“I’ve been in tech sales for over a decade now,” recalls Annelies Husmann, head of sales at Mode, “and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the only woman in the room, or had no women ahead of me to learn from.”
Such isolation is difficult to avoid in an industry that’s only 25 percent female. So Husmann took action. She invited San Francisco’s women in tech sales to an impromptu panel discussion by their peers. It was an entirely grassroots effort, but the response was immense.
“I thought what they discussed was really helpful and applicable,” said Kaitlin Anstrom, account executive at Mode, who helped coordinate the first meetup. “I’m starting my sales career in tech, and this is something I see as an important community for myself and for other women who are in this role or are looking to get into this role.”
For their second Women in Tech Sales meetup, Husmann and Anstrom teamed up with Poll Everywhere. What transpired was an evening of blunt, honest, and often-hilarious discussion of career management in 2018.
Women in Tech Sales: The Best and Worst of 2017 & How to Conquer 2018 was a panel discussion featuring three sales executives from tech companies in San Francisco. Here are some standout quotes from that discussion.
- Abbie McBride, VP Sales at Oracle
- Michelle Surya, Head of Sales & Accounts at Testilo
- Mandy Bynum McLaughlin, Director of Sales Development at New Relic
“You must actively encourage women to put themselves out there and apply for jobs … even if you don’t think you’ll get it, simply because your name gets out there as someone who should be considered for the next job. You get the experience in the interview process and people just see you differently.”
Abbie McBride, responding to “How do you handle inequality in the workplace?”
“You’re always going to have an ally who believes in you. And the cool thing about being a woman, or being someone different, is that that person is enjoying and getting as much out of the relationship with you as you are with them. Set the expectation early that, ‘I want to be able to have these conversations with you because they’re important.’ And I guarantee you they’re going be, like, ‘Yeah.’ And if they’re not, then you know something is not right.”
– Mandy Bynum McLaughlin, responding to “How do you overcome stereotypes?”
“You have to have the data. If you have an opinion about something but you don’t have the data to back it up, then, yeah, you’re going to sound aggressive and look like someone who’s thinking fairytales. But if you come with your data and your argument is strong, then they don’t have a choice but to believe what you’re saying.”
– Mandy Bynum McLaughlin, responding to “How do you overcome stereotypes?”
“Worry less about being liked and more about being respected. Early on in my career, I was so concerned with burning bridges, because everyone says ‘Don’t burn that bridge.’ But you know what? There are some bridges that are totally okay to burn. What you find is that, when you get rid of all that stuff, you realize that it’s just noise and negative energy. And you make room for so much better. I found so much when I surrounded myself with people that believed in me and that made me feel good. Like, so much more came in. I know it sounds cheesy – and it really was – but after I shoved all this stuff out, I feel like a lot of the things that really mattered to me today came in.”
– Michelle Surya, responding to “What do you wish you’d known in 2017?”
“You need to have balance about balance. It won’t always be even. For me, it wasn’t too hard to go back to work when my kids were little. I actually find it harder now that they’re a bit older and I feel like I’m missing a lot more. But it’s really about what works for you. Everyone is different. You just cannot compare yourself to the people at work who are able to stay until 10 o’clock at night, and you cannot compare yourself to the parents who are helping in the classroom every day at school. You have to do what works for you. Don’t neglect yourself.”
– Abby McBride, responding to “How do you balance career and family?”
“I like to think back to when I was 11 years old and was doing soccer, dance company, and trying to finish my math homework. And I thought, ‘If I can do all this now, I can do anything.’ So I think back to that little girl who had big dreams of doing big things – and I do it for her, and for all the other little girls who I’m looking to bring up.”
– Mandy Bynum McLaughlin, responding to “How do you balance career and family?”
“I see a lot of people trying to strive for the next level all the time. People on my team will say, ‘I want the promotion’ or ‘I want the raise’. But if you can embody, and do all those things, before you ask me, then I know that you’re ready for that [responsibility]. Treat your career like education. Whatever role you’re in, grab onto what other people are doing. If you’re interested in product or sales or something else, dabble in it. Learn it and take hold of it. Then you can say, ‘I’ve done XYZ and I’ve been exposed to these things. I’d like the chance.’ You’ll have so many more opportunities. And you’ll make sure you actually want that position.”
– Michelle Surya, responding to “How can we continue to empower women’s voices?”
“Be on top of your game. Stay organized. I’ve never been afraid to ask for a raise. I will sometimes draft it out in an email first saying, ‘I’d like to have a discussion with you on these points.’ And I’m always very clear about all the [responsibilities] since my last raise or promotion that I took on – that’s something you can document internally. And if you just want to grow but don’t feel like that room is there, certainly you can do it elsewhere.”
– Michelle Surya, responding to “How and when should you ask for a raise?”
“I try to make sure the people I’m working with who are early in their career understand that they’re in a great place to learn and help them get used to the big picture. That way, when they get further in their career, they will understand that what they do has a bigger impact than they think. I also think it helps to give your team more – to have them be more of a stakeholder rather than just responsible for a number – because when they take on training or anything like that it’s helping them learn and they’re helping you build your organization.”
– Mandy Bynum McLaughlin, responding to “How do you motivate your employees?”
“I try to create a very diverse team, which I think is great because people who might not have been friends otherwise get a chance to befriend each other. And they get along really well. I try to create a lot of camaraderie so that they want to support each other, and so that they have people to lean on if they need advice – that’s important as well.”
– Michelle Surya, responding to “How do you motivate your employees?”
With two successful events under their belt, Husmann and Anstrom are eager to continue growing this new community in the Bay Area and online.
“It’s really empowering that we have these conversations, and don’t shy away from them,” said Anstrom. “While I believe that many people feel supported, I also know that this is a very women-focused event. There are lots of men involved in sales as well, and we want to make sure that [this group] is an open community for everyone to have a voice in the conversation so we can all continue to move forward together.”
Get involved by joining the San Francisco Women in Tech Sales Facebook group, or emailing the organizers directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.