February 14, 2020

Insights from Female Tech Leaders

On Monday night, the Lioness group of Russell Tobin sponsored a panel featuring female leaders in technology and VC to candidly discuss what it means to be a female in a leadership position, share career-defining experiences, and provide guidance for other women in their respective fields.

The host of the event was Alicia Scully, Associate Director, Technology of Russell Tobin and the panel moderator was Force Therapeutics’ own CEO and Co-Founder Bronwyn Spira. The distinguished panelists included Meghan Curtin McKenna of HSBC’s Venture Capital Group, Ruth Sun, Chief Operating Officer of Force Therapeutics, Andrea Kayal, Chief Marketing Officer of Electric, and Cassie Young, Operating Partner of Primary Venture Partners

The first topic of the night was all about the importance of mentorship and how to manage that relationship.

  • Ruth: “When I began looking for mentors, I looked for someone 100% different than myself.” 
  • Andrea: “I always asked lots of questions of my mentor prospects and always looked for the best in their field.” 
  • Cassie: “As a mentee, you need to manage up with what you need, but also share regular updates about how you’re doing.” 
  • Meghan, when asked how to approach someone about being your mentor: “Just send an email and ask for a meeting! Not enough people have the courage to do that.” 
Another topic was about how to move from being an individual contributor to a management role. 
  • Cassie: “As a leader, you need to be the thermostat and not the thermometer.” You need to set the tone and the pace of the team and be proactive, not react to situations as they arise. 
  • Andrea: “You need to have peripheral vision, not tunnel vision. 
  • Meghan: “Don't try to clone people and make them like you, instead let them be themselves and try to add on and improve upon what they are doing.” 
  • Ruth: “The best managers are those that demonstrate excellence in their role, and then earned the right to become a manager.” 

The panelists also shared their a-ha moments. Meghan’s a-ha moment was when someone who she considered to be the smartest in the room approached her and said he could learn a lot from her and that’s when she realized that she should have more confidence in herself. She wouldn’t be put in the seat if she wasn’t ready for it. Cassie’s epiphany came from the concept of first team. As you become more senior, your first team isn't the team that reports into you, your first team is the executive team. Andrea’s a-ha moment was while reading a book. It read that there is a significant amount of weight that you need to put on “care personally.” You need your team to challenge each other directly because that’s how you get better, but it’s important for your team to care personally in order to accomplish their mission. Ruth’s came when she had her daughter Anna. She realized you don’t need to have all of the answers all of the time.

During the closing Q&A, one question from the audience resonated with many in the group- what’s your advice for someone in a male-dominated team or field and how do you make yourself heard? The consensus was to build a personal brand and be naturally curious. They also came to a consensus that many of their personal mentors were men and to embrace that. Another good note was to make a point to meet with other people outside of your department so you become well-known outside of your typical day-to-day.

One other important question from the audience was about work life balance and how to achieve it. The resounding response was that it’s just not possible at that level and it’s very hard to achieve. Ruth shared her philosophy that instead of thinking of it as a work life balance, you should think about it as a work life integration.

In summary, the Insights from Female Tech Leaders panel was an uplifting and inspiring event. It was clear that the panelists were passionate about their individual fields of expertise, but they were also so willing to be open with their insights and discuss some truly important topics that women face in the workplace today. We look forward to more events like these that reinvigorate the workforce and remind us why we get out of bed every morning. Thank you to Russell Tobin and the Lioness group for hosting!