Supporting the Next Generation as Women in Tech

Part 4 of 5 in a series on leadership, community investment & decisive career growth from Capital One’s Women in Tech

According to a recent LinkedIn survey, we are starting to see gender parity across many of the top 15 rising job categories. However, some of the hottest new tech roles are not on that list. How we, as women in tech, lead over the next few years will be crucial in bridging the gender gap in these technology fields. To help answer how we can make these changes on both a personal and industry level, I’ve talked to some of my colleagues at Capital One, to create a five-blog series on how to lead as women in tech.

Why does developing the next set of leaders matters for women in tech matter?

4 handles joining together to connect 4 multicolored puzzle pieces

Business vector ( created by katemangostar -

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. Personally, this is an area I’m challenging myself to take on next and I am in no means an expert on uplifting the next generation. However, I was able to connect with actual experts to gather their advice. As I work through my own strategy to help me get started on this path, I wanted to share my thoughts and research more broadly as a means to uplift other women in tech.

There are sections in this blog that are around supporting other women in tech, and some around cultivating your own leadership career and professional development. Based on where you would like to focus your energy the most, you can pick and choose tips accordingly.

How women in tech can help develop the next set of women leaders

1. Get involved in the recruiting process

As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, women are more likely to aim for a role they have seen other women in; partly because it may seem relatable and achievable. It is also more likely that women will want to join your engineering team or organization if they see other women on the interview panel. 

Reserve time on your calendar to participate in your organization’s recruiting efforts. Spend dedicated time building relationships with potential candidates even if they are not ready to make the move to your org. When they are ready for a new opportunity, you may be the first person they reach out to. Also, consider becoming part of any initiatives that develop the interview questions or processes. You can bring in a diverse perspective and help remove any unconscious bias from the interview process.

Here are the top 10 qualities of a good interviewer if you want a quick refresher on your interviewing skills and the questions to help develop.

Recruiting is the best way we can build the next set of leaders. Women need to see other women when they interview, so by signing up to be a part of our interviewing process, you can be that person others see already at Capital One and you can help us attract and retain our next set of female leaders. Once those women are hired, invite them into the meetings, ask for their feedback and get their points of view.-Mindy Ferguson, MVP, Technology

2. Leave frequent feedback

Another powerful strategy to help grow women leaders is to give them actionable feedback. Actionable feedback not only provides guidance to help improve performance, it also clarifies expectations and builds up trust and confidence. Research shows that women often get more vague, and significantly less, feedback compared to their male peers. To change that dynamic, make sure to crisp up your feedback with supporting examples and specific details.

Poor Feedback

Strong Feedback

“Jane, Keep up the great work you are doing!”

This type of feedback leaves a lot of room for the feedback receiver to interpret what great work refers to.

“Jane, Great work socializing the impacts of not resolving the tech debt item. Your description helped provide clarity to everyone on the call.”

This type of feedback provides specifics around the great work that the feedback receiver is being recognized for.

If you are naturally inclined to avoid negativity in the feedback process, try the feedforward process instead. Feedforward is a practice of providing feedback that shifts the focus from critical feedback over past performance to actionable feedback to improve future performance. Here are 11 reasons to try feedforward instead of feedback.



“Nice work Jane, on leading the team through the design challenge.”

“However the option you’ve recommended hasn’t been vetted out by the architecture team yet.”

“It would have been a great input to our design meeting today and would have avoided another follow up meeting.”

“Nice work Jane, on leading the team through the design challenge.” 

“Have you considered meeting with the Architecture team ahead of our design meeting? “

“It could potentially help us get data to make the right decisions during the meeting and avoid follow up meetings.”


Give specific, actionable, behavior-based feedback. We owe it to our people, especially to our women & underrepresented groups who historically receive it less clearly and frequently.-Melanie Frank, MVP, Technology

3. Volunteer for a group or board that’s making an impact

Volunteering has many benefits such as meeting new people, making an impact in your community and learning new skills. Especially as technology related skill sets are highly sought after, there are several opportunities to get involved in Computer Science or coding programs. It could be something like introducing middle school students to programming languages, or bringing Machine Learning opportunities to underrepresented communities like my Capital One colleague Cat Posey, or providing mentorship for young adults from low-income households. 

You don’t necessarily have to be an expert programmer to volunteer your time for such events. There are a variety of roles you can choose to volunteer for in addition to being an instructor. And more often than not, there are also programs to train the trainer before the actual volunteering event so all the instructors are well prepared to facilitate the sessions. I’ve always pushed myself to sign up for volunteering events at least a couple of times a year. While it is definitely a time commitment I find it very rewarding and time well spent. You can read about my colleague Aleta Stampley’s experience investing in others on the Capital One Careers blog.

Being on an advisory board, corporate board of directors is another great way to help organizations develop broad talent at all levels. Also, nonprofit boards for open source projects benefit immensely from diverse perspectives. In addition to getting to know your fellow board members and becoming a part of an influential network, you can extend your impact by helping companies adapt to the changing needs of the future workplace. Here’s six steps to help you join your first board. While this may be a multi-year journey to work your way through, Olga V. Mack demystifies this process in her book All [A]board: Your Journey to Becoming a Corporate Director.

Boards are always looking for great advisors or active directors. Find opportunities that really resonate with you personally and where you will feel energized by the time.-Mindy Ferguson, MVP, Technology

4. Have mentorship and sponsorship goals

Like I mentioned in my previous blog, having a mentor matters. So give back and become someone else’s mentor. Set mentorship/ sponsorship goals for yourself so you can share your story boardly and continue to inspire others. For example, having a goal like “Invest in at least 2-3 mentees or sponsored associates in a year” could help you set aside the time needed for this effort. 

Take part in scaled mentorship and sponsorship programs such as signing up to be a Development Advisor for incoming junior engineers or joining a business resource group that provides opportunities to support one another’s career development. If your organization lacks these, consider developing a program to help connect mentors & mentees within a larger team or department.

Having mentorship goals, like establishing local mentoring partnerships to advance associate skills and competencies, help to invest in our associates growth and development at greater scale.-Janene Worthington, Director, Software Engineering

If the nature of your work doesn’t give you an opportunity to do either of the above, consider digital mentoring. By leveraging digital communