This year in honor of International Women's Day, we're spotlighting fantastic women leaders at Front. Women hold more than 50% of executive and leadership roles at Front, despite the odds. So we asked some of them to take us back to when they were just getting started in their careers and share advice they wish they could give to their younger selves.
We were struck by how all of our — phenomenal, Ivy League, org-leading — women leaders had to overcome some level of doubt. It lines up with the fact that women are 3x more likely to experience impostor syndrome, hold less than 30% of top leadership positions, and are less likely to be promoted compared to a male counterpart. For women of color, these odds are considerably worse. So while it’s a small action, we thought it was worth sharing the stories of our women leaders who are paving the way in their fields. Here’s some advice that can inspire you in your career regardless of your gender identity.
“There’s a lot I’ve learned since I started Front, but one thing that stands out to me is the importance of giving and receiving feedback. It takes practice. But I think making it a regular practice to get feedback on what you’re doing is the fastest way to get better at anything. And if you don’t ask for it, people often won’t say anything. Ask your peers. Ask your manager. Ask your friends. And be incredibly thankful when you’re receiving it, instead of getting defensive or trying to justify yourself. That will make people feel comfortable to continue giving you feedback in the future.
When it comes to giving feedback, doing this can really help you establish yourself as a leader. Don’t be afraid to share how you feel about something and why. People can and should respect you for it.
Related learning: not all advice is good advice. It’s always beneficial to listen to others and get feedback and observe how others do things, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. So that’s my other piece of advice: don’t take all the advice you receive.”
— Mathilde Collin, Co-founder and CEO at Front
“My advice is to trust in your own skills, and never stop learning. When I started out, it was easy to think there was so much more I could learn before getting to the next level. Or that the people above me knew the right answer. But I quickly realized, no one fully knows what they’re doing. Even if they have done it 100 times before, it’s never been for this specific industry, this specific situation, or this specific moment in time. Trust in your skills. You are where you are because you earned it. And everyone in positions above you and around you are figuring it out too.
Second, never stop learning. In every role you’re in, have the mindset of: what can I learn from others around me? What technical skills can I acquire next? What might I be able to improve in what I already have? If you’re constantly assessing this, you’re already one step ahead of the pack.”
— Jenny Decker, CFO at Front
Step out of your comfort zone
“To have more faith in myself. Early on in my career I used to rely on external signals of success to determine my self-worth and take failures personally. It took me some time to accept that at times I failed because I was trying something that was outside my comfort zone. I learned to appreciate that the more times I failed the more I learned and the more I grew. The important measure is not how much you succeed but how many times you test yourself. And that will set you up to take on more ambitious goals in life.”
— Vrushali Patil, Head of Platform Engineering at Front
“Don’t hesitate voicing your ideas and opinions, and doing so frequently (yet thoughtfully).
For 2 reasons:
Firstly, unlike what my younger self used to think, I now understand much better that there isn’t actually just one “right” answer to how things should be done. Instead decisions are based on a combination of experience, data, intuition, ego, and hope that you picked the path with the highest probability of the most positive outcome (and most of the time, you’ll never know the difference). So don’t hesitate sharing your thoughts because you fear being “wrong”. It’s unlikely to be true, and speaking up gives you a chance to influence the outcome.
Secondly, this is necessary to build your pattern recognition skills, which makes you much more effective at your craft. You may start off having your ideas not picked 9 out of 10 times, but the one time it does matters, and over time, your hit rate will get better. Give yourself that chance.”
— Shriya Ravikumar, Head of Sales Strategy & Operations at Front
You belong there
“To me it’s always made sense that as 50% of the world's population women would make up 50% of executive, leadership, and management teams. Now is our time and my advice is - go for it - and go for it with confidence. Everyone has moments of self doubt, of intimidation, of feeling overwhelmed or not yet quite perfectly ready. The key is how you handle those moments and find a way to show up as your best possible self. Don’t be afraid to take risks, make mistakes, grow.”
— Laurabeth Harvey, Chief Revenue and Success Officer at Front
Advice alone won’t solve the pay gap or instantly put more women in leadership roles — but we hope that these stories of resilience and self-trust help women to realize that they aren’t alone in whatever their journey is to the top. Happy International Women’s day to all!
Written by Logan Davis