7 Women in Tech Share Their Best Advice for Managing a Team

February 14, 2020

People managers who expect greatness must walk the walk, said NexTravel Head of Customer Support Holly Hou.

“If you expect the team to deliver good outcomes, you should do the same by going the extra mile and being diligent to give the team feedback quickly,” Hou said.

The leader at the business travel platform stressed the importance of leading by example. Hou also mentioned the importance of being a “deep listener,” learning what motivates team members and getting to know direct reports on a personal level. And since not every employee responds positively to the same feedback, managers must listen intently to each individual on their team and cultivate a unique management style that caters to them. 

“Developing strong situational-leadership skills allows you to connect and gain influence with employees who have different work styles,” said Tinder Director of Workplace Experience Nicole Senior.

 

Leslie Gildea
VP of Growth Development

Leslie Gildea, VP of Growth Development at ServiceTitan, said her success is directly tied to the accomplishments of her team. Gildea said she’s learning to take an employee-first approach to management over a results-driven one. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

I learned through trial and error that my success as a manager was defined by the growth and development of my team, as opposed to their immediate output. When I first started managing a team, I was laser-focused on ensuring deliverables met deadlines and quality standards, which often meant I would step in to do the work for my team. However, I found that the upfront investment in developing my team through coaching and feedback unleashed their full potential and resulted in better business outcomes.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Authenticity is key. There is a broad spectrum of managerial and leadership styles, and it’s important to embody the style that is most authentic to you. 

For example, I received advice from another leader that I needed to be less open with my weaknesses, but I found that sharing my mistakes with my team helped them learn what not to do. What worked for him didn’t necessarily work for me. You can try on multiple managerial styles until you find the one that feels the most comfortable. Your style should be reflective of your values, because that will often be the method that is most effective.

 

Kelly Kitchens
senior director of client services

Kelly Kitchens said successful leaders are ones who lead with open minds and are willing to grow alongside their teams. The senior director of client services at consumer engagement platform Prodege said women in leadership should take risks and learn from their mistakes.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

It’s key to have a solid relationship with your team. It’s also important to cultivate a positive environment in the spirit of innovation and be open to evolving based on what you and your team learn along the way. Over the years, I noticed that having a positive environment and trusting relationships makes all the difference. When managers are open to learning from mistakes and thinking outside the box, new ideas are implemented, organizational goals are met and you have a communicative team that supports one another.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

I encourage our next generation of female leaders to take more chances, have a voice and continue to grow. While not everything will go as planned, take those unexpected moments in stride and marinate on the learnings. Being open to continuously evolving enables you to be an authentic and strong leader for those you have the opportunity to mentor and manage in the future. 

 

Kate McCarthy
vehicle process development manager

Adaptability is a key trait to succeed in the professional world, and Kate McCarthy said it’s an especially important one for leaders to embody. Virgin Hyperloop One’s vehicle process development manager said she learned to adjust her management style to meet team members at varying skill levels. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

One type of management style doesn’t fit all. When I was first prompted into a management position, I made the mistake of thinking that everyone wanted to be managed the same way that I did. After a while, I learned the importance of adapting my managerial style to the needs of each one of my employees. 

For example, an experienced high-performance employee doesn’t need a lot of direction to do their job effectively. On the other hand, a newer employee with less experience and confidence may need a lot more direction and support. I’ve learned the significance of adapting my style to each employee rather than expecting them to try to fit into the mold of my management approach.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

My biggest piece of advice would be to advocate for yourself. If you’re looking to move into a management position, don’t assume that your manager or company is aware of your career aspirations. Make a point to talk to your boss early about your career trajectory, as well as have an open dialogue about what you can do to prepare yourself to move into one of those positions. Don’t sit back passively and wait for opportunities to come to you.

 

Holly Hou
Head of Customer Support

NexTravel’s Head of Customer Support Holly Hou said team members often emulate the actions of their leaders. With that in mind, people managers must hold themselves accountable for their actions.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

The ability to be a “deep listener.” Over the past year, this interpersonal skill is something that has really helped me understand what is going on with our team. It allows me to catch all of the various aspects affecting our business at the customer-level. The skill also allows me to understand each team member’s thought processes and values.

I believe that every idea exists for a reason and should be treated equally. This deep listening skill accelerates brainstorming sessions and encourages better discussion, which helps us continually iterate our processes and grow the team.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Be a role model. As the department lead, your team will look to see the way you work and react to different circumstances. If you expect the team to deliver good outcomes, you should do the same by going the extra mile and being diligent to give the team feedback quickly. A team’s performance comes from the work ethic and performance of the manager. 

 

Nicole Senior
Director of Workplace Experience

Tinder’s Director of Workplace Experience Nicole Senior said there’s a difference between guidance and feedback. Guidance involves more care and support, and in order to provide it, Senior said managers must develop real relationships first. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

I’ve learned that agility and influence are key. Developing strong situational-leadership skills allows you to connect and gain influence with employees who have different work styles. In order to encourage employees to reach beyond their set goals, managers must maintain a strong vision, encourage collaboration and communicate effectively.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Strong leaders are demanding but aren’t demeaning and they focus on guidance, not feedback. Guidance is something most of us long for in our careers. For these conversations to be impactful, you have to get to know your employees. I spend quality time with my direct reports and build a solid foundation of trust. It’s been the key to developing strong thought partners on my team.

 

Christine Ponzio
VP of People

Inspire’s VP of People Christine Ponzio said leaders should clear the path to success for their team by proactively getting rid of roadblocks. Ponzio said she focuses on building trust with her team, which empowers her direct reports to take risks without fear. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

When I was starting out, I was very focused on driving the work forward. Over time, I learned that if you start with cultivating relationships, it’s much easier to drive results. I actively seek to build trust within our team by encouraging everyone to get to know one another as humans first. Once you establish trust, people feel free to move quickly and take risks because they know they’ll be supported.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Try to put your team first by prioritizing your one-on-ones and team meeting times. Keep your team moving forward productively by removing obstacles and providing a clear vision for the future. Over time, this will pay off by enabling more time for clarity and strategy. 

 

Katie Fisher
associate director of quality assurance and regulatory compliance

Katie Fisher, associate director of quality assurance and regulatory compliance at Apeel Sciences, said women shouldn’t hide what they’re passionate about. Fisher said those with leadership aspirations should embrace what they love and let others know, which could help push other women to pursue their own aspirations. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Learning to actively listen to my employees while also practicing empathy has allowed me to better understand my individual employees’ motivations; this practice has led to a high-performing, collaborative team.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Sharing your passion is a powerful tool, so don’t be afraid to be vocal about what you love. It can lead to others becoming more confident in their contributions and encourage them to grow their own careers.

 

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