While women occupy about 57 percent of professional jobs in the United States, they represent only about 27 percent of the tech workforce, according to the National Center for Women in Information Technology. Beyond that, women hold only 17 percent of chief information officer positions at Fortune 500 companies.
Recently, as part of Iron Bow’s Women in Leadership program, we invited Shannon Leininger, Cisco’s area vice president for U.S. public sector SLED east, to talk about her life climbing the ladder at some of the biggest companies in tech. Her tech journey started at Ernst & Young where she rose to sales director of managed services. From there she moved to Platform Computing, where she negotiated and closed over $5 million in channel sales and site wide term license agreements. In 2007, Shannon moved to Cisco as a sales specialist and rose through the ranks before becoming a vice president.
It’s clear that Shannon’s mastered tactics that have enabled her to grow in each of her roles. What did it take to make it that far? Shannon offered these tips, applicable to women in leadership and anyone looking to grow in their career.
Come to the table with an idea and proof to back it up.
“Look for opportunities to lead,” Shannon said. “You don’t need a manager title to do that.”
For Shannon, everyone on her team has the chance to innovate as long as they’re willing to come to the table with concrete, validated ideas. She emphasized that showing up with facts and data is key to getting suggestions and new concepts across in a numbers-driven industry.
Even if you get shot down, the outcome can still be positive. A rejected idea can be a lesson in how to adapt it for success.
Be true to your career path and goals.
“If you don’t do you, you won’t be successful,” she said. “I only take on a role if I think there’s something I can contribute.”
While a promotion is always something to work toward, a job might not always be the right fit for your ultimate career objective. That means realizing when a new position will enhance your career and when it will just mean struggling to fulfill unrealistic expectations. Keep your eye on your end goal and what you hope to achieve as a professional, and select roles that will put you on the path to reach those.
Create a support system both at home and at work.
According to Shannon, work-life balance doesn’t exist—at least not in the typical definition. While people should take time for their families and friends, there are always tough choices to make. Work-life balance is actually about understanding when you need to prioritize one part of your life over the other and putting the tools in place to keep both running.
“Sometimes I do business really well and sometimes I do family really well,” she said. “You have to make those big decisions with your family and be sure to have a great support system.”
That support is just as important in the office as it is at home. When a company comes together as a team, employees can take care of their personal lives without worrying. If a team picks up the slack when a colleague needs them to, they’ll do the same when another member of the team needs help.
That especially rang true here at Iron Bow where we think of each employee like a family member. We strive to promote a culture of inclucivity, making sure that everyone has a voice and all needs are met.
Iron Bow does its best to live by the mantra hanging on the wall as you enter our office: “Customer first and mutual respect for all members of our community.”
To find out more about life at Iron Bow, check out our website.