Thursday, October 2, 2008

Transforming Yourself Into a Technical Leader

This talk was designed to be an interactive discussion between panelists and audience members. The panelists were a diverse group of industry representatives, including Stephen Tolopka from Intel, Monique Jeanne Morrow from Cisco Systems, Catherine C. Lasser from IBM, Ramune Nagisetty from Intel, Ira Pramanick from Google, and Linda Apsley from Microsoft.

It was interesting to hear all the speakers note that there were too fewer women in our field, and that as you go higher you tend to see fewer technical women, and that they would like to change that.

The panelists gave some interesting characteristics of good technical leaders:
  • Being a technical leader requires passion about technology and the work
  • You need to be able to work well with your team by setting an example, dividing the work and making it a partnership
  • Give credit to people who help make the work happen, and take responsibility for the mistakes
  • You have to be competent technically
They also gave some strategies strategies for building a technical career, such as:
  • Take on a high-risk project that no one wants and that will help you build your career
  • it's ok to work on a project that fails, just like Fran mentioned in her talk
  • Above all, take risks!!
They also mentioned some specific skills you can use to improve your leadership:
  • Every person (i.e. on your team) needs to feel like you acknowledge them and listen to them
  • Celebrate and recognize successes
  • Leadership happens through conversations: every interaction is an opportunity for leadership and influence
And my favorite moment of the session: Monique Jean Morrow's assertion that: "If you do not toot your own horn, someone will use it as a spitoon". She went on to say that you should communicate up, communicate down, and communicate laterally, and have the courage to be the change agent.

Have you used any of these tips in your own career? Or, if you are a student, do you see ways to use these ideas in your student life?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed this session, sounds like a useful discussion. My thought is to add one modifier to the comment on taking on high-risk projects that no one wants. It can be great to take those projects if they are aligned with your company's high-priority goals (or similar for education). Make sure the reward available for the risk makes the investment of your time and yourself worthwhile.
Kathy

Kate said...

That's a great point Kathy!

Anonymous said...

As a qualifier here, though implied in the actual discussion, yes of course these high risk projects must have relevance to the company's priorities -- and, you bet that the reward has to be worth the time!

Monique

111 said...
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