Do your employees have adequate growth opportunities?
Soon after I finished my MBA, I joined a company and had started moving up in the ranks. About that time, I created a list of what I wanted to accomplish in my career and things I wanted to learn to expand my skill set. One of those things was fundraising, so I worked with amazing leaders, ones who had raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build a great company. Ultimately, this job and this team sparked my desire to become an entrepreneur.
Though, like all things, we don’t start out as experts. We all look for and hope to find great mentors and advocates to accelerate opportunities for us―fortunately, I was lucky enough to find that at this juncture in my career, and it changed everything for me.
As a leadership team, we decided to raise a round of capital for growth, and my mentor and CEO asked me to participate in the fundraise as one of the core team members. I got the experience of creating pitch decks, identifying potential partners, flying all over the country talking to VCs, looking at term sheets, getting rejected, and everything else that comes with raising capital.
Looking back, I recognize that he truly accelerated my career. He made me a member of the fundraising leadership team when I was really early in my career and when he had more seasoned team members. This experience shaped my career and accelerated opportunities for me. This is what great leaders do― they accelerate, grow, and make a positive impact on the trajectory of careers for those around them.
All leaders should try their best to do this: to see the great talent around you, create acceleration opportunities, and mentor. This is how we make a difference for those on our teams and in our organizations. I like to think of this as tapping someone on the shoulder—telling a coworker or subordinate, “We believe you can do this and want to give you an opportunity to jump in,” and then mentoring them through it. This tap increases their momentum and the impact they can have on a team and organization. Often times, it can redefine their career.
This is especially true for women in tech―where the numbers are stacked against them. These women are founders and CEOs of innovative tech companies. They are creating new technologies, getting patents, and fundraising millions of dollars in venture capital. They are leaders on their teams, in their organizations, and in the community. They are an absolute force breaking down barriers for other women to enter and succeed in the tech industry. But like all of us at some point in our career, many of them need someone to tap them on the shoulder, elevate their visibility, and accelerate their impact.
There are many ways to support these women and accelerate their trajectories. Informally, tapping them on the shoulder can mean inviting them into a project or introducing them to someone you feel could mentor them in a specific area. Formally, it can mean recognizing them in a company setting, nominating them for an award, or supporting them when they’re receiving formal recognition. These formal recognitions often get overlooked, but they are powerful and important. Having someone recognize what you’re doing is a huge boost, but when they help elevate it and bring attention to it, it’s even more transformative.
For the last 15 years, I’ve seen hundreds of women’s careers transform because of recognition like this through the Women Tech Awards. The visibility it brings them in the tech community is powerful, but in this award or any other, the most impactful part for the nominee is knowing someone around her believed in her enough to say she deserved this. This is true for any formal recognition, no matter the scope or scale. It gives momentum, confidence, and vision, especially for women in tech. It accelerates their careers―just like my boss accelerated mine.
If you are in a position to tap someone on the shoulder—especially a woman in tech—do it. Help them do something on their career list that goes beyond their resume or job into opportunities that will help them grow. All great leaders do this, and all aspiring and ambitious people need this. Be the one to accelerate, amplify, and activate them, it could change all of us for the better.