How These Women in Tech Bring Moxie to Work Every Day

Now more than ever, women are breaking down barriers in order to create a better, brighter future.
Written by Taylor Karg
June 17, 2021Updated: June 18, 2021
Women in the Workplace
accelerated digital media

Earlier this year, Netflix released the film “MOXiE!,” an American coming-of-age comedy-drama that follows high schooler Vivian and her journey navigating sexism and embracing her own voice. When a superlatives list calling women perverse names created by the school’s jocks is leaked, Vivian decides to take matters into her own hands. Motivated by her mother’s rebellious past, she anonymously publishes a zine titled Moxie, with a goal to expose the bias and wrongdoing in her school. In doing so, Vivian creates new friendships and allies, all while realizing her own authenticity and determination to dismantle the status quo. 

Although navigating and embracing moxie is certainly easier in a fictional movie than it is for women in the workplace, the use of the term is the same: embracing one's grit to break down barriers in order to shape a better future. 

Moxie can take on a variety of forms, everything from honestly owning your responsibilities to asking questions and constantly expanding your knowledge base. And whether they’ve relied on it throughout their entire careers or have recently begun to understand and embrace it, moxie lies within all women. So, to better understand what moxie means to them and how they bring it to work every day, we talked to women in the Chicago tech scene. 

 

Meet the 50 Women Who are Ushering a New Era of TechIntroducing Built In's 2021 Moxie Award Winners

 

Sylvia Ciocca is a management consultant at cloud company Maven Wave. Her advice to women in the workplace looking to build and up and embrace their moxie: Take full ownership of your responsibilities and as a result, you’ll find endless opportunities to discover, refine and employ moxie on a daily basis.

 

What does the word moxie mean to you, and how do you embody it in your work? 

I see moxie as your special sauce — the synergistic application of your core principles and your best personal characteristics in order to drive an outcome. As such, moxie can present itself in many different ways. My moxie comes from the synergy between my core principles of authenticity, transparency and empathy that I adhere to, as well as my accountability, attention to detail and communication skills.

As an engagement lead at Maven Wave, my moxie comes into play daily when doing simple things like proactively asking the right questions. By being detail-oriented enough to identify my own knowledge gaps, I maintain accountability by transparently and authentically admitting my confusion. Further, I think where my moxie really shines is in my ability to then clearly and succinctly communicate my knowledge gaps in a way that keeps the conversation focused and procures the answers I need.

Tell us about a recent project or initiative you’ve led that tested your moxie or pushed you to bring a certain level of boldness, determination and resilience to the table. What were the results?

I recently took on a new role overseeing the opportunity pipeline and active project delivery of all Google professional services initiatives. When I began, there was little-to-no documentation, few opportunities for knowledge transfer, limited oversight (meaning I was terrified of making costly errors) and significantly more context-switching than I was used to. These challenges, while typical for a quickly growing firm, required me to rely on my moxie and the key principles that drive it in order to procure the direction and reassurance I needed to perform. 

I fought through my embarrassment, pinging anyone and everyone each time I needed validation of my proposed path forward in order to be authentic and transparent about my lack of confidence in the role. By honestly communicating the challenges I faced, I found a team of individuals (including our company’s partners!) who were eager to give their time to validate my ideas or pass on the knowledge I needed to succeed. Now, I’m considered a resident expert on our back-office systems, and feel confident that I have everything I need to succeed or know exactly where I can find it.

 

My moxie comes from the synergy between my core principles of authenticity, transparency and empathy.”

 

What advice do you have for other women in the workplace looking to develop and embrace their moxie?

View your responsibilities as “The Your Name Here Show.” By thinking about my tasks as “The Sylvia Show,” I finally feel able to do things my way, take full ownership of my responsibilities and apply my moxie to all situations. As a more junior employee, I often encountered challenges that I didn’t feel experienced enough to own. This led to me shy away, often delegating tasks to someone else or outright ignoring them.

When I began to take full ownership, it suddenly became imperative to address all challenges to the best of my ability, and moxie is the toolset I use to do so. By taking charge of “The Your Name Here Show,” you’ll find endless opportunities to discover, refine and employ your moxie on a daily basis.

 

 

Megan Staton
SVP, Head of Client Services

For women in the workplace looking to develop and embrace their own moxie, Megan Staton, head of client services at fintech company Amount, suggests they be open and authentic within their roles. Staton said that exhibiting these types of behaviors help drives confidence and competency which then helps enforce moxie. 

 

What does the word moxie mean to you, and how do you embody it in your work? 

A person with moxie to me is someone with grit and determination, someone who doesn’t get knocked down easily and figures out a way to manage through adversity. Personally, I try to embody a positive attitude. There are always going to be tough days, but I find it’s easier to laugh through the struggles knowing they don’t last long. 

Tell us about a recent project or initiative you’ve led that tested your moxie or pushed you to bring a certain level of boldness, determination and resilience to the table. What were the results?

Client services can be a very stressful gig — our team is responsible for managing expectations of clients and providing value. Unfortunately, we can’t always say yes, even when we want to, and that can start to test your moxie. It’s important to remember that, as long as you’re putting the work in to ensure you’re on the right path, things will improve in time and you’ll be stronger for it. 

