Women in Technology: The Balancing Act


The day I sat down at my desk to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write this post resembled most weekdays when I am not traveling. Walk with the dog at 5:30 am, then feed her and our twenty-two pound cat. Coffee. Juggle roles as channel partner, software vendor, customer, kid taxi and herder of cats—proverbial and otherwise. (Note: I love my job; no two days are the same.)

After a full day I arrive home to find my amazing husband has prepped dinner between his conference calls, so I just pop it in the oven and make some sides. He is picking up our fifteen year old from an afternoon activity. I repeat of the morning routine with the dog and cat, we have dinner together and catch up on our days.

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On the best of days, I find that maintaining a healthy equilibrium between work/career, family and leisure is an effort. Like many women in tech, my inclination is to do it all, and do it all at 150%. Making time for myself, usually low on the list of priorities, teeters in the balance.

On this particular day I went to sleep feeling especially good, having completed most of the things I hoped to accomplish before the day was out.

The phone rang at 11:00pm and I was out the door at 11:05 pm. My mother, who lives a few miles from us, had a medical emergency and we spent a very frightening night together in the emergency room. Fortunately, she has fully recovered and is doing well today.

Something my mother said to me around 3:30 am gave me pause for thought and reflection.

“I’m so sorry to do this to you. You have so much on your plate and you don’t need this.”

My response was simply, “Don’t be silly. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” And I meant it.

Many of us, as women in technology, work very hard to set a good example for our younger peers with similar career aspirations. We do a tremendous job laying the groundwork for the next generation of female executives. We are clearing the path and breaking glass ceilings not because we are women, but because we are qualified, experienced professionals making a real contribution. We demonstrate every day that you can have a successful career without sacrificing your family life. And we continue to shift the ratio of women in the board room from one dominated by men to one that fills those seats based on qualification, not gender.

However, as I have seen often for myself and among my female colleagues, there can be a great price to pay for trying to do it all at 150%. The laws of physics and math (and words of wisdom from grandmothers everywhere) prove that you cannot be everything to everyone all of the time.

Today, after many years of performing this juggling act, moderately well and with an incredible amount of stress, (some justified, some self-inflicted) I maintain the same level of activity but with a healthy approach and perspective that serves me and those around me well.

Women rising in the ranks of technology will face many of the same challenges I have mentioned. There are some simple things you can do to help you on your path to a success. And remember, success is how you define it, not how someone else does.

Do your best.

It sounds simple but sometimes it’s not. Don’t take shortcuts. Do go the extra mile. It shows and will come back to you tenfold.

Be accountable.

I believe we are all responsible for our own success, and happiness, for that matter. Own what you do and who you are. The good, the bad and the ugly. Avoid blame, even if it is someone else’s fault. Seek resolution instead. Blame is a waste of time and accomplishes nothing. There is certainly an aspect of luck and timing in career and life, but by and large, I believe it will be what we make of it.

Set your priorities and know your boundaries.

I love lofty goals. Aim high! However, do so in the context of your professional aspirations, experience and personal commitments. Stay grounded in what is important to you not just for today, but for tomorrow.

Relationships matter. Remember, it’s about the people.

Oftentimes, especially in technology, there is an obsession with the solution being delivered, closing the deal or bashing the competition. Avoid these pitfalls. At the end, of the day we work with people, we buy from people, and relationships are an enormous component contributing to the success of a project (not just the technology). So focus on your customers, colleagues and partners. Always. If you have good technology, it will be the foundation for a long, happy relationship.

Find a mentor or role model.

Ideally, select someone you respect, with similar goals and challenges, and with whom you can interact face to face or by phone. Someone who is willing to share her perspectives and experiences and offer you guidance. However, your mentor doesn’t even need to be a willing participant! In the absence of such a person, choose a strong, independent, self-sufficient woman or public figure you admire. Learn everything you can about how they achieved their goals. Become a sponge for information that will help you move forward to reach your own.

Be kind, honest and respectful.

Enough said. If you use integrity as your compass in everything you do, you will shine.

Years ago, the woman sitting in the hospital room with my mother would have been right by her side. Taking care of her. But all the while worrying about what was happening at home, concerned about the next day’s deadlines that would not be met and in an overall state of anxiety.

Thanks to mastering some basic skills, keeping my priorities straight, and a lot of years of practice, I was indeed right by her side. Laser-focused on one thing only—my mom. The deadline was extended, I delivered good work, and the house did not fall apart.

That’s the balancing act. We all have one, so master yours. Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Steelwedge is a sponsor of CSCMP’s Annual Global Conference October 20-23 in Denver. The event features a session entitled “Women in Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Supply Chain Redesign.” Selected results of the 17th annual survey of female CSCMP members will be reported, including questions about redesigning the supply chain. The panel will discuss the survey results and address how they approach supply chain redesign. This session should provide an interesting insight into how the women of supply chain management view supply chain redesign. Will we see you at the conference?