Month: August 2017

Karen’s Story: Digby

“What I learned from Karen is…”

“Earlier in my career, I worked for a software company that was acquired by Adobe Systems. In the first few months following the acquisition, I noticed something happening in engineering leadership meetings.

My new manager, Digby Horner, who had been at Adobe for many years, started prefacing things with, ‘What I learned from Karen is…’ He then went on to summarize an earlier discussion we’d had.

He demonstrated a great deal of respect for me in front of my new colleagues. The simple phrase of ‘What I learned from Karen’ made me feel great; who wouldn’t want to be recognized for teaching their more experienced manager something new. I think it was the ultimate compliment.

It was also a strong action of sponsorship.

Each time Digby said those words, he helped me build credibility with my new colleagues. He took action as an ally, using his position of privilege to sponsor me. His shout-out strengthened my reputation as a technical leader, and definitely made me feel great.

This story is just one of many that I’ve witnessed over my career. Situations when allies stepped up with simple, everyday actions that made a difference. Often a big difference.

I firmly believe that being an ally isn’t so hard, and that it is a journey. Whether you’re just embarking on it, or have already traveled far, I recommend checking out @betterallies on Twitter or Medium.  You’ll get straight-forward ideas for creating a more inclusive work culture where all can thrive.”

– Karen, Adocate for Women in Tech, karencatlin.com
San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Emily’s Story: Kevin

“‘I’ll help, but only temporarily.’

There aren’t many executives who would respond to such words from their subordinate employee with as much grace as Kevin Mellen.

My exact words may have been different, but when Kevin, who was VP of Operations at the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm we worked for at the time, asked if I could help out with Recruitment for a while, I was less than enthused.

At any other recruitment agency, that response could have been the end of my journey.

Instead of taking my overt hesitation to mean that I wasn’t dedicated to my work, or wasn’t willing to be a team player, Kevin was curious.  ‘Why don’t you want to be a recruiter?’

Up to that point, I had temporarily worked in Recruitment when my workload was light in the Support Services department. Recruitment was uncomfortable, but only because it was new. My other role in HR felt safe.

My response?  ‘I still feel awkward about cold calling people.’

As much as I understood (and liked) the ‘survival of the fittest’ culture we were in, Kevin never treated me like I was disposable if I showed weakness. I felt like his confidence in me covered us both if I was feeling “First ‘Real’ Job” jitters.

Even with that trust, my response—’I’ll do it, but reluctantly and not for too long’—was bold. I remember the look he gave me. The closest word I can describe it with, is confusion. ‘If you want to be successful in this industry,’ he said, ‘you need to get comfortable with being on the phone.’

As he spoke, I heard the intention in his tone. He told me that because he wanted to share that piece of insight as someone who had been in my shoes. He’d had an extensive sales background in his career before the role that made him my boss.

It sounded like advice from a mentor, more than feedback from my boss. And it was what I needed to both get outside of myself and to shift my mindset.

Kevin helped me push through the fear of rejection and failure that comes with the nature of recruitment. I needed to hear those words from someone I trusted. Otherwise, I might have kept looking for ways around it and potentially stunted my growth.

After a couple of weeks, the feeling of improvement I got from conquering my fear—one call at a time—had begun dampening the sense of dread I used to feel.

After a month, I had indeed become comfortable with the phone and started to feel my competitive spirit kick the remaining insecurity aside.

Eventually my cold calling abilities, and willingness to do it, gave me an edge.

If Kevin hadn’t intervened when I was feeling intimidated by the newness of cold calling, there is a possibility that I wouldn’t have developed the experience and skills that have been so critical to my career as a marketer now.

Because I’m not afraid to pick up the phone, or approach someone new, I don’t feel barriers around my ability to connect with people. Not feeling that barrier has helped me in my career immensely.

For that, and the many things he did that earned my trust leading up to that point, I’m forever grateful to Kevin. He was one of the most significant allies in my career, at a time when I could have easily gone in a direction I wouldn’t have been happy with.”

– Emily, Recruitment Marketing Specialist
Orlando, FL