We asked the ladies on our business intelligence tech team to share their experiences with leading in tech, their advice for the women after them, and the necessary progress still to make in the future.
I firmly believe that mentorship is crucial to a successful career, particularly for women. I’ve seen firsthand the bias women face in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. We have to prove we’re technically capable, where men are already assumed to be— and are compensated for it. It’s important for young women to do ample research, talk to friends, lean on mentors and know their worth when negotiating. My manager has given me incredible opportunities to grow and ultimately became my strongest advocate for a promotion. If you’re able to, choose the right boss, not the right job.
Growing up, I loved percussion and rowing. Those passions taught me how to “bridge the gap.” A percussionist is responsible for keeping the rhythm and adding color to the music through unique sounds. A coxswain on a rowing team is responsible for being the coach’s eyes in the boat and adapting a race plan based on real-time feel and execution. In music, I’d work between the conductor and the orchestra. In rowing, between the coach and the rowers. Both of these roles bridge the gap between what needs to be delivered, and the actual resulting performance.
When I graduated college, it came naturally to take my background in information systems and economics, my passion for technology, and my unique ability to bridge the gap to carve out a career. Now as a product owner in data and analytics, I work at the intersection of engineers, stakeholders, and users, to ensure my teams produce features that add value for Discover.
Over the last two years, I’ve had a lot of moments— big and small— where I felt I “leveled-up.” There was the first time a peer referred to me as a SME (Subject Matter Expert). That moment showed me that I was establishing myself in my field. There was the first time I presented at one of our user community events. I talked to over 200 people, a majority of whom had worked in the field a lot longer than me. The positive feedback I received after that event, and the fact that people took time out of their day to listen to me, unlocked my self-confidence. But my greatest “level-up” moment was when I won the President’s Award. The President’s award recognizes employees across the company who’ve achieved exemplary business results, while living the Discover values. Winning the award showed me that the work I’m doing is truly making an impact.
While I’ve had these “level-up” moments, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay not to know everything. It’s more important to speak up and ask questions when you don’t know something instead of nodding along. Asking questions gives you the information you need to be successful later on.
As women in technology, we’ve come a long way thanks to the many women before us who had to fight to make our entry easier. While it isn’t as tough as it once was, there’s still a lot to be done. The problem is more nuanced especially as a woman of color in tech. My hope for women in tech is to uplift other women. I’m personally invested in everyone’s growth around me. I learned this mindset from my team.
The most impactful part of my journey is watching when I, and others around me, accomplish what we once thought was beyond our understanding. When I look at something challenging, I remind myself of something we thought was challenging a year ago, but were able to accomplish.
A revelation for me was, ‘it’s okay not to have the answer initially.” This lesson ties in with the motto “progress over perfection.” Both sayings take the emotional pressure off of me and create a space to focus on the problem at hand. It’s more than okay to take time to research, ask a teammate, ask the software vendor, or explore all of these avenues. In fact, creativity and innovation are more likely to occur when your brain waves indicate you’re in a relaxed state, such as before you fall asleep, when you wake-up, while freeway driving, while running, etc. Taking time to let your brain relax brings innovation. Embrace your natural curiosity and crave the knowledge of how something works.
My parents always told me that making a choice for my career should be about following my passions. I’ve always been most excited about analysis and working with data, so their words motivated me to follow my passion. Now, because data is core to my job, I genuinely get satisfaction from identifying the root cause of a problem and creating a solution. I’m also a major part of platform architecture and administration. Though there’s fewer women in administration, I lead my role with enthusiasm as every day brings new challenges.
My role at Discover is also challenging because networking and strong communication are vital skills. I’m more of an introverted person and naturally talk less. But my day-to-day job often involves dealing with different teams and maintaining relationships with them. Over time, I’ve learned to use my introversion as a strength. I’m good at listening and getting to the root of a problem before I propose a solution. As I continue to evolve, I’m becoming even better at communicating and building strong relationships with other teams.
Inspired to join the Discover team? Explore careers with us.