Last month, I had the privilege of attending the National Diversity Council’s Women in Leadership Symposium on Symantec's Mountain View campus with over 150 female business professionals, entrepreneurs, non-profit organization directors and representatives, academicians, and students. This year’s theme was “Center Stage: Standing Out & Speaking Up”. Two of Symantec's leading executives – CHRO Amy Cappellanti-Wolf and CIO Sheila Jordan – gave compelling and inspiring keynotes.
The event was particularly meaningful to me because Symantec has helped me stand out and speak up during my five year tenure at the company. When I started as an intern in HR's University Relations department, I had limited corporate experience and most of my exposure to HR was what I had read in textbooks. Shortly after my internship, I accepted a full time role in Symantec's HR Rotational Program.
Once I completed the rotational program, I landed the role of leading our Employer Brand program, a brand new position for me – and the company. It was a huge undertaking and I was constantly talking myself out of imposter syndrome. What did I know about employer brand, and what would I do as a team of one? How would I develop a business strategy that would need to be supported by executives and teams? I wasn't a subject matter expert in brand and I was still relatively new to the workforce. I just couldn't stop asking myself: Why should people listen to me?
I just couldn't stop asking myself: Why should people listen to me?
It was refreshing to hear one of the panelists from the Women in Leadership Symposium – Mary Stutts, Chief Diversity, Inclusion & Health Equity Officer at Stanford Health Care – address this way of thinking directly. She said that silencing self-doubt requires abandoning the phrase "fake it till you make it" and instead adopting the phrase "I am the real deal". It doesn't matter if I have previously done something or not; I have the ideas, insights, and strategies that will drive business forward. I was chosen to perform because people know what I'm capable of. All I have to do is bring it to vision.
But let's face it, it's hard to convince yourself that you are the real deal when something is so new and unfamiliar. Which is why it's important to have sponsors – people who are in a position of influence and who can use their platform to advocate for you, your work, and your potential; people who can do this openly, and also behind closed doors with other influencers.
It's important to have sponsors – people who are in a position of influence and who can use their platform to advocate for you, your work, and your potential.
Another panelist – Denise Miles, Senior Vice President, Foundation Manager at Wells Fargo – shared something specifically about sponsorship that is nuanced but also very important. She said that on average, women have three times as many mentors as men, but men have twice as many sponsors as women. We need mentors to advise us, but we need sponsors to champion us. Sponsors are invested in our success, and model the behaviors that enable advancement.
Yvonne Thomson has been this person for me – a terrific manager, mentor, and sponsor all in one. As a manager, she has encouraged me in my role as a member of her broader team. As a mentor, she has advised me on how to build my skills, qualities, and confidence for the next steps in my career journey. And, crucially, as a sponsor, she has leveraged her own seniority and influence to champion my visibility, publicly endorsing me and my unique value, proving she is personally vested in me. She has encouraged me to take risks, which for me meant speaking engagements that promote my program and the work I do. She has pushed me to take my role beyond the limitations of what I thought I could do, and has brought that same lens to how I think about my long term career. I have been able to create a program out of nothing and have seen myself grow exponentially.
I have been able to create a program out of nothing and have seen myself grow exponentially.
During the symposium, I realized all the times I have felt inspired and supported during my own HR journey at Symantec. It allowed me to pause and reflect on the goals I have achieved for myself, and how I can continue to strive as I advance in my career. And while I know that attaining my goals is largely dependent on my own ambition and drive, I fully recognize that I can and will accomplish even more when I actively collaborate with others.
Because when we partner with our colleagues who have more experience and influence – whether as a mentor, sponsor, adviser, or collaborator – we have the opportunity to transform them into allies. We can leverage their positional authority, visibility, and power to help uplift us. And when we have people around us that make us better, teach us things, and help us thrive, the imposter syndrome no longer feels as heavy.
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The National Diversity Council is the first non-profit organization to bring together the private, public and non-profit sectors to discuss the many dimensions and benefits of a multicultural environment. The success of the Texas Diversity Council (established in 2004) served as a catalyst for the National Diversity Council, launched in the fall of 2008. The National Diversity Council is a forerunner of community-based, national organizations that champion diversity and inclusion across the country. It is currently made up of state and regional councils, the National Women’s Council, the Council for Corporate Responsibility, and the Healthcare Diversity Council. Symantec is a member of the California Diversity Council, and sits on their board.
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