9 Women in Tech Share Their Best Advice for Managing a Team

by Alton Zenon III
February 13, 2020
Eved team working
eved

As a manager, personal success is directly correlated to the growth and success of one’s team members, said Pareto Intelligence Director of Client Advisory Agnes Dybowska. 

“Rather than micro-managing, it is better to give teams independent responsibility while still keeping a pulse on everything,” Dybowska said.

The leader at the healthcare solutions company stressed the importance of instilling a sense of responsibility in direct reports, which often leads to better products. But not every team member responds positively to the same feedback. In order to facilitate growth, managers must listen intently to each individual on their team and cultivate a unique management style. 

“Taking the time to learn and understand what makes each member of my team tick has been the key to being a proactive and successful manager,” said GreenKey Technologies Chief Operating Officer Liz Petoskey.

Understanding what motivates and challenges team members is a key practice these nine Chicago leaders said effective people managers need to do. But that’s not all: managers should also trust their instincts, be vocal whenever necessary and let team members know it’s safe to make — and then address — mistakes.

 

Priya K. Cutts
Project Management Office Director

Rally Health Project Management Office Director Priya K. Cutts said it’s important for managers to move away from a self-serving mindset, toward a team-focused perspective. And part of that team-first mentality is ensuring direct reports have a healthy work-life balance. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Being a people manager means being able to set the direction for a team, then orchestrating how they execute against a goal. I’ve learned that people want to be led, but with empathy and partnership. Every individual on a team has a story and a life that made them who they are. Understanding that and getting to know employees as people is the secret to knowing how to motivate them to be the best version of themselves. This idea has greatly helped me in forging trust and transparency with my team, which has resulted in highly motivated people that feel understood.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

When you move from an individual contributor to a management role, the narrative is no longer about you; it’s about your whole team. Learning to be introspective goes a long way. Seeing how things work best for your entire team is a challenging but necessary thing to learn early on.

Creating space for your team to have personal lives is extremely important. If you have team members happy in their personal lives that will automatically translate into a better work environment.

Finally, trust your instincts. When your gut and experience are leading you in one direction, trust that, even if you have opposition. You will fail a few times, but that will only make your instincts that much stronger and give you a sense of direction as a manager. 

 

Alex Milling
VP of Client and Merchant Services

Alex Milling, VP of Client and Merchant Services at Eved, said mentorship was an important part of her professional journey. Milling discussed the importance of learning from other women and emulating the traits that made them successful leaders. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

It’s important to invest time and energy into hiring and retaining great people. Being a good manager and building a great team culture starts before people officially join your team or company. I now invest a lot more time in the hiring process to ensure new team members are set up for success and the position is a good fit for both parties. Likewise, when I have great people on my team, I invest energy and time into understanding their career goals, finding them opportunities to grow and recognizing them for their contributions.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

I have been very lucky and have learned a lot of people-management skills from current and former managers. I would encourage other women to find mentors who they believe have great people management skills. Understand what makes others great people managers and adopt those habits and practices on your own team. 

 

Agnes Dybowska
Director of Client Advisory

Agency is an important component of how Director of Client Advisory Agnes Dybowska leads her team at Pareto Intelligence. Dybowska said teams should be empowered to reach their goals without too much oversight, which often encourages employees to produce higher-quality products. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Personal success is directly correlated to the growth and success of one’s team members. I learned to care more about the professional growth of my team and continually strive to provide them with a fulfilling environment.

It’s important to provide an environment that will allow them to showcase their abilities. Rather than micro-managing, it is better to give teams independent responsibility while still keeping a pulse on everything. Instilling this sense of responsibility generally leads to better products. Providing support, encouragement and nurturing good habits will keep the team from settling for average. Letting them own processes will pay healthy long-term dividends.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Listen, and embrace your style of management. Follow your gut — because it’s usually right — and listen closely to what people are telling you. People management is largely based on careful listening. This knowledge can aid your instincts in making sound decisions. 

But, as important as listening is, it is also important for women to be as vocal, and occasionally more so, than men. If you have a concern, a compliment, an idea, anything — don’t be afraid to voice it. 

 

Elaine Richards
President and Chief operating officer

Wyzant President and COO Elaine Richards said a former leader she worked with taught her that people ultimately want to be heard, and empathy goes a long way. Richards said people managers should foster trust with those that they lead by keeping their eyes and ears open to their employees’ work challenges.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

People want to be seen and heard. This is true on an everyday basis, but especially when you’re a newcomer.

One of the best leaders I ever worked with could talk to anyone in the company for 10 minutes and make them feel like he completely understood and valued their role, and even their frustrations. It was amazing. Based on that alone, people would move mountains for him.

You might think that your job is to impress people with your knowledge, skills and ability to get things done. But what people want most is for you to see their work, their challenges and their contributions as they do. This is the first step down the road of building trust, which is so fundamental to having great interpersonal relationships in or outside of work.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Everyone’s got a “bad manager” story: someone who micromanaged, played favorites or took credit for other peoples’ work. I find these stories so frustrating because I think the bar for being a “good” boss isn’t very high. It should be easy to do the basics like caring about the person behind the work, communicating often and responding to what people need.

Being a great leader is a lifelong journey. I’m continually learning new ways to engage people and working on my own shortcomings. It means not just looking at the project we’re working on today, but thinking about the bigger picture of how we all work together, which can be a tall order.

