Women’s History Month is a time dedicated to honoring generations of women who have paved the way. It is an annual event that recognizes the contributions of women to history, culture, and society.
Modern tech women like Whitney Wolfe Herd, the youngest female CEO, and Reshma Sajani, founder & CEO at Girls Who Code, are strong female figures that deserve to be celebrated. Everyday women who strive to #BreakTheBias deserve recognition as well.
BigCommerce’s BEmpowered Employee Resource Group hosted a panel discussion about what it means for women in tech to celebrate Women’s History Month.
BEmpowered is BigCommerce’s global ERG for women and non-binary people. BEmpowered’s mission is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all employees. It also empowers women and non-binary individuals through professional development and provides resources to help these groups thrive in our community.
Last month’s candid conversation was hosted by BEmpowered Executive Sponsor Veronica Servantez. It featured raw views on professional development, gender equality, and work/life balance. Ericka Barnes (Manager DMS), Melissa Dixon(Director Content Marketing), GrishmaRupani (Senior Director of PMO), and Neha Shah (“Director of Customer Success Management”) were the panelists.
Continue reading to see the recap of the inspiring female perspectives shared.
Be Empowered Women’s Month Panel – A Female-First Perspective
Veronica Servantez – Tell us about your job at BigCommerce. How has your career progressed and how has it helped you get to where you are today.
Melissa Dixon: “My job as a content creator has been very exciting. It’s creative, challenging, and very satisfying. That’s why I do it.” My career path was not linear. Although I knew I could write I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I found my way to copywriting which led me to marketing. It was like a ‘lightbulb moment!’ But I was late to the party. It was necessary to make up lost time. My career path was built by trying every marketing job to find what worked, what I was good at and where I could bring the most value em>
Grishma Rupani : “I manage the project management function, primarily within Product & Engineering (P&E), but gradually expanding to other areas. This was not the career I envisioned growing up. There are not many choices when you grow up Indian. One can become a doctor, or an engineer. I chose to follow the crowd and became an engineer.
I started to do development but realized that this was not the right career path for me. After I moved to Sydney, my husband and I decided to change careers and pursue something more interesting. I started as a business analyst and worked my way up to project manager.
VS It’s amazing to see how natural everyone’s career paths have been. I have never heard anyone say “I had a plan” in conversations with peers and leaders. It was going go 1, 2, 3. It was going to go 1, 2, 3.
How can you achieve balance in your professional and personal lives?
GR: “After having my baby five years ago, it became clear that achieving a balanced life was almost impossible and it was stressing us out. The whole idea of “I must be 100 percent at all things” was causing me to lose my sanity.
“At that point, I decreased my involvement at work. Communication is key. Communicate with your coworkers and let them know how you are feeling. You communicate with your colleagues at home and explain why you are so busy at work. It’s about focusing on what you need most, and not trying to do it all .”
Neha Shah: “Finding the right balance is a difficult task. Expectations are the key to success. Realize your expectations and know that you won’t be able do it all. As long as you are available, stay present. You must give your all to the task at hand, at work and at home.
“Take some time to decide for yourself what you want, then for everyone else what you want.”
You can’t take care yourself if you don’t take care you.
Ericka Barnes: “It’s an ongoing practice that I have to do every day. I have five kids and many passions other than work.
“That’s constantly changing, right?” Because I want to do more professionally and be a better mom. I have children ranging in age from 8 months to 12 years. I want to spend meaningful time with them all. I must constantly evaluate where I am at all times and decide what I will do. I should not feel guilty about the things I do but, as Neha said, be present em>
MD: Another thing I’ve adopted recently is “important versus urgent” in order to actually balance things. Because I see that there is a fine line, I live by it.
VS All members of this panel are in a technical career. Are there any particular challenges you have faced as a woman?
EB: “As a project manager you are expected to be prepared for the discussions, keep abreast of everyone’s activities, and communicate well. I have been to meetings and conversations where people of opposite sexual orientations may just show up and go with the flow, completely relying on their bro culture and being lackadaisical. As a woman, or as a black woman, I know this would not work. I must be prepared.
It is a constant challenge to break through the glass ceiling. There have been calls in which I was the only woman or only black person, which shows that there is still much to be done.
Although I wouldn’t say that this particular challenge was overcome, it is something that I am passionate about. It is something that confirms my work with ERGs such as BCinColor, and the career path I am on here at BigCommerce to ensure that everyone has equal access to the table. It’s a major obstacle for many people who want to climb the ladder em or pursue management opportunities.
GR: “I’ll focus on the tech sector, since the tech industry is very fast. The biggest problem I faced was when I was on maternity leave. It was about four to five months that I was gone, but it felt like years. I felt like I was playing catch-up because everything had happened so quickly. I needed another year to fully recover.
