What 6 Women in Leadership Say Inspires Them — and the Advice They Have for Peers

As women across the tech industry uplift each other, these leaders shared what they’ve learned and the wisdom they have for peers.

Written by Lucas Dean
Published on Mar. 07, 2023
What 6 Women in Leadership Say Inspires Them — and the Advice They Have for Peers
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International Women’s Day is a day away, and many trailblazers in women’s rights will rightfully be honored and celebrated in the public sphere. In more sentimental moments of reflection, though, the women who have been impactful forces for good in our personal lives will be the ones we think of first. 

For endpoint Clinical’s Senior Director of Product Delivery Maureen Ventura, the biggest source of inspiration in her professional life is her mom, who didn’t let the male-dominant nature of her industry hold her back from advancing in her career.

“I watched my mom work hard to succeed in her career and break boundaries. She was respected in her industry and was often at the table with only men colleagues,” Ventura said. “When I began my career, I knew there was going to be a struggle being a woman, but I always think back to my mom and it keeps me pushing forward.”

In the tech industry, men outnumber women in a ratio of 2-to-1, according to Zippia, and even fewer women occupy leadership positions. Fortunately, people like Leyton’s Strategic Development Sales Team Manager Olivia Dufour are determined to uplift fellow women in tech. 

Dufour has provided one-on-one mentorship to over 30 peers. “Leading with a ‘How can I help?’ approach is the single best way to learn what inspires and motivates our colleagues and peers,” she explained. “As women in business, elevating each other is the key to our shared success.”

Dufour, Ventura and four other women who hold leadership positions shared the lessons they’ve learned throughout their careers, the things that motivate and inspire them and the advice they have for fellow women in tech. 

 

Vangie Cleversey
Chief Delivery Officer • Acquia

Acquia provides brands with Drupal-based products that help create meaningful moments for customers.

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

Early in my career, I learned the importance of advocating for myself when I feel I have earned increased responsibility or salary. While I have not always received what I asked for, each conversation created an opportunity to discuss how I could achieve my goals.

One experience that set the tone for my career was when I was asked to take on additional responsibilities after the manager of my team resigned. 

I was only a few years out of college, and the CEO asked me to take on additional work. In the moment, I was so excited that I didn’t ask if it was a promotion. After speaking with my father, who is one of my biggest champions and mentors, we practiced how I would ask for what I wanted.

When I met with the CEO, I asked for a change in title and salary, backed by a clear rationale. Although my kneecaps were shaking, I advocated for myself and received the title and most of the salary increase. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known what was possible.

Throughout my career, I have used this skill to advocate for myself and seek opportunities for growth and advancement. It is important to be confident in your abilities and the value you bring to the table.

 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

I love to learn — everything from the smallest details of a topic to deep meaning-of-life types of questions. Leadership is a learning journey that never stops. You have to find your strengths and learn to have confidence in them. You also have to be clear on your areas of improvement and be open to sharing your work. The quicker you stop trying to do things you are not good at, the faster your career will develop, along with your overall life satisfaction. 

Find ways to learn that work for you. I like reading and listening to podcasts on leadership, human improvement and vulnerability. If you don’t know Brene Brown, get to know her work. It’s amazing and humbling. It also doesn’t take much time — 20 minutes once a week. Then find ways to apply what you learn. Dedicate the time to improve yourself as a human being, and it will show up in your leadership style and career. 

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

To become a successful leader, it’s essential to cultivate a sense of curiosity and a willingness to innovate. Even if you’re not the one with all the answers, you can learn from others and seek out new ways of thinking. Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you fully understand the situation, and don’t let your own biases cloud your judgment. It’s important to stay as neutral as possible and check yourself when you start losing that neutrality. Be patient, but don’t let that turn into paralysis. Keep moving forward, and the answer and action plan will reveal themselves.

Be patient, but don’t let that turn into paralysis. Keep moving forward, and the answer and action plan will reveal themselves.”

 

Above all, remember that we lead people. Everyone is doing their best for themselves, their families and their communities. Be kind and empathetic in your actions, even when they are unpopular. Assume good intentions, and be authentic in your interactions. In addition to being a tech leader, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. I’m proud of all of those roles, and they make me a better person. Don’t hide your roles. Authenticity is a superpower, and it will help you build strong, genuine connections with others.

 

 

Olivia Dufour
Strategic Development Sales Team Manager • Leyton

Leyton is a consultancy firm that focuses on helping companies optimize tax credits and incentives. 

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

The most important lesson I have learned is that no task is too small or insignificant. Having a beginner’s mindset is key to never underestimating the power of being multi-disciplined. I learned this while leading operations across several early-stage startups, where I oversaw all aspects of the business, from account management to IT and marketing. 

