In celebration of Women’s History Month, a panel of female leaders at Anthology reflected on their experience and journey in EdTech. The panel, moderated by Anthology’s Chief Technology Officer Cynthia Haynie, reflected on leadership and the role of mentorship for women looking to accelerate their careers in technology.
- Sandi Campbell – Director of Process Enablement
- Amy Iannoccari – Senior Director, Anthology Student Product Management
- Hemalatha M (Hema) – Senior Manager, Product Development
- Rajeshwari MC (Raji) – Principal QA Architect
- Jamie Hamilton – Associate Director, Product Development
- Leela Roy — Vice President, Product Development
Reflect on an experience that was instrumental in shaping your leadership style. What’s one lesson you’d share with women just starting off or accelerating their career in EdTech?
Leela Roy — Finding my voice in a way that is true to me was key in early leadership roles. When I was first promoted to a manager role the individual who promoted me said, “Keep asking questions – it is a key to success in this role,” and she was correct as it pertained to that position and all of the roles I have taken on since. I was not the person with the loudest voice in the room nor the one with the strongest opinions – but technology, at its core, is about problem solving and by focusing on asking questions I could build collaborative environments where people have a discourse and drive to the best solution. Over the years I have encountered other leaders who employ similar methods. Some use a more pointed Socratic method, but generally speaking it is a process of discovery and promotes listening: another key leadership trait. Of course, the tone in which questions are asked impacts the outcomes and level of engagement, but if used to support collaboration it can be very effective.
Hemalatha M — As famously quoted by Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.” There are several instances where I have experienced the benefits of working collaboratively in projects that I have undertaken in the tech industry. A collaborative team far exceeds in their performance when compared to a group of a players put together. I strongly believe in a collaborative style of leadership. Having a “We” mindset over a “Me” mindset helps in breaking silos and builds cohesiveness that is essential for the success of any organization.
As quoted during the panel discussion, I’d like to reiterate the importance of learning and upskilling. “Take the time to grow your roots, so they are ready when you need them.” In the tech industry, learning and upskilling ourselves is essential to be competitive and the impetus for that has to come from within. Learning and upskilling ourselves not only helps with our professional success, but it also helps to build confidence, gain mastery over the subject and discover new interests.
Rajeshwari MC — A few years ago, at one point I was managing a team of 20+ and many of them were juniors and hence they needed extra handholding and guidance. At that time, I use to be a perfectionist and I used to expect similar quality output from all my team members, and that itself used to build lot of stress and conflict between me and my team members.
Over time, I have realized the importance of being unique and open to ideas. It is important to encourage team members to own the activities they are performing, even if it means a little deviation from our structured process as long as we are marching towards same goal.
My key learning from this entire experience is – when someone repeatedly asks for fish, teach them “how to fish” rather than handing fish to them. So, they will learn their lessons and bring their unique ideas to table.
How has mentorship provided direction in your career and what are some steps to build a mentorship relationship?
Leela Roy — Be open to forming mentorship relationships and consider advice from an array of people. It is wonderful to have a close mentorship relationship with another woman in your field or a similar field that is both a friendship and a mentorship – this can be rewarding on many levels. It is just as important to seek out relationships and mentorship advice from people who are different, for diversity of thought and perspective, as well as experience. Some of the best advice and opportunities I have received in my career have been from people who I did not consider myself close with or people whose opinions differed from mine in many instances. Even with these differences we maintained a good relationship and they understood my skillset and potential; offering me counsel and opportunities as they arose.
Sandi Campbell — Mentorship has provided direction throughout my career in moments where I needed specific guidance and advice, especially in new or tricky situations. As I evolve in my career so do my mentorship needs, and they are often highest as I’m trying something new. That can be joining a new organization, taking on a new role, or even expanding an existing role. I have benefited enormously from talking to people who have walked my path and shared their experiences. When I think of mentorship I don’t think of a single person, but a number of professionals who have helped me. A mentorship relationship goes two ways and requires trust and respect. In my experience these relationships have developed because I have asked for them, opening the door by asking for help in a particular situation.
Beyond mentorship, what I feel has truly propelled my career is sponsorship. Though I have no doubt that the outcome of mentorship has helped me grow and step through new experiences, I can directly tie sponsorship – someone recommending me for a project, nominating me for a leadership program, selecting me to speak on a panel – as key moments when the direction of my career has changed. It changed in these instances because I had a growth moment, gained new experiences and was exposed to new teams and people that presented opportunity.
Rajeshwari MC — Mentorship and guiding support plays a key role, especially when we are unclear of the path we are taking. Though I have not had a formal mentor at Anthology, that’s one area that we can focus on and build at Anthology to support more women employees growing in their career to reach leadership positions.