 

A person with moxie is someone who doesn’t get knocked down easily and figures out a way to manage through adversity.”

 

What advice do you have for other women in the workplace looking to develop and embrace their moxie?

Expand your knowledge at every chance — ask questions and be open to change. These types of behaviors tend to drive confidence and competency, which helps enforce your moxie. Be authentic. It’s much easier to lead people through adversity when there’s dual respect and a foundation of trust.

 

 

Elizabeth Kerndl
Paid Search Account Manager

As a paid search account manager at performance marketing agency Accelerated Digital Media, Elizabeth Kerndl suggests finding inspiration from other women in the workplace to help build up and embrace moxie. Kerndl said that what helped her embrace her own moxie was doing just that — finding other women who embodied theirs and then following their lead. 

 

What does the word moxie mean to you, and how do you embody it in your work? 

To me, moxie means embracing challenges enthusiastically and displaying courage and perseverance in pursuit of your goals. I embody moxie in my work by thinking creatively and making strategic decisions in a fast-paced environment to help my clients across a spectrum of industries meet a variety of digital advertising goals. There is no universal roadmap to success in digital advertising, and the fast-paced and constantly evolving nature of the industry means having the courage to test new strategies and make bold decisions without the fear of failure is paramount. While not every decision I make yields the results I was targeting, I learn from every decision and enthusiastically continue to search for new ways to achieve the best possible results for my clients.

Tell us about a recent project or initiative you’ve led that tested your moxie or pushed you to bring a certain level of boldness, determination and resilience to the table. What were the results?

I was recently given the opportunity to work with a small e-commerce business that was entering a very competitive market. I was tasked with helping this client grow their business through digital advertising campaigns on a limited budget while competing against companies that were more established and had larger budgets. When some initial strategies proved unsuccessful, I remained steadfast in helping achieve the client’s goals and knew I would have to come up with some creative and different strategies that I had not tested before. By implementing new ad groups, keywords and text ads, and constantly researching other competitors’ strategies for ideas, we were ultimately able to increase conversions by 200 percent and revenue by 300 percent on a month-over-month basis.

 

Moxie means embracing challenges enthusiastically and displaying courage and perseverance in pursuit of your goals.”

 

What advice do you have for other women when it comes to building up and embracing their moxie? 

Putting yourself in an environment where you feel empowered to build up and embrace your moxie is crucial. Being part of a work culture that welcomes and seeks driven and creative individuals has provided me with opportunities to grow personally and professionally. In addition, I have found inspiration from other women who embrace their moxie and aim to follow their lead and become a good example myself. In my experience, women who exhibit these traits are more than willing to share advice and guidance and mentor other women. And inspiration doesn’t have to only come from other women at your workplace. I’ve found inspiration from other women with moxie in my family, in my social life, in books I’ve read and even on social media. Inspiration can come from anywhere if you’re looking for it!

 

 

Alex Bowers Schoen
Squad Lead of Back-end Development, the “Wolverines”

For Alex Bowers Schoen, back-end development squad lead at fintech platform OppLoans, moxie is all about being authentically bold. Her advice to women in the workplace looking to develop and embrace their moxie is to confidently show up as their authentic self. By doing so, their moxie will speak for itself.  

 

What does the word moxie mean to you, and how do you embody it in your work? 

To me, moxie is showing up boldly as your authentic self in everything you do. Who I am at work is the same me that I bring to the soccer field. I’ve had the opportunity to be the first woman in several instances, and I quickly learned that you can’t let the opinions of others hinder you from doing what you want to do. I attended the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, an engineering school in Indiana that was all male until it began admitting women undergraduate students in 1995. I was on the first women’s varsity soccer team, first women’s varsity softball team and co-founded the dance team. 

I embody moxie by being authentically myself — strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. I’m not a soccer star; I’m a great supporting player. It doesn’t matter if I score the goal, because I assisted in moving the team forward. This mindset carries over to my role as squad lead of the back-end development team. Internally referred to as the Wolverines, my team is responsible for loan servicing automation as well as components in the customer’s application flow. As a leader, it’s important to get your priorities straight, and for me that’s my team. 

Tell us about a recent project or initiative you’ve led that tested your moxie or pushed you to bring a certain level of boldness, determination and resilience to the table. What were the results?

At a past company, I experienced a situation where I needed to advocate for the best interests of my team. This required me to say no to a member of the executive team. At that moment, it was crucial to push back and limit the scope of the project to ensure that we provided value without being spread too thin. Being bold doesn’t feel like a daunting task when it’s for the benefit of others. When I put my team first, it’s easy to make the right decisions.

 

Moxie is showing up boldly as your authentic self in everything you do.”

 

What advice do you have for other women when it comes to building up and embracing their moxie? 

Boldly embrace who you are by just being yourself. It’s okay to not care what other people think. It’s okay to admit what you don’t know. It’s okay to voice that you do know what you’re talking about, too. If you can confidently show up as your authentic self, then you’re embracing your moxie.

 

 

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