Every important lesson from my career has come directly from lived experience. I have always found that I learn best when faced with anything that is seemingly unsolvable. If I do not have the answer or information to address it, I am that much more dedicated to finding a scalable solution. Coming from the startup space, I prioritized becoming agile and now feel undaunted by the scope or urgency of complex projects.

One of the fastest ways to upskill yourself and grow your career into leadership is by constantly iterating until you become the trusted source for implementation. When proving out your proposed solutions, be vocal and clear about what resources you need to be successful. 

 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

My number one motivator is to design an employee experience that I would want to have. The first step I take in any organization is to build a vibrant, driven and inclusive culture where team members are inspired to take on leadership responsibilities early. This moves a workplace environment from encouraging employee engagement to fostering employee enthusiasm.

Over the past 10 years, I have mentored over 30 women in business in a tailored one-to-one setting. Leading with a “How can I help?” approach is the single best way to learn what inspires and motivates our colleagues and peers. Then, when they successfully execute their ideas, give them the spotlight and credit that they deserve. As women in business, elevating each other is the key to our shared success.

The first step I take in any organization is to build a vibrant, driven and inclusive culture where team members are inspired to take on leadership responsibilities early.”

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Advocate for yourself early and often in every role. The best method for becoming a mission-critical employee is to view your 30-60-90 plan as a timeline for delivering tangible impact. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to be bold in your recommendations and goals. If they are realistic enough to implement successfully, then all eyes are on you for leadership opportunities. Lastly, always remember that you are the right person for the job.

 

 

BlueConic’s team poses for a photo at an event.
BlueConic

 

Jackie Rousseau-Anderson
CRO • BlueConic

BlueConic is a customer data platform that makes data from disparate sources more accessible. 

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

Find mentors who challenge you and help push you toward your strengths. I’ve always been a heads-down, “do my work to the best of my ability but expect nothing” kind of person. My first purely sales leadership role came after I repeatedly turned down my boss’ requests for me to take the role. In fact, I may have laughed in his face the first time he asked! I had never imagined myself in a sales role. I couldn’t see it. It wasn’t until he ticked off the skills he needed in this leader that I recognized I could do it. 

Research continuously shows that women won’t apply for a position until they feel they fulfill 100 percent of the role requirements. That limits us. Find the people who force you to see your strengths and challenge you to step into them.

 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

It’s really important to figure out how to stay motivated as a leader because you need to be ready to keep everyone else inspired in the less-than-inspiring moments. Beyond being supremely competitive, my primary motivation comes from two sources. 

The first is our customers and potential customers. As an overly empathetic person, I truly want to help them succeed through their business transformations. My belief that we can help them be even more successful fuels me on a daily basis. Whether it’s ensuring their decision-making process is as frictionless as possible or working to help them chart their path to digital transformation, their successes are our successes. The second source is our BlueCrew. As CRO, I recognize the responsibility we have to drive our business. Our ability to hit revenue targets has an immediate and significant impact on all parts of the organization. That’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.

I try to inspire other women at BlueConic by showing them that they don’t have to look, think or act a certain way for a role. I may not look or act like most other SaaS chief revenue officers, but here I am. I wish someone had told me that earlier in my career.

I try to inspire other women at BlueConic by showing them that they don’t have to look, think or act a certain way for a role.”

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

First, connect with people who’ve done it already. Find people in roles you think you might like or do things in a way you admire and reach out to them. You have nothing to lose. Ninety-nine percent of us will gladly share our expertise and advice and take advantage of it. And if you’re reaching out to senior leaders, don’t give up after the first outreach. Sometimes messages get lost in the shuffle; keep trying!

Second, don’t define your path on day one. If I were following my original career path ideations, I’d be sitting in a back room doing data analytics somewhere. Start somewhere and then keep yourself open as you get exposed to different people and different roles. 

Third, ask for feedback. We all have a self-image we’ve constructed. Sometimes that prohibits us from seeing alternative options for our development. Find people you admire and ask them for feedback on your strengths and development areas on a regular basis. Use those insights to do frequent assumption checks for yourself and make sure you’re not limiting yourself in some way.

 

 

A group photo of the Ellevation Education team.
Ellevation Education

 

Marion Kennedy Amos
Vice President, Sales and Account Management • Ellevation Education

Edtech company Ellevation Education created the only web-based software designed for English language learners, helping educators better serve their students. 

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

I’ve learned the importance of finding purpose and meaning in the work that you do. My previous boss at Google was incredibly impassioned about the projects we worked on. I learned a great deal from his exemplary energy around providing value to customers and grounding himself in the “why” of it all. 

I joined Ellevation when it was a very small startup in 2013. Ellevation Education is the nation’s leading K-12 software solution for multilingual learners and the educators who serve them. From the moment I heard about the promise of the product, I was obsessed with helping to bring it to market. I remain obsessed with what we do for educators across the country. That excitement propels me forward through any challenges we face as a company and team.

