A Women’s Guide to Thought Leadership: Creating Visual Footprints Internally and Externally

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Our Professional Women’s Community tooled up for leadership during their meeting on May 18th, 2020. We were joined by facilitator Kim Meninger, Executive Coach at Executive Career Success and an advisor to our Professional Women’s Community. Speaking with Kim were Nausheen Moulana, VP of Software Engineering at Kyruus and Parna Sarkar-Basu, Founder of Brand and Buzz Marketing and VP of WITI (Women In Tech International).

As we gradually re-enter the workplace, employees will be looking for flexibility, promotions or even career transitions. We’ve finally come-to-terms with what’s called the new normal – working from home, home schooling kids, taking care of elder parents or neighbors, all while looking to advance our careers and staying sane. So, how do you stay visible and lead through uncertainty? How will your leadership know who are?

COVID-19 has certainly created a substantial amount of uncertainty and anxiety. Kim Meninger explained how “it’s left a lot of people temporarily paralyzed”, meaning a majority of the workforce has been trying to fly under the radar digitally until things are “back to normal”. One could compare it to living out of a suitcase. But Kim encourages us to settle in and unpack that suitcase. So, how can we invest in our careers in a remote world? How can we capitalize on the shifts that are ahead of us? By staying visible and having empowered, action-oriented conversation.

A big focus in our discussion was the importance of visibility; internally and externally. Parna Sarkar-Basu explained how visibility is important for individuals and companies. Now more than ever, you have to break through the noise. This will showcase the expertise and authority you have within your industry. If you’re seeking to become a thought leader, staying visible also gives you more credibility.

With more than 30 million people out of jobs and millions of people working from home, being visible is your new competitive edge – whether you are in the midst of a career transition or looking for a promotion. Many companies have been pivoting their visual footprint strategies and we must do the same for ourselves. We are all stuck in our homes, meaning our only way to connect and have conversation has to be done virtually, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are no longer limited to a room’s capacity or a geographical location. Anyone, anywhere can join virtual events and network. The virtual world also opens up more opportunities for thought leadership. You’re able to participate in virtual events and network, without having to travel.

In short, be seen, be heard and most importantly, stay relevant.

Top 5 Tips to Drive Visibility: 

  1. Goal Setting: Answer the questions: Why you want to have a digital presence? Are you looking for a promotion, or planning a career transition? Begin discovering what intrinsically and extrinsically motivates you to create more visibility.
  2. Identify Your Passion: What’s your expertise and passion? Engineering, marketing or HR. Be specific, narrow down and focus on your passion. Connecting with your passions can also balance the effects of imposter syndrome. When you’re confident about a subject, you no longer doubt yourself when speaking about it.
  3. Engage: Based on your comfort zone and expertise level, begin to write original content, host podcasts, speak at virtual events, and interact with influencers on social. And be present.
  4. Don’t sell: Be a resource on social.
  5. Build relationships: Engage with influencers.

Whenever you’re on a stage, virtual or not, you’re able to share your story, your interests, or your concerns. This portrays you as a thought leader. If you want to be seen as an expert in your industry, now is the time to step up to that stage and prove yourself as a leader. Take advantage of these unique opportunities to speak up and create an external visual footprint for yourself.

In terms of keeping visibility in an internal environment, it’s taking these same external tools and applying them to an internal environment. Communication tools like Zoom Break-Out Rooms, Microsoft Teams and Slack all serve as virtual stages for you to be recognized by your company. Another way to prioritize internal visibility could be meeting with your team daily and being proactive with the projects that spark your interest. Once your team hears you asking for a certain theme of work, they’ll think of you first when similar projects fall in their path.

Nausheen Moulana, VP of Software Engineering at Kyruus noted that a good way to gain internal visibility and start building relationships that could lead to mentorship or other opportunities, is hosting office hours, particularly if you lead a team or function or are an expert on a particular topic. In the Kyruus HR department, they run office hours every week using Google Calendar and Zoom, opening up opportunities for internal relationship building and mentorship in a remote world.

At Kyruus, some of the things Nausheen does to support mentoring within Engineering are:

  • Encouraging engineers to identify a technical mentor within the organization.
  • Offering “Technical Brown Bags” that everyone is encouraged to share their learnings and best practices so others in the team can benefit.
  • Creating area specific “Guilds”, which give engineers an opportunity to learn from the UI architect as well as other folks. Technical Guilds are a good mechanism for mentoring and promoting diversity of thinking that creates a rich professional development environment on the job.

So, what kind of visibility opportunities should you look for? There isn’t a one size fits all solution. It depends on your individual personality, interests and comfort zone. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you’re an introvert, you may be more comfortable writing than speaking. You can amplify your content using various social media channels, perhaps even your company’s blog. Looking to take your visibility to the next level? Trying submitting bylines to publications.

When Parna Sarkar-Basu works with her clients – the first thing she does is identify the individual’s expertise, among other things, and position and package them right. It’s not about their title, current job or degree. It’s about what makes them human or as Parna says, “humanizing a brand – YOU.”