We got the opportunity to interview Fran O'Sullivan, senior vice-president and chief operating officer of the Product Group at Lenovo, to ask her what she would recommend for women who wish to succeed in the IT industry.
O'Sullivan is a role model for many young women at Lenovo and earlier this year she hosted the eWeek Foundation's Global Marathon For, By and About Women in Engineering. This webcast event was powered by Lenovo, and its 24-hour global marathon gave students, teachers, parents and others access to a collection of top female leaders in engineering, science, technology and math fields throughout the world. O'Sullivan's career includes working at NASA during the first launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981 and at IBM when the first personal computer was introduced.
Here are her top five tips on how to succeed:
1. Self confidence: It's so important in all businesses, but especially in a male-dominated field like technology, to have belief in yourself. No matter how insecure you might feel on the inside portray nothing but confidence on the outside! This is easier to say than do but it really is critical to your success. So practice and with time it will become second nature.
2. Be assertive: Even if you are uncomfortable you need to be assertive in meetings. People are not mind readers and you might have the most brilliant observations, suggestions and ideas but if you don't speak up no one will have any idea. So always speak up! If there are overpowering people in meetings that are talking over you say something like, "Please let me finish my thought" in a firm but polite manner.
3. Network: You do not have to do everything yourself and it is not cheating to reach out and work across organisations. In fact, in today's connected world it is mandatory. Make connections across industries, get a great networking circle and use it!!
4. Mentoring: I've benefited a lot from mentoring throughout my career and I strongly recommend both having a mentor and mentoring someone! I have found that informal mentoring has worked best for me, rather than structured programs. I recommend having several mentors of both genders and bounce ideas off them. It's also important to mentor young members behind you so they can grow to their full potential! I also love reverse mentoring where I ask my mentees to tell me what the leaders can do to improve!
5. Have fun: This is quite possibly the most important. We spend so much of our time at work so you need to have fun. In the modern world we work too many hours not to enjoy every minute of what we are doing.