 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

I stay inspired as a leader by keeping close proximity to our customers to remind myself of our purpose and to help inform strategic decisions. Ellevation’s sales team works with over 1,300 partner districts across the country and adds hundreds more annually. Nothing brings me more joy professionally than seeing members of the team grow, thrive and ultimately drive impact for students. I believe teams function best when everyone can bring their true, whole selves to work. As a leader, I try to model this by being as authentic as possible. 

Right now, my authentic self is a working mom of two kids under four. I found out I was pregnant with my first child the same week I was first promoted to leadership at Ellevation. Since then, I’ve come to believe that being a mother makes me a better employee and leader. I’m significantly more organized and empathetic. But that means you’ll see an occasional sick toddler on my lap or see my calendar blocked for school events. Working motherhood isn’t buttoned up and perfect, and I certainly don’t present myself that way. But I do believe that being a mother is an asset, and I hope women at the company get that message.

I’ve come to believe that being a mother makes me a better employee and leader. I’m significantly more organized and empathetic.”

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Many women I meet transitioning into tech have imposter syndrome of some flavor, whether it’s breaking into a male-dominated department like engineering or sales or trying to transition into tech from a non-technical background. And I can relate — in every role I’ve taken on, I’ve faced my own imposter syndrome. But now, from my vantage point, I can really see that women bring a rich cultural awareness to both the tech world and to leadership that is critical for the success of any business.  

My advice for the next generation of women is to steer into your unique perspective and bring your authentic self. And, when in doubt, listen to the customer. Rooting your ideas and rationale in the customer’s voice is almost foolproof.

 

 

endpoint Clinical employees gathered at an outing.
endpoint Clinical

 

Maureen Ventura
Sr. Director, Product Delivery • Endpoint Clinical

Healthtech company endpoint Clinical provides interactive response technology systems and solutions to life sciences professionals. 

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

Something I learned early on in my career was to use my voice and not be afraid to provide constructive feedback. Speaking up for what you believe in and what feels right can often lead to friction in the workplace, but more often than not, that friction will lead to positive change. It is important to use your voice, stay true to what you believe in and stay the course until that positive change comes about.

It is important to use your voice, stay true to what you believe in and stay the course until that positive change comes about.”

 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

My inspiration has always been my mom. She was in a male-dominated industry but never let that hold her back in progressing in her career. As I was growing up, I watched my mom work hard to succeed in her career and break boundaries. She was respected in her industry and was often at the table with only men colleagues. When I began my career, I knew there was going to be a struggle being a woman, but I always think back to my mom and it keeps me pushing forward. This has allowed me to never give up and continue to push my boundaries. I try to do the same for women at my company, remind them gender does not matter and that it comes down to their hard work and dedication. I remind them to be proud of their accomplishments and make sure people are aware of them and celebrate them. Always be your biggest cheerleader, and never back down.

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Utilize your network and create new networks with women in tech. I think it is important to support each other, contribute to each other, encourage each other and, most importantly, empower one another. Building relationships within the tech world helps you further your career and opens up new opportunities.  

 

 

Amy Duwel
Chief Scientist • STR

STR’s mission is to provide technological solutions that address national security challenges. STR leverages machine learning and advanced software to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving world. 

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned as you grew your career? 

I learned from a good friend that the way you see yourself is not the same as the way that others see you. When I came back from my first maternity leave, I felt insecure about being able to work at the same level as I had before. In one problem-solving meeting, I offered a barrage of ideas in a manner that prompted my colleague (and friend) to tell me privately that I was coming across as pushy, and he did not understand why. I realized that I wanted very much to prove to the team and to myself that I could still be helpful. He said to me, “Amy, we all think that you are very smart and very helpful already, so you don’t need to be pushy.” I learned how valuable it was to have honest feedback. Hearing it from someone I trusted helped me to internalize a lesson that my own self-image and intentions might not match what others see.

 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader, and how do you try to motivate and inspire other women at your company?

I have been incredibly fortunate to have found opportunities to do work that I enjoy for a purpose that is important to me. This keeps me motivated and inspired. 

I try to inspire others by sharing the joy I find in my own work and by appreciating the joy that my colleagues find in their work. I am also open about my challenges. I think that this invites other people to be similarly introspective and creates an environment where we can support each other in our growth and our work.    

I try to inspire others by sharing the joy I find in my own work and by appreciating the joy that my colleagues find in their work.”

 

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in tech, and why is this advice important?

Pursue things that you don’t feel qualified to do if you can get the chance; this is how you learn and grow. Surround yourself with good people. You will help each other do great things.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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