Fortune favors the prepared

imagesxI’ve been thinking a lot lately about careers and luck.

I do believe there is a healthy element of luck in most career success stories.  I also believe, that many people misinterpret luck as their own capabilities (perception and data are often misaligned).

If we agree that luck is important, then we should learn to invite luck into our lives.

I believe you can absolutely attract or repulse good luck with your focus and your actions.  I’m not saying it’s magical, I’m just saying it’s logical.  The more you engage and work toward an outcome, the more likely that outcome will happen.

Or in internet meme form

opportunity-is-missed-by-most-people-because-it-is-dressed-in-overalls-and-looks-like-work-thomas-edison

So what are some practical tips i have seen that work to bring professional luck your way?

  • Share your goals – the more you talk about your goals with others, the better your odds of finding someone who can help you achieve them. Warning: if you only share to feel good about yourself, you miss the point (and the results) of this one.
  • Keep your head up –pay attention to what is going on around you.   You are likely to see opportunities that bring luck your way, if you you are actively looking.
  • Embrace failureMindset matters here — knowing that “yet” is the vocabulary of progress.  We all have a CV of failures critical to our visible career success.
  • Invest in your network – Having a strong network is the most common source of career luck.  You build a strong network by giving (not taking), so invest in your luck karma, by being generous and helpful to your network.
  • Practice saying yes – Give yourself permission to get outside of your comfort zone, saying yes to things that stretch you toward your goal.

Preparing for success invites success.  Not overnight of course, but taking steps in the right direction, consistently, purposefully, intentionally moving yourself toward your goal.

More on the topic here.

Authors note: After a blogging break of more than a year, I began a blog today I titled “Creating luck” only to find I had an unsaved draft of the above titled blog from 4 years ago.  Note sure if this is an observation on the importance of this topic to me, or how long it takes to complete a thought.

 

Gratitude and Abundance

What we believe to be true can shape our actions and our actions then shape our opportunities.

Too often I see people fighting for a single opportunity or a single prize, assuming that they must beat another out to get that one slot.  I would like to lobby for a different success view.  I would like to remind myself and my friends that the most rewarding success is shared.

When we can support other’s achievements, when we can make ourselves part of another’s success it creates more opportunity.  Personal and professional opportunity are abundantly available we need not treat them with a mindset of scarcity.

It took me a long time to get to this point of view, but I strongly believe that if you push someone else down to seize an opportunity for yourself, there will only be one, but if you find a way to share opportunities, more come your way.

In this week of stress for me personally, I want to remind myself to count my many blessings, and to remember what is important to me — that the work that I do and the effort that I expend helps to enrich and uplift those around me.  I want to be the kind of person that brings benefit to others, and who remembers that I am blessed with abundance both personally and professionally.  I also want to express deep gratitude for everyone who has shared their success with me.  I want to remind myself that to win at the expense of others is a hollow victory, and to share success with others is a blessing.

Audience Centricity

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I’ve said this a few times covering different pieces and thoughts, but I feel like it’s worth repeating.

To define your role as the executive in charge of a topic, talk in the language of the audience and not in the language of your team.

Putting yourself in the shoes of the audience and using their vocabulary takes more work — but it yields far superior results.  Not only in increasing the likelihood that real communication happened (vs. multiple people saying things) but also in making you be perceived as more knowledgeable and more helpful.

It takes practice and it takes time, but this is a habit you will want to build sooner than later.   Understanding that people are doing this for themselves gives you clarity on why it has such a big impact.  Driving up your own social sensitivity increases not only the impact you have personally, it can set the stage for a more effective team as well.

Women In Tech

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I’m privileged to often be asked to speak about Women in Tech.

In the era where the gap of women in technology is growing, I am happy to lend my voice to this conversation.  I love to highlight the accomplishments of my team and my company.  How we are transforming our own business, to help our customers leverage the cloud, to drive up innovation and customer centricity.

I can talk about that forever.  Seriously, keep the Oscar music volume option handy or I may never stop.

It’s also nice to remind people that technology is an industry that benefits from diversity and that #LifeAtOracle is pretty great.  It is my not-so-secret objective, to encourage more women and girls feel welcome in this industry.  Tech has been great to me, it has given me the opportunity to use my passion for innovation and given me a career of purpose and impact.

Huge thanks to TheCube #WomenInTech series and @JeffFrick for inviting me to share my story and do my part to pay it forward.