It was difficult because I felt like I was losing my confidence while trying to keep up with the pace. It was hard because I used to do it so well. Is everything different? The world has changed. How can I move forward? I was always second-guessing my self.
“At that time I was fortunate enough to find support. A former HR professional recognized my confidence struggles and helped me to find a support system. Although I tried to do everything right, my confidence was always on the decline.
“She encouraged me, and she made it stop. She encouraged me to stop doing what I was doing. Focus on what you want to do. To regain your confidence and to fill the gap you feel lacking em>
VS Why do you believe there is more gender diversity in certain parts of the industry or business than others?
GR: “In STEM industries, I find that the representation for women has been less than it was growing up. In my engineering class, there were 60 students and about six to seven girls. That’s it. This definitely got me thinking.
“I believe that the answer lies somewhere in-between. Women are nurturing and caring. These are the first things we think about. They are not scientists to us. They are not technologists.
It is up to us to fix this. We are here, do these things and this is where more awareness can be created.
“Definitely different business sectors have greater diversity, but I think the problem is something deeper-rooted and we’re looking to fix that now.”
VS. Let’s discuss the imposter syndrome. How can you increase confidence and resiliency in your job? How can you deal with imposter syndrome?
GR: “I don’t know how it disappears.” It will come back from time to time, sometimes when you least expect it. It is possible to learn how to manage it. I have found that my support network has been invaluable to me.
I won’t try to hide from the imposter syndrome. It will come back every time I try something new. But if you have the right people to help you, it will [help em].
NS: “I believe the support system [is] important.” I have been very fortunate to have wonderful peers, colleagues, and leaders around to listen. Sometimes just to give me feedback .” on how things are going and help me get through item>
“Sometimes, I feel like my children are the reality check. Although they might not be able to understand your situation, I believe that talking about it in your workplace or at home can change the perspective. Sometimes, a seven-year old’s perspective can be very different and beneficial at different times in your life .”
EB: “I try to be as prepared and as comfortable as I can.” I used to feel very intimidated when I was in situations. I tried to be the one to tell you what I knew so you would know that I am knowledgeable. I have grown to accept that. I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t have to be the most intelligent person in the room.
VS What are your top tips for negotiating salaries and promotions?
MD: “Keep track of all the wins and contributions you have made to your company. Always be prepared to explain how your actions have impacted the company. You don’t need to be aggressive, but you should communicate your ideas clearly to others. This is something that has worked for me, and I would encourage others to do .”
GR: Know your worth. Melissa suggested that you make a list listing all your accomplishments. Find out what your strengths are. Do your research. Find out what comparable jobs pay outside. Talk to your manager. Know your blind spots. Make a plan.
“More important, don’t lose heart. Even if you don’t succeed this time, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever get it. Reread it. Talk to HR and make a list. Then, research your options and create a plan. This is your responsibility and it will guide you in your career. Do not rely on others to find your talent and tell you, “Oh, you’re underpaid.” .”
NS: I think the most important advice I can give myself is to not be afraid to ask. You won’t find the answer until it’s been asked.
VS I agree with you. The worst they can say is no.
How have you cultivated these relationships to achieve success in your career?
EB: “I believe that watching more senior people and seeing the leadership on my side have really instilled that in me. One thing I love about BigCommerce is the people are so transparent, kind, and open to new ideas. From a dog-eats-dog agency background, it was unreal to work in this space. It was all about who paid the most, and who got me there first until I received an offer from Google or Facebook. It was very competitive. It was a great experience to be able to shadow people like Neha on escalation calls, or to reach out to my VP em>
MD: “Early, the relationships that were most important and still are, were those that I was producing work with directly. I discovered that these are the people who will help me and that I can help them. We can work together to create and achieve our goals quickly.
“As an older person, I value the leadership conversations I have with people like you, Veronica. They are people I aspire too be at that level. I believe I am in a better position now to have more intentional conversations.
“When I was younger there were a lot of people saying, ‘You should get a mentor.’ But I didn’t know what I wanted to say. These conversations are more meaningful now that I know what information I want. Both are important to me: the daily relationships and the aspirational em>
GR “One more thing I’ll do to the cultivation portion of it:
You can build strong relationships at work and outside of the workplace by giving your time.
Giving people your time and giving them your undivided attention. It doesn’t matter if you have to spend five minutes listening, or ten minutes listening, it builds trust em>
VS. Someone once said to me: When you are in your current job, you are interviewing for the next. They meant that everyone you are building a network with, these are the people that bring you in, who think of you, and that tell you that this person is great to work with. Beyond being a good collaborator in the company, consider how you can foster these relationships. That’s how your career will advance.