Leadership & Career Growth–5 Strategies for Women in Tech

How building leadership skills can help your career growth and the larger tech community

As women in tech, how can we develop the leadership skills necessary to build the inclusive tech industry of the future? According to Senior Manager of Software Engineering Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju women in tech can help develop their own careers, while helping bridge the gender gap in tech, by focusing on five areas of leadership:

  1. Professional brand building
  2. Approaching career advancement
  3. Increasing your sphere of influence
  4. Supporting the next generation of leaders
  5. Integrating work and life

A long time participant in, and advocate for, various personal leadership initiatives and Women in Tech organizations, MJ took her personal leadership learnings, compared them with those of her peers at Capital One, and turned them into a five-part series of blog posts designed to help guide women in tech along their own career journeys.

Leadership in this context isn’t about titles or management positions. It is more about empowering yourself and others to work together towards a common goal that translates a vision into reality. These blog posts weren’t written only for people leaders, they are for women across all career levels to help them become a beacon who shines her light to inspire, guide, and encourage others along her way.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

Part 1: Establishing Your Professional Brand as a Woman in Tech

Part one of this five part series focuses on professional branding and how our expertise, skillset, and experiences are perceived by our colleagues and peers in the industry. MJ establishes seven areas of opportunity for developing our professional brands as women in tech, including:

  • Auditing how you’re perceived professionally to understand the state of your brand
  • Comparing the audit results with your self image to identify areas for improvement
  • Creating a plan of action to implement those improvements
  • Awareness of non-verbal communication and the role it plays in how we’re perceived
  • Centering self care and self compassion while you work on your professional brand
  • Fighting imposter syndrome
  • Establishing trust so your professional brand can thrive

Read more on Establishing Your Professional Brand as a Woman in Tech here.

Establishing a professional brand can help you be in places you aren’t and represent you in the manner you want to be represented.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

Part 2: Approaching Career Advancement as Women in Tech

Part two of this five part series focuses on career advancement and how to visualize, aim for, and excel in new roles as women in tech.

MJ establishes five areas of opportunity for approaching career advancement, including:

  • Combating self doubt to ask for the roles and responsibilities you want
  • Playing to your strengths while not being limited by them
  • Being your own best advocate
  • Mastering performance reviews
  • Fighting post-promotion imposter syndrome

Read more on Approaching Career Advancement as Women in Tech

While career advancement is a universal experience, it’s a unique journey for every individual. It’s more of paving your own way than following an existing path... For women in tech, career advancement can also mean paving the way for other women to follow. Chances are that you are more likely to aim for a role you’ve seen other women in as it may seem relatable and achievable. This has always been true for me and I was fortunate to always have women leaders to look up to in the organizations I’ve worked in.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

Part 3: Increasing Your Sphere of Influence as Women in Tech

Part three of this five part series focuses on spheres of influence and how to maximize the impact of your work. If you’ve done great work, but nobody has noticed it, will it be recognized? The answer is maybe not. By leveraging nuanced and strategic communication tactics you can ensure that your next accomplishment is sure to be noticed.

MJ establishes five areas of opportunity for increasing our spheres of influence, including:

  • Understanding how and why to target communications to a specific audience
  • Understanding the interplay between confidence and competence
  • Networking, networking, networking
  • Why everyone needs a mentor, regardless of job level
  • Elevating your work with your leadership

Read more on Increasing Your Sphere of Influence as Women in Tech here.

Expanding your professional network helps build up your confidence and broaden your perspective and open yourself to new opportunities. Doing so frequently gets you to a point where you are also helping others in a similar way.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

Part 4: Supporting the Next Generation as Women in Tech

Part four of this five part series focuses on the future and how we can lift up the next generation of women in tech.

With a mix of suggestions for ways to support both your open leadership development and that of those around you, MJ establishes five main areas of opportunity, including:

  • The importance of becoming involved in the recruiting process
  • How to leave strong “feedforward” for your peers and reports
  • Giving back through volunteer work
  • Giving back through mentorship
  • Studying leadership best practices

Read more on Supporting the Next Generation as Women in Tech here.

Next generation leaders have a fresh perspective on tech and the potential to change how we work. By supporting their ideas and development we are making an investment that could pay off well for the future... While it’s important for women to grow themselves, it’s also important to help others grow in their careers alongside you. It’s easy to sidetracked with your own accomplishments and fighting your own battles. But take the time to pay it forward. That’s the ultimate testament of great leadership.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

Part 5: Integrating Work and Life as Women in Tech

The fifth and final installment of this series focuses on what was previously known as “work life balance” but which can be more accurately called work life integration.

In its traditional use, the term “work life balance” compartmentalized work and life, setting them up in opposition to one another. Over the last year, due to COVID-19, there has been a paradigm shift in how we work. Many companies went virtual during the pandemic, with many of us still working from home a year and a half later. For many of us, all lines have blurred between work and personal life. There are no compartments.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

In this article, MJ establishes five ways to better integrate work and life for maximum happiness, including:

  • Bringing mindfulness to the setting and accomplishing of goals
  • How to stop glamorizing overwork
  • Putting your well being first
  • How personal support networks can help support professional accomplishment
  • The importance of remembering why we joined this industry to begin with

Read more on Integrating Work and Life as Women in Tech here.

Per the famous quote 'success is a journey, not a destination,' we end up happier if the journey is filled with events and memories we cherish. The more we emphasize integrating things from our work and personal life, and how to prioritize them appropriately, the more enjoyable the journey will be.-Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju

Madhuri "MJ" Jakkaraju, Sr Manager, Software Engineering, Card Inbound Payments

Madhuri has worked at Capital One for 11 years. She now serves as a senior manager, software engineering for Card Inbound Payments.

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