“I think one of the hardest things for people to come up with and give [to others] is time. Whether it’s coaching, providing feedback or making recommendations, I think it’s about being very intentional with your time with your peers or others in your network,” says Erin McMurray, Program Manager II, ePMO for Shentel, and marketing chair on the board of The WICT Network: Virginia, as she reflects on what leaders can give during this holiday season.
As the 2021 calendar year comes to a close, many have chosen to look within to find ways we, as leaders, can give back. In this article, McMurray, along with two additional women in leadership, discuss the importance of ways to best contribute and why giving back is valuable; you don’t want to miss their insight.
What and When to Give?
According to Aris Livingston, Finance and Accounting, Comcast and secretary for The WICT Network: Great Lakes, she’s always in the spirit to give back.
“You can give back in every season and through working with a number of non-profits, like The WICT Network,” says Livingston. She notes the value of giving items that don’t involve money. “You can give back by volunteering, mentoring or just sharing your knowledge and skills with others.”
She shares her joy in guiding inner city youth by teaching them skills and even musical instruments.
“I will teach them different things like the violin or the viola if they ask to learn, because sharing what you know is a great way to give back, especially when some don’t have the same access to resources that you have,” Livingston explains.
“I think the best way to give back in our field is to recognize the fact that a lot of people, especially women, are looking for different opportunities in the tech space,” says Sindhusha Ravi, Strategy & Planning Manager, Comcast, and communication director on the board of The WICT Network: Greater Philadelphia.
“I think a lot of them are trying to figure out what their next career move is, how to negotiate for more and how they should think about their current job if they decide to stay.”
According to Ravi, mentoring and reaching out to women in the network is the biggest gift leaders can provide. “Even if they’re not looking for jobs… just to see where they are and if there’s something we can do to help and vice versa, if someone is reaching out to you,” she says.
She also believes that getting to know more of the higher-level industry members will aid the women who enter into technology. “It’s the perfect time to give back and I also think that free resume services and being able to hold free workshops, seminars and teaching others how to brand themselves, are other ways we can really give back,” Ravi adds.
Sharing and its Importance
All three industry professionals agree that it’s important to give back, below you’ll discover their thoughts on the importance of spreading knowledge.
“I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had a lot of learning opportunities to interact with others and I realize not everyone has that time, so I’ve been trying to bring pieces of that back to other people,” McMurray explains. “It’s important and helps them, but I’ve found that if I’m really intentional about it, it helps me reinforce what I’ve learned.”
According to Livingston, she learned the value of giving back and sharing her knowledge at a young age, thanks to her mother.
“When I was a young girl, my mother was always involved in the church and we did things like volunteering in soup kitchens,” Livingston recalls.
“I’ve helped and have given back to people in other states through missionary work and have had a slew of other opportunities when I was younger, and as I got older I started participating in groups that gave back to others. It’s always been instilled in me that I have a certain level of privilege and not everyone has and I have access to things that not everyone has access to,” Livingston adds.
For Ravi, there are two skills that she acquired and has taught other women in the field.
“The first talent I’ve shared with others is the ability to question things and problem solve,” Ravi says. “The way the technical field is moving, there’s a lot of new things now that people haven’t thought about before, it’s not just how do we do more with less… it’s about new systems.”
The second talent she shares and highly values is storytelling. “As the world becomes more digitized there’s less emphasis on soft skills, I think the ability to tell a story will become more and more important going forward,” Ravi shares. “There’s less personal interaction, so if you’re very strong in that form of communication, it will set you apart in the tech industry.”
“I think a lot of times we think about what we don’t have, but we don’t focus on what we do have,” says Livingston.
Providing a Positive Influence
“Now that I’m a program manager, there are many people on my projects that I can help positively influence,” says McMurray. I think that even when everything is a mess it comes down to being positive and having the right attitude.”
Ravi says her position allows her to look ahead through a competitive lens. “I think my position, especially in the context of my team, presents a story and narrative that not only presents what’s happening on the outside from a competition standpoint, but what we can do about it,” Ravi explains. “I think we’re able to positively influence because we tell that story.”
Livingston agrees with McMurray, in that having a positive outlook is key. “I sit on The WICT Network’s Great Lakes Board, as the secretary, and there are a lot of times people are pessimistic, but I’m all about optimism because I don’t feel like being down in the dumps serves you very well,” she explains. “The main thing I do to influence others revolves around my positivity.”
Lessons Acquired for Growth
One part of being an effective leader involves the willingness and ability to keep learning.
“My manager and mentor, Mike Smith, definitely showed me how to not only build relationships but how to nurture them effectively. It’s very easy for someone to say they’re going to reach out, but how do you take that further and say what can I do to help you and what am I already doing that you would find interesting,” Ravi shares.
She also adds that her mentor taught her how to take a complex problem or question and break it down into very small parts. This allows Ravi to try her best to get at an answer. “How he’s taught me to structure how I think is highly useful, and has definitely changed my career trajectory,” says Ravi.
Livingston learned the importance of putting herself in front of higher level executives to further succeed in her career.
“Recently I was lamenting to one of my mentors and I said there was a position at work I wanted and that I needed to gain access to senior level leadership. That’s when I was told that I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Livingston recalls. “I realized that as women we’re socialized to be timid or meek and in the corporate arena we have to shed those roles in order to accomplish what we want.”
Since gaining that feedback, Livingston has already taken steps toward achieving her goal. She’s even shared this lesson with other women. “It’s been on my heart to share this because connections don’t come as easily while we’re still in this pandemic. It’s about putting yourself out there and being aggressive.”