Women in technology need to break the rules to succeed

Sherry Lowry, principal of The Lowry Group, The Vision Enactors Collective, All Content Tribe

A small group of women started Austin Women in Technology 10 years ago to network and to push each other outside their comfort zone and to empower each other.
Since then, the organization has grown to 150 members.
On Thursday evening, about 90 people gathered at Maggianos at the Domain in North Austin to celebrate.
“We want to foster women in their personal and professional lives to connect, learn, grow and lead,” said Megan Maldonado, president of Austin Women in Technology.
The event featured a panel discussion on “Why Your Time is Now (really)!”
“Chaos is our new norm,” said Lynelle McKay, CEO and president of Leadership Essentials, LLC and former senior vice president and general manager of the networking and multimedia group at Freescale Semiconductor. Paradigm shifts happens every afternoon, she said.
“We want to teach you how to surf the waves of change,” McKay said. “We want you to embrace that chaos and thrive in it.”
Business as usual is long dead, said Sherry Lowry, a serial entrepreneur, mentor and career coach. To understand the changes, Lowry recommended The Shift Index by John Hagel and John Seely Brown. She predicts that by 2015 corporate structures will completely disintegrate.
Janelle Monney, certified executive coach and former semiconductor senior vice president, disagreed. She thinks the corporate structures will disintegrate but not that quickly.
Only 12 women are CEOs at Fortune 500 companies today, Monney said. It’s difficult to get to the top, but women can do it, she said.
To succeed in business today, “you have to be technically competent in whatever you do,” Monney said. “You’ve got to develop communication skills and use the tools of today…You have to be willing to pick the juicy assignments.”
She recommended the book “Break Your Own Rules” and said that women often limit themselves.
“We have a way of thinking that prevents us from getting ahead,” Monney said.
Lowry recommended women find a mentor to move up the ladder within an organization. Mentors are everywhere and often they don’t get tapped for their expertise, she said.
“You never hear a truly component person insist they are flooded with requests to be a mentor,” Lowry said.
The ability to adapt and be flexible in today’s marketplace are key to success, said Casey Rowe, principal of Casey Rowe Consulting.
It’s also important to find people as mentors of different generations, Lowry said. She learns a lot from her youngest grandson. She recommends getting a mentor from every decade because they know what “you don’t know,” she said.
She has launched a website “Vision Enactors” to highlight current leaders in the Austin area.
“You can do anything,” Lowry said. “You can be anything you want but don’t do it alone. Find a tribe or create one. If you can’t do it in Austin, you’re living in your closet or cubicle.”
Monney’s mantra is “don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness.” She advises people to go figure out stuff that is wrong and fix it. Bring a positive energy to the job, she said.
“Companies that have diverse leadership at the top are the most successful by every metric,” Monney said.
Women who want to be CEOs and moms need to know that they can’t have it all, Monney said. There are tradeoffs. Figure out what having it all means. There’s no such thing as balance.
“You have to figure out what you’re wiling to outsource,” Monney said. “You’ve got to get help.”

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