It takes a lot of energy, too. There are a million books you can read on this, but you can also learn a lot just by watching others and figuring out what style or tactics really resonate with you. Real-life examples are often more relatable anyway.

 

Liz Petoskey
chief operating officer

Liz Petoskey, COO at fintech company GreenKey Technologies, said women in management should not be afraid to speak up. The leader said every meeting is an opportunity to speak up — about anything — and place your stake in the company.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Taking the time to learn and understand what makes each member of my team tick has been the key to being a proactive and successful manager. Each person comes to work with their own motivations and responds differently to feedback and praise. By really listening to my team, understanding their work styles, their priorities and their definitions of success, I gain their trust in my management and help foster their confidence in our organization. I find this approach is also critical in maintaining an open culture that supports growth and personal development. 

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Own your seat at the table. Get used to using and hearing your voice. It’s very important to listen to all members of your team. It’s equally critical to take every opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas. It’s even better if your contribution is tied to offering an insight that demonstrates you are paying attention to what your team is doing. Try to never leave a meeting without having contributed to the discussion, whether what you have to offer is an original approach, a question or some pushback.

 

Michelle Nacker
director of product management

Michelle Nacker said leaders should work to create environments that encourage visibility and empathy. The director of product management at fintech company DFIN said teams should know how their work impacts the organization as a whole. And when they make a mistake along the way, employees should feel comfortable sharing the details and owning the results.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Treat people how you want to be treated. This helps to gain trust, mutual respect and allows for open communication. A leader’s door should always be open and they should create a safe place to receive not only good news, but also bad news. Everyone makes mistakes. Create opportunities to learn from mistakes and move forward toward a better outcome for the employee and the company.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Understand the whole person and take the time to know what motivates them. Everyone has their strengths and challenges; help them build on their strengths and move past their challenges, while always learning. People also have challenges outside their work environment. Be open to supporting them through difficult times. Work to gain their trust and give them the tools that empower them to succeed.

Create an environment that allows for visibility into the organization’s strategy and how an employee and your department fit into that strategy. Ensure that team members understand their role in the overall strategy of the organization. Emphasize and recognize where the team is making a difference. Give them opportunities to showcase their skills on projects that are seen throughout the organization.

And encourage direct reports to think beyond their roles in the organization. What are decisions they would make if this were their company? 

 

Natalie Alesi
Manager of Cloud Services and Onboarding

iManage Manager of Cloud Services and Onboarding Natalie Alesi said leaders should create environments that foster positivity for their teams. Alesi said this type of setting makes it easier for staff to see mistakes as opportunities for growth. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I work for my staff. My team has quadrupled in size over the past three years and it’s my responsibility to create a collaborative and positive environment for the team to feel heard, empowered and supported. Since we are located in different locations around the globe, it’s important that we have open communication and many avenues for problem-solving.

The nature of my team has allowed me to trust that they’ve “got this” and if they are unsure, I trust they will bring their concerns to the table individually and collectively. Each one of them has a unique value they bring to the table, so we are able to focus on driving positive results for the company and our customers.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Listen to your people. Hear them fully before responding. Give them the autonomy to show their strengths while supporting and mentoring them along the way. Provide opportunities for them to be challenged and overcome those challenges. Always create a feeling of positivity and encouragement, even during the tough days when we may not be at our best. As a manager and leader, it is our job to establish the expectations and energy of our teams. We need to keep the vibes high and positive, recognizing that we never fail, we only learn lessons.

 

Tracey Doyle
VP of Marketing

VP of Marketing Tracey Doyle said she gives her team at Analytics8 impactful projects to work on that advance their skills. When team members achieve big wins, Doyle said it’s important that leaders recognize and acknowledge their accomplishments.

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

I learned how important delegating and trusting my team is. It’s natural to want to be involved in everything, but in order to grow a company, I have to give my team important tasks to work on and the authority to accomplish them. This thinking allows my team to step up, improve their skills and gain confidence. It also frees me up to work on the big picture.

This doesn’t mean I’m not also in the trenches and working alongside my team on certain projects. But it’s important to know when to roll up your sleeves and help, and when to let someone else own something of real significance.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

I think it’s very important to always give credit to team members when they do great work. If someone does a great job, make sure others know about it, even if it’s just sending a quick email or mentioning it on a call or in a meeting. Giving recognition to your team members goes a long way and is something that is really easy to do.

 

Audrey Lespier
Product Management Team Lead

CSC Corptax Product Management Team Lead Audrey Lespier said her team rallies together behind their wins and the areas they need to improve. The leader at the tax solution provider said taking a “we're all in this together” approach has improved both her leadership skills and the connections she's made with team members. 

 

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned as a people manager?

Team ownership is very important to set a sense of trust and build a solid relationship with all my team members. When something works well, it’s a team effort to celebrate our accomplishment. When something doesn’t work so well, it’s a team effort to determine a solution on how to do better. Recognizing that we collectively own our accomplishments and areas of improvement has allowed me to become a better manager and strengthen the relationship I have with my team.

 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams, or aspire to?

Get to know your team members on a personal level so that you can build relationships with them. Knowing personal details about everyone on your team lets them know you really care about them as individuals, not just coworkers.

 

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