When we’re young, we’re often told that we can be anything we want to be. We’re told that if we work hard enough, we have the power and ability to achieve our dreams — whatever they might be. We start out with such youthful optimism and believe that the world is in our grasp. But along the way, many of us end up second-guessing ourselves, settling for less than we deserve, or struggling to take the next step in our career.
In a world in which we are still working towards achieving equity, how do you motivate yourself to continue to work towards your goals? How do you ensure you’re always growing and learning? And how do you take concrete steps to ensure you’re also lifting those around you as you rise? As we learned at the OpenText™ Women in Technology Summit, it all starts with raising your hand.
Raise your hands as high as you can
“Raise your hands right now as high as you can possibly raise them. Now, raise them higher”
–Arlene Dickinson, “Dragon” on Dragons’ Den, CEO of Venture Communications, CEO of District Ventures and YouInc
In her session, Arlene Dickinson did a small social experiment: she asked everyone in the room to raise their hands as high as they could. Everybody did. Then, she told us to raise them higher—and everybody did just that. What did this exercise teach us? According to Arlene, it shows us that sometimes we get in our own way by not having enough confidence or courage in ourselves. When we’re feeling blocked, when we’re feeling afraid, or when we’re feeling like we can’t possibly live up to our potential, Arlene challenges us to raise our hands a little higher. Ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to achieve your goal. Maybe you can do something differently or do something new to get where we want to be. We all have the power within us to reach our potential. By doing this small act of trying to lift ourselves higher, we can all live the lives we deserve to live.
“No” is a building block to your future success
Hearing the word “no” can actually be a good thing — if you know how to use it. In one of our panel sessions Stephanie Lampkin, Founder & CEO, Blendoor talked about the power of hearing the word ‘no’. When someone tells you that you can’t take on a new role or a new task, that doesn’t necessarily mean that opportunity is closed for you. Rather, you can use this as motivation to prove your abilities and take new chances. This process is essential to professional development. According to Stephanie, hearing the word ‘no’ is what indicates she’s moving towards what she terms a stretch opportunity — an opportunity to learn new skills, which is critical to continued growth. “In order for me to progress I have to put myself in positions where maybe I’m not ready,” she says. “But in order for me to be ready, I need those stretch opportunities.” In other words, if you’re not hearing the word “no” enough, then you may not be reaching for stretch opportunities and may not be pushing yourself enough.
Danny Allen, Vice President, Tech Diversity & Inclusion, SAP Labs Silicon Valley added that mentors can play a key role in providing stretch opportunities. Importantly, he notes that mentors don’t have to be in your line of business — as long as they can provide a different perspective and connect you to a broader network, they can connect you to new opportunities. Reach out to your mentors and tell them you’re looking for new challenges. Ask them to let you know if they’re aware of any new opportunities and to keep you in mind when speaking with their networks. And if you need a little push to seize those opportunities, your mentor can help with that, too.
We can all lift as we rise
The concept of lifting as we rise was shared by Anar Simpson, Global Ambassador, Technovation at the conference, and it really stuck with me throughout the day. We can all lift as we rise. Success is not a zero-sum game in which another’s success takes away from yours or lessens your opportunities. In other words, there’s room at the top for all of us — especially if we help each other get there. As we rise to new heights and new successes, both personally and professionally, we also have the power to help elevate others. For Anar, this act of lifting as we rise is what feeds the soul.
But how do you put this into practice? It can be as simple as making an introduction for someone you know, sharing resources, recommending them to a position, or praising them for a job well done. Think about how hard it was for you to get where you are today and try to make it a little bit easier for those who come after you. By helping each other rise, we are creating a stronger, more diverse world.
Anar gave a 10-minute lightning talk entitled “Beyond the Glass Ceiling,” focusing on how women need to shift their gaze to the new upcoming Web 3 technologies so that they are not left behind again. You can watch her talk in full below.
If you missed my first post, read more about the STEM pipeline and how to create inclusive communities in tech.