Interview Here

Cross Post: LinkedIn

Being a visible role model

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I was asked recently, why I am inclined to bring my gender to the front when I talk about my work.  They wondered if I felt that being a woman was a necessary identifying descriptor for me.

This made me realize that I should clarify my intentions and my point of view.

I haven’t always thought my gender was important to my professional identity.  Ironically, my early career had me feel less a minority for my gender, and much more a minority for my age. I was always the youngest in everything I did (boy someone should warn a girl that status is fleeting!).

If I am honest with myself, I suspect I’m in tech expressly because it was mostly men.  I have always enjoyed the experience of interacting with men. I’m guessing this has a lot to do with being raised by a single father.  It also has to do with the way my early school experiences had me changing schools every year or two.  Making new friends was a challenge for me, and after early middle school I found boys more welcoming of new members into their midst than girls. By high school I had more male than female friends.  I enjoy the directness, lack of emotion and the general get-to-the-point working style that [most] men bring to solving problems.  For all of the horror stories of the bad behavior of men in tech, and I have had some of those as well, the overwhelming majority of my experiences have been incredibly positive. Also,there is rarely a line in the women’s restroom. (So I got that goin for me, which is nice!)

I have had incredible support and encouragement from men I have worked for and with, throughout my career, and I have more positive than negative stories professionally by a large margin.

So why all the girl-power/feminism fuss now?

First, is the reality that women’s participation in tech is shrinking at a time when the need for technical proficiency is growing.  As a mother of two girls, the lack of momentum for girls in STEM fields is top of mind.

Second, is the growing realization of the responsibility I have as a visible role model for others.  This I find hard, but just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

 

Women like Telle Whitney have had a lot to do with my changed perspective on why we need role models:

 

“...having role models is important for career development, and is an inspiration for women who might consider a different university of career path.

If you don’t see anyone who looks like you, it’s harder to imagine yourself in that role

I now feel a strong sense of obligation to be a visible role model for other women in technology.  Women who are just entering their careers, and women who are wondering if they should consider putting their hand up for senior leadership.  I am mindful of my ability to give back and I take that responsibility seriously.

When I’m on stage, I will often get comments from other women expressing gratitude for what I’m doing.   With each comment, I realize even more how important this is.

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Those of us who are fortunate enough to be part of the minority of women in tech must make it our personal responsibility for being visible role models for the next generation.  If we do not, we are again erasing our contribution to this exciting and important profession.  So the next time you are asked to join a panel, step up on stage or share with the next generation what you do for living — don’t let us down by telling yourself that you are not the person who should be on the stage taking charge.

If not you, who?

If you want to be part of the solution, if you want to see more women in powerful leadership roles in our industry, you have to be willing to do your part, even [especially] if it makes you uncomfortable.

When LinkedIn Offers

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I’m know you find this shocking, but when LinkedIn offered for me to publish on their platform I was like… you bet!

Even though I know you realize that what I don’t need is another platform, I have enough of those I’m neglecting.

Lucky for me, I did have a topic I was marinating and it seemed appropriate for that audience.

The topic is empathy.

Empathy

A word I’m sure I didn’t know how to define when I was 8, but a quick spot check from my children confirmed they were very clear on the meaning (I guess I practice my content themes on them before I write, who knew?).

Anyway, go give it a read so it doesn’t feel lonely.

Why Empathy is the critical 21st Century Skill.

You guys are the best.

Cross Posting #FTW!

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Advanced Reading if you are interested h/t John Nolt, Brene Brown and Patty Azzarello

Get a plan to increase your confidence

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I managed to get through high school and college never taking a second language, even in the ’80s this required advanced maneuvers through the academic handbook.  Why would I do this?  Was I against taking a language?

Nope.  I desperately wanted to take a language, but I lacked confidence.  

The only language offered in my high school was Spanish, and I wanted to take French or Japanese (it was the ’80s).  

Later, when I went off to college, my 17 year old scholarship self, decided I would be unable to keep my required GPA taking a language, given I was already four years behind. 

Recursive logic indeed, especially when you factor in the fact that I had an above average memory and a crazy serious work ethic [seriously,  I was so much older then…].  Looking back on this with the benefit of hindsight, I can say confidently, that the odds of me not being able to handle the rigor of a 101 language course was exactly 0.

So when I read that women have a confidence gap, looking for perfection in themselves before putting their hands up for consideration for professional opportunity, I recognize we need to take this seriously.  Especially when we look at the incredibly slow pace of progress for women in senior leadership in the west (in retrospect maybe I was onto something by not taking Japanese).  

