Although the number of women in the technology sector is growing, it’s still a male-dominated field. And the farther up the career ladder you climb, the fewer women you’re likely to see. According to data from BCG, women make up just 28% of all tech leadership positions — despite the fact that there is no shortage of women seeking those roles.
Last month, we hosted a discussion with a few highly successful women about their career trajectories and bits of wisdom they’ve picked up along the way. Our panel included Kristy Morris, Vice President of WW Channel Marketing at hardware giant Western Digital.
Morris discussed her career path, the importance of mentorship, and why it’s crucial to “stay uncomfortable” in your career. She also illuminated multiple challenges that are not just unique to women in tech but common to female professionals across the corporate landscape.
Today we’re sharing a few of our favorite moments from our webinar with Morris, Women in B2B Marketing: Career Advancement Strategies & Advice.
Q&A with Kristy Morris
Q: What advice would you have for someone who is starting out or trying to advance their career?
Morris: Be patient when you’re first starting out because you don’t know what you don’t know yet. You need to be patient and constantly pay attention to what is going on around you with trends and macro issues.
You need to be flexible, and your mind has to constantly stay open to pivoting and changing and potentially moving in different directions. And it may feel uncomfortable for you, but I always say, stay uncomfortable, because once you get settled and comfortable, that’s when you may stall out.
And find mentors or people that you respect. They don’t have to always be VPs and directors — they can be peers who you respect. And make sure you have a diverse set of mentors — men, women, different age groups.
The best advice I can give everyone is to be patient, be flexible, pivot, learn, continuously learn, and never settle.
Q: How do you advocate for and mentor other women?
Morris: I participate in internal mentoring programs — Western Digital just started a formal mentoring program that they’ve asked me to participate in. And then I do external mentoring programs — we have lots of foundations we support, schools we support, and they’ll have volunteer opportunities, so I’ll usually step in and volunteer.
I can promise you almost any industry you go into right now is male-dominated, especially in high tech. So, when you see women moving up in their careers, especially at this level, when you get to be a vice president, I can promise you it wasn’t easy, and we had to have help. And if you don’t ask for help, you won’t get the help. So, you have to be out there finding those mentors and asking for help.
Somebody on the chat said, “How do you come across as assertive but not aggressive?” That’s a great question to think about because women are labeled differently than men. So, we can be aggressive, and everyone knows we’re labeled differently at this point. But, you know, I always told the women on my team and even the men on my team, the best way to fight and be assertive in your career and aggressive, if you want to be, is to fight with data. Fight with data and facts and be assertive about it.
Q: What are the best ways to grow your presence and build your personal brand?
Morris: Most of my career was not spent in this digital world. So, when I think back to earlier in my career, and how I’ve worked my way into where I am today, a lot of it was being authentic with who I am, delivering high-quality work that gained respect, networking properly, being professional, trying to stay out of the office politics, and not gossiping. All those things build on who you are and how you present your authentic self to people.
It’s something that starts very early — you have to be very aware of your behavior when you’re just figuring out, “Who am I? Who do I want to be? Who do I not want to be?” And staying true to that and taking some time to reflect on that. “Am I behaving how I wanna be? Am I off-course from my personal brand right now?”
I think through a lot of those things when I’m in stressful situations. If I start to feel like I’m turning into something I don’t like, I have to stop and reflect.
Q: How can we become better negotiators for our needs, our career development, and our salaries?
Morris: I feel like, in today’s world, there is so much more information, and it’s so much easier than it used to be. Because now we have these platforms like Salaries.com or Glassdoor. There are places you can go to get a sense of what the market value is for a position.
But back in the day, it was all very secret. You could be in the same position with somebody, and you could be getting paid $10,000 less — but you’re doing the same job. That was very common. Today, there’s a lot more information available for women to negotiate better for themselves.
And it’s become very common in today’s world for people to ask each other what their salaries are, their on-target earnings with their bonus and stock, and whether they’re getting long-term incentives. Don’t be afraid to ask other people what they’re making, and don’t be afraid to have conversations that used to be super taboo. It’s becoming less taboo for women because it’s how we’re learning about what’s going on.
Never stay stagnant on your salary, especially right now. The market is in complete turmoil, high-tech people are moving all over the place, and there are employee shortages everywhere. If you’re staying stagnant right now, there may be better opportunities for you to bump up your salary by $20,000 real fast in a job you may like even more. So, stay uncomfortable, stay on top of your worth, and communicate with people about it.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to somebody starting out in their career today?
Morris: Stay uncomfortable, take risks, know your worth.
I learned, when you get too comfortable in a company and settle for the 3%, 4%, or 5% raise every year, that’s what you’re going to get. I wanted to move up faster, and I was taking a lot of risks, and I was ok with that.
And so, you know, every time I leave a company, two to three years later, I’d increase my salary 20 to 30k. And I did that every two to three years. Now, that was my story, and that’s how I was motivated. But I also love to learn, and if I was no longer being challenged and I wasn’t uncomfortable, and I wasn’t learning new things, I moved on.
If you feel like your career stalled out, then it’s time to go — just keep moving. The journey is part of the fun.
Knowing your value will take you far. To learn more, be sure to check out our webinar, Women in B2B Marketing: Career Advancement Strategies & Advice.