I Choose to Challenge
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge”. In that vein, I choose to challenge employers and employees to think about what it takes to achieve success in the workplace. As it turns out, there are many commonalities, regardless of gender or journey.
As an investment professional and company builder, I evaluate which teams and companies to bet on and I collaborate with entrepreneurs to help drive enterprise innovation and accelerate growth. So, I’m always thinking about what it takes for someone to realize their dreams. But I didn’t get to this position overnight. During my 28 years in the workplace, I’ve learned first-hand some important lessons for success that I thought I’d share with you.
1. Take what you do seriously. Whatever your career choice, educate yourself and work hard. Formal studies are important, but to continue to advance your career you must commit to lifelong learning and be willing to dig into areas outside of your comfort zone.
My degree in accounting and economics gave me a solid foundation to enter the workforce as a CPA. As I began working, I realized that using data as the basis for any decision is crucial and helps drive better decisions across every area of the business. Investing in data and developing the infrastructure to apply it to drive efficiencies is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, but it pays off later. Throughout my career, I’ve relied on data for confidence in the decisions I make — from when to expand a business, to when to bring it to IPO. In my current role, I couple the power of data with constant learning about emerging technologies and how to apply them to solve big problems, to continue to drive success for Team8 and our clients. Our investments in FundGuard and SetSail are two recent examples of this practice in action.
2. Demonstrate value. Show people what you can bring to the table and that they can count on you to deliver. When you combine value with reliability you position yourself as a key contributor. This is true whatever you choose to do.
I learned this early on as a waitress, where reliability is critical for happy diners and tips! When I was a math tutor, parents had peace of mind knowing I wasn’t just showing up and helping their kids get their homework done. I took the time to review the textbooks and understand how they were being taught so I could help them absorb the information and perform better overall. And one of the reasons I was able to serve as a young officer in the Israeli Air Force, responsible for administration and HR of a 300-person battalion, was that my commander knew I could be trusted to deliver. This track record and discipline served me well, as I moved into the corporate world and progressed over 28 years from junior auditor to controller, CFO, CEO, and investor.
3. Don’t make assumptions. Project yourself the way you want to be viewed and that will create reality. When you bring your best self, often people will see and appreciate it.
Early in my career I focused on building the operational and leadership skills necessary for executive-level success. I was unwavering in my commitment to learning, contributing, and raising my game — and people noticed. They saw a hardworking, reliable professional, and I dare to say that the gender, age and other irrelevant criteria, haven’t impacted the way I was perceived. But it doesn’t always work out that way. If you feel you’ve brought your best self and the recognition you expect doesn’t happen, make a formal request for the appropriate consideration and an equal chance. Sometimes people don’t realize their views are filtered by preconceived notions. When you draw their attention to it, they see you for who you are. In my experience, most people want to do the right thing!
4. Know your boundaries and be clear. Use data to drive equity and fairness. Whether to stand up for yourself, or to drive systemic change, you’ll be more successful when your argument is presented clearly and based in fact.
With leadership comes opportunity, but also responsibility — to the business and to your employees. One time, as a new CFO at a company and going through my first annual salary review cycle, I realized there was a pay gap. It wasn’t pronounced, but it was there and due to my affinity for data, I spotted it right away. As soon as I presented the data to the rest of leadership, I had the green light to lead the charge to fix it. We put benchmarks in place and performance criteria to drive equality in compensation.
5. Find the win-win outcome. When negotiating with others, always try to understand what is important to the other side. Crafting a solution that gives yourself what you need, while the other side feels the same is a formula for success.
When a major global corporate was interested in acquiring the startup I was working with, that’s exactly how I navigated the negotiations. The valuation was good, but the terms were draconian. I had an open conversation with them to understand where they were coming from and what they were looking to achieve. Once I understood, I offered to come back to them with a solution that would protect their interests but would be more palatable to us. They agreed to give it a shot and eventually accepted my formula as it was a real win-win for both sides.
Bonus lesson: Trust your experience and intuition. This one is for the seasoned professional because it takes time and patience to develop. As you progress in your career, use those years to your advantage. You can bring incredible value when you combine your experience with a healthy dose of intuition and a lot of data.
This paid off in spades in my first investment ever — Datorama. I participated as a private investor and led the seed round when the founders had only an idea and presentation. How did I decide whether to bet on the company? I knew based on experience to look for resilience, stamina, and brilliance in the founders. As for the idea, I had to assess the size of the problem they wanted to solve, and if their approach to solving it was the right one. A combination of my relevant experience and intuition supported both. I remained an active board member and fast forward six years later, we sold the company to Salesforce for $800M.
So, back to International Women’s Day. Women are not yet at 50% representation at all levels across the tech and finance workforce, but I’ve experienced first-hand the significant inroads we’ve made over the past 28 years. That’s why I’m cautiously optimistic that by applying these universal insights for success, as they map to your journey, one day in the spirit of equality we’ll celebrate an International Men’s Day too!
Originally appeared on Medium