Navigate ’18 in Barcelona brought together hundreds of identity professionals across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The diverse group of people who attend the conference to share their perspectives, experiences and thoughts on the future of identity blows me away each year.
An exciting addition to this years’ Navigate Europe program was the Women in Identity Breakfast. We invited both women and men to breakfast to celebrate the work women are doing in identity and their role in the technical advancements the industry is experiencing. The theme of the event was mentorship – the purpose it can serve and whether it plays a necessary role in the development of an individual. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of women in leadership positions with impressive backgrounds, who were kind enough to share their perspectives and experiences in the hopes of sparking understanding and motivation from others in the room. These women came from South Africa, Denmark, France, Spain and Israel, giving us not only the perspective of different careers in IT, but cultures as well.
When asked who their mentor has been and if they think it is critical for women to have a mentor today, I received varying perspectives. The panel agreed that mentors can take time to find. Many have had mentors that fizzled out due to lack of communication or connection, illustrating the importance of finding someone who will view the relationship as equally valuable as the mentee and stay committed. Some of our panelists had male or female mentors that helped tremendously throughout their careers, and some preferred to blaze a trail on their own. We did agree that there is a difference between a mentor and an ambassador. An ambassador is someone at your company that believes in your ability and helps you get the promotion, gives you opportunities to work on new projects and champions your growth. Mentors stick with you throughout your career, while ambassadors are your trusted advisors at a particular company and point in your journey – both are equally impactful.
We spent some time talking about balance, and as the mom of two young children, this discussion hit home for me. I asked the panelists how they balance personal and professional priorities and what they have sacrificed throughout their careers. Here are some of the responses that we can all relate to:
- “I have sacrificed one thing – sleep.”
- “It is about managing your perspective. Family is a top priority, so I head home and have dinner with my family every night. I may have to wrap something up later, but for that two-hour period, they are my focus.”
- “Each evening I used to go home early to help the kids with homework and pick up on work later. Even though my kids are grown, my home life is still a relationship that I need to put time into nurturing. Your life cannot be 100% work.”
- “I do not sacrifice more than my husband. Our responsibilities are split 50/50 which means for us both to work full-time we pay for daycare and someone to clean the house. Choosing the right partner can be key to your success.”
- “Being a role model for my kids so they see I am driven is important to me. If your work is not fun it is a sacrifice, otherwise I would say we are just making decisions for the benefit of our family.”
As we neared the end of the panel, we discussed advice you might give to your younger self. Hindsight is 20/20, and it is fun to reflect back on who you were at the beginning of your career vs. the person you are today. The advice varied and yet, the theme that kept rising to the top was all about not being so hard on yourself and trusting in your ability. A few examples:
- “Knowing my younger self, it would be very hard to give advice to that woman, but I would tell her to take things easy and trust.”
- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto If you are true to yourself and treat people well, your career will flourish, and you will meet wonderful people.”
- “You are not the first one doing what you are doing. There are others who have gone before you so do not reinvent the wheel.”
- “Believe in yourself and do not doubt everything. Sometimes good enough is good enough and perfection is not necessary.”
- “Do not compare yourself to others and stop challenging yourself – we have enough to do.”
I walked away from the breakfast proud of this hardworking community and inspired by this incredible group of women. Each panelist’s diverse approach to building a career, raising a family and mentoring shows you there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Find what works for you, build your community of mentors and ambassadors, and do your part to help other men and women along the way.