within their current organization or pursue external courses or certifications in management and leadership. It is also important for the IC to develop strong communication, problem-solving and decision-making skills, as these will be critical in a management role.  

Lastly, I would strongly recommend that ICs first ask themselves why they want to move into leadership. The reason should not be, “I want to get promoted.” If someone decides to go into leadership, they must do it for the right reasons — a big reason being that they are truly motivated and driven to help others achieve success and excellence. 

 

Share a moment or achievement that accelerated your career.

In 2021, I was promoted to general manager at the company I was working for at the time. This was a role that involved managing a large and growing business unit, working with many different entities and leading and guiding functions outside of just sales that included areas like marketing, finance, procurement, operations and HR.

I learned very quickly that the keys to success would include utilizing my abilities to influence others versus being “the driver.” Coming into the role, I was already viewed and respected as an effective leader, having demonstrated my ability to analyze complex information, make strong, strategic decisions and show solid emotional intelligence.  

This role taught me that collaboration was at the heart of cross-functional management, how to be adaptable and why that was important. I was pushed to navigate different work cultures, understand various functions and be willing to adjust my management style to suit the needs of the different teams.

 

What is one trait or skill all good managers have?

Good managers inspire and motivate their teams, set clear goals and provide guidance and support when needed. They can make tough decisions, communicate effectively and create a positive and productive work environment. Additionally, good managers adapt to different situations and are always looking for ways to improve themselves and their teams.  

 

Good managers adapt to different situations and are always looking for ways to improve themselves and their teams.”

 

 

Taylor Riesselman
Director of Product Management • Sojern

Travel marketers use Sojern’s platform to reach new customers across multiple channels and engage with existing guests.

 

How can individual contributors prepare for management roles?

An individual contributor can prepare for management by showing up as a leader both within their teams and in cross-functional situations. This means leading meetings, driving projects and collaborating with others to meet objectives. They can also find or take advantage of opportunities to mentor others, as well as identify and fill gaps concerning team training and alignment.

 

An individual contributor can prepare for management by showing up as a leader both within their teams and in cross-functional situations.”

 

Share a moment or achievement that accelerated your career.

One specific moment that accelerated and changed my career was asking a tough question in a large meeting that pointed out a big problem in how we prioritized work. As a woman in tech and in the workplace in general, it can be hard to speak up, especially when you know that what you have to say isn’t going to be popular. In this case, that is exactly what I did. Fortunately for me, it didn’t go unnoticed and actually accelerated my career as a leader in product management.

 

What is one trait or skill all good managers have?

Listening. It is crucial to listen, most importantly to those on your team, but also to anyone who interacts with your team. This is important for building trust and gaining context to figure out the best path forward for not only your team but the company as a whole.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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