The 2021 International Women’s History Month’s campaign theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. For some, this entails tackling gender inequity. Others work toward a goal or celebrate their peers’ accomplishments. This month ultimately motivates and reminds us to challenge one another, and ourselves.
“I always think, ‘How can I give my teams the advocacy to share their thoughts?’” said Jessica Ruvalcaba, director of Relativity’s service delivery, internal operations team. “When people feel confident to use their voice in a meaningful way, we see great success.”
To close this month, Jessica shared her thoughts alongside Liza Petrie and Amy King on ways to empower themselves and their teams.
Fostering Growth Inward & Outward
For Liza, a Relativity software engineering manager, her path to people management wasn’t traditional. She worked on the strategy team before making her way to being chief of staff for IT. Liza then went into service delivery before joining the engineering team. Yet, this path has helped Liza coach her teams and bring a new voice to the table.
“My unique skillset helps developers build well-rounded experiences into the product,” Liza said. “I still sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome. When that happens, I work to figure out how I add value in new ways or where I need to dig in to determine if I am being effective.”
Liza didn't let moments of doubts stifle her when starting her role. Instead, she threw herself into knowing the ins and outs of a developer’s role. Over the past year, knowing the nitty gritty has allowed her to become a stronger people manager. And she can focus on helping her team grow in new ways.
Giving her teams the space and resources they need to thrive is also important to Amy King, Relativity’s senior manager of multimedia and design. She does this by helping them find their passions, which in turn helps them feel fulfilled.
“When my team is doing what they love, their work energizes them. They want to take on new challenges,” Amy said. “I want them to feel like they are getting the most out of their roles and their careers.”
To help teams focus on their work, a vital part of people management is prioritization. This can be especially trying for people managers. They are responsible for the growth and success of their teams. Plus, they often execute on a lot of the work.
“We must be deliberate in how we are spending our time,” Jessica said. “It is important to carve out time for strategic thinking and how we want to advance our teams forward too.”
“There are always a million things going on. An important part of our job is managing the chaos,” Liza added. “I try to give my engineers enough context on why we are focusing on certain projects. But I try to shield them from some conversations about decisions on prioritization, as this would cause unnecessary distraction.”
Maintaining Their Authenticity & Making Room for Change
When developing a leadership style, many mirror qualities that they admire in others—but it’s also important to maintain what makes you unique. When Jessica first entered her role, she often questioned what type of leader she wanted to be.
“You see a lot of extroverted people in leadership. That isn’t me,” she said. “I used to equate extroversion with being an inspirational leader and think ‘What do I need to do to get there?’”
This thinking began to shift after conversations with her team on ways she inspired them.
“I found that it is those everyday interactions that motivate people,” Jessica said. “I had a misunderstanding of what translates to being an inspirational leader.”
Being a leader may also bring to life new skills or attributes. Amy found leadership changed her working style. Eight years ago, as an individual contributor, she took the DiSC assessment. She scored very high in the I category, which indicates influence, and very low in the D style, exemplified by assertiveness and directness. Those two styles flipped when Amy recently retook DiSC.
“That was fascinating and led to more self-reflection,” Amy said. “In addition to becoming a manager, I have grown a lot over the last eight years. It makes sense that my leadership and working style have also evolved.”
Tips for Pursuing the People Management Route
Going into people management is often rewarding. However, others may find value in pursuing other paths. Professionals should do some self-evaluation to assess what motivates them. Then, they can decide if they want to go down the management or individual contributor route.
“When deciding on that next step in my career, my go-to question is: What gets me excited to get out of bed in the morning?” Liza said.
For Liza, coaching and mentoring people energized and challenged her. Pursuing a management role in engineering was new territory for Liza last year. This new experience pushed her out of her comfort zone. In turn, this brought great value for Liza. But people management is not for everyone and is not the only path forward.
“You can be wildly successful as a people manager or individual contributor,” Jessica said. “When my team members come to me saying they want to be a people manager, I say, ‘That’s great. Tell me why.’ It’s all about empowering them to pursue what motivates them and let them know success looks different across the company.”