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So what to do?  

I think it comes down to recognizing the need to have a strategy for being confident.  Being angry at men for being better at this than women, completely misses the point.  

Confidence is a critical skill for professional success.  Odds are you could be better.  

Work on it.

Some useful suggestions

  1. Get your body and your mind helping you by improving your inner monologue and Power Posing
  2. Get someone with perspective to help you compare your qualifications more objectively
  3. Do a better job recognizing that the fact that you are skeptical of your own qualification, is a sign of your competence

 Don’t let a lack of confidence get in the way of your success, practice more, work harder, figure it out.

You can do this!

Get control of your inner monologue

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Internal monologue’s are important.

They shape us more than we want to admit and we all have them.

The lionshare of these monologues are not helpful.  Most of us use these internal discussions to remind ourselves of shame and inadequacy.

What if you could use these monologues to help you? What if you could be intentional with the voice in your head, to help you be your best.

The research calls this priming.  Manipulating your remembering self to better impact the outcome of a current event.

I’m talking about simple things you can do to make yourself appear more powerful, that will actually make you more powerful.  Bringing out your absolute best self, the self that even you are not sure you can be.

If I could get you to take on a few habits in 2014 here are what I would wish for you

    1. Take up Power Posing.  Do this often.  Remind your body that you are powerful and in control (especially when you do not feel it).
    2. Invest in documenting your ambitions and reminding yourself of times you were most powerful
    3. Quit replaying the stuff you did badly, instead focus on moving forward.

As Seth says

Internal monologue amplifies personal drama. To the outsider, neither exists. That’s why our ledge-walking rarely attracts a crowd. What’s in your head is real, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can see the resistance you are battling (or care about it).

You own your inner monologue, make it work for you.

Why giving back is important for your career.

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It is my strong point of view that one of the best ways to create professional progress is with a purposeful strategy of giving back.

Now, I’m sure you are all thinking about examples that disprove that statement, but lets be honest, if you were a counter example, someone who could ignore others and still get ahead, you wouldn’t be reading my leadership development blog.

You would be on your private jet or something.

I stumbled on this point of view accidentally.  It’s not like I didn’t care about giving back before, I just didn’t see the relationship to professional progress.

I began my deliberate practice of giving back in 2010, when I needed something meaningful to focus on and I wanted to find a new way to think about progress.  At the time I didn’t understand what I actually learning, I just knew I was heading in the right direction.

Since then I have observed some interesting things about giving back and mentoring others

Essentially a purposeful strategy of giving back is a way to make your own luck.  And who doesn’t need more luck?  Probably those guys on the private jet…

Ode to women in STEM for Ada Lovelace Day 2013

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As background — Ada Lovelace Day is a call to action to help fight invisibility of women in STEM.

The idea: We need to have more visible role models of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math so that girls can imagine themselves in those roles, thus  increasing the number of girls in these fields.  We need this to happen not just for social justice but for the economic growth.

Women in STEM fields have a huge impact on the global economy and are a critical resource to help solve the most complex problems we face in the 21st Century.

You should read more about that here:

Ada Lovelace Day 2013: fight the invisibility of women in STEM!

October 15 2013 will be the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

You can participate in Ada Lovelace Day by attending Ada Lovelace Day Live! in London; attending one of the more than 20 other worldwide events; or by writing about a woman in STEM whose work has inspired you, publishing the story on October 15, and adding it to the Ada Lovelace Day story collection.

My Contribution to #ALD13

I am taking it upon myself to compile a list of the women on twitter who inspire me in and around #STEM, and to ask for your help in expanding it, either by reminding me of who I missed*, or introducing me to people I need to know.

I want to be someone who helps bring more people to the front to stand out as role models.  I realize that many of us downplay our ability and responsibility to be a role model for others and I want to suggest if not you than who?

#STEM Power Brokers

Women who are CXOs leading the charge.

#STEM Industry Movers

Women who make the industry work.  Ladies in Innovation, Product Management, Marketing, Program Management, Press/ Analyst/ Partner Relations

#STEM Builders and Makers

Women in Engineering, Science, Technology who are builders, Doers, Leaders and Makers.

I encourage you each to contribute to causes like Ada Lovelace Day recognizing not just the big names, but the breadth and depth of contributions that are happening today to bring forward the power of women to benefit our world.

*All Feedback welcome including additional categories I need to add and/or move