Professional Interview

This interview was conducted with Sharon Pooley, Account Manager at Cisco, and Susan Gueli, CIO of Program and Application Services at Nationwide Insurance, at an ACM-W (Association of Computing Machinery – Women’s Chapter) Fireside Chat event.

  1. How did you get to where you are today?
    • Susan: Getting a variety of experience early on in your career leads to a variety of experiences later in your career. Susan has had a variety of experience working in development, infrastructure, cyber security, CIO of business, CIO of infrastructure, and CIO of application services and development. These experiences have helped her get to where she is today because they prove that she has foundational skills that can be applied to a variety of areas, which allows her to immediately add value to any team that she works on.
    • Sharon: Sharon’s dad wanted her to be an accountant, but when she graduated with an accounting degree, she realized it wasn’t what she wanted. She got into retail, but she didn’t have good hours and she wasn’t making as much money as she wanted. Her friend got involved with technology sales and she noticed that she had better hours and was making more money. Sharon switched to technology sales and started enjoying her work more and making the money that she wanted to. Despite all the challenges and set backs along her way to technology, Sharon continued pushing forward even when others doubted her. Perseverance and believing in yourself are key to getting to where you want to be. Sharon also recommends finding role models that you want to be like and finding a way to get closer to that person so that you can learn from them.
  2. How do you start getting a variety of experiences? (How do you apply for a new position when you don’t have much experience in that area?)
    • Susan: All of your experiences have built a portfolio of foundational skills that can be transferred from one role to another. When applying for a new role, focus more on what you know and how what you’ve done relates to the role you want. Skills like leadership, communication, team building, etc., can be used in various roles, so focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have.
    • Sharon: Instead of listening to all of your doubts, talk to yourself and convince yourself that you are the one for this role. Be confident in the abilities that you have and don’t worry too much about the skills that you don’t have yet. A “fake it til you make it” mindset can be beneficial in these situations since the person who doubts your abilities the most is yourself. You might be scared, but keep pursuing it if it’s what you want.
  3. What are some things that you wished you would have done in college to help your career?
    • Sharon: Do an internship! She didn’t do an internship in college and she wishes she would have had that experience before she graduated. An internship gives you experience that gives you an advantage when applying for jobs after college. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask the people around you for help. If you see someone that is where you want to be, ask them to help you or to give you advice on how to improve.
    • Susan: She recommends taking every opportunity to do a leadership role on campus. When applying for jobs, people always want to know that you’re willing to expand your skills and take on the responsibility of a leadership position. She also recommends building a professional network early. Connecting with people in your field can be a huge advantage later on in your career.
  4. How do you deal with impostor syndrome?
    • Sharon: Make sure you’re talking to yourself instead of listening to yourself. Tell yourself that you’ve worked hard and that you’ve earned the right to be where you are. It can be challenging, but you have to keep believing in yourself. If you’re still having a hard time, keep learning. Learn more about the topic and find a way to bring value to those around you. If you know you are bringing value to others, it’s harder to doubt yourself.
    • Susan: Self-coaching like Sharon said is important. But it’s also important to pay attention to who you are spending time with. Be sure that you’re around people that lift you up to be a better person and make sure you’re lifting up the people around you, too.
  5. As women in leadership positions, how do you ensure that you’re getting paid as much as your male peers?
    • Susan: Think about the companies that you choose to work for. There are companies that care about having a diverse workforce and want to pay fairly across jobs. If you want to know if a company has these values, ask if they do blind equity reviews or how you can be sure that you’re being paid fairly. Any reasonable company would be willing to answer this question. The answer to this question can help you make sure that the company you’re applying to not only cares about diversity, but also about inclusion.
  6. How have you dealt with being called bossy or being penalized for showing emotion as a women in leadership roles?
    • Sharon: Really look into the companies that you work for. Make sure that their culture is something that you want to be a part of. In the environment that she works in, the people around her would not outright call her bossy due to a culture of respect and understanding. So research the culture at a company and make sure it’s something that makes you feel comfortable and safe from that kind of behavior.
    • Susan: She had a boss that asked her to be more vulnerable when giving presentations. Her male boss said that he showed emotion during a presentation and received great feedback for it. He said she was too polished and needed to be more vulnerable so that she could get a similar reaction for her presentations. However, Susan explained how she wouldn’t receive the same feedback since she’s a woman. She was able to have an open conversation about this with her boss and this helped both of them to learn about what it means to vulnerable for males and females. So just be willing to bring up this topic and discuss it with those around you in order to address it. As far as being called bossy, Susan learned from a young age to stand up for herself. She recommends calling out the situation when it happens so that it can be addressed, discussed, and resolved. Make sure to bring it up in a non-confrontational way and help them see the issue with what they said instead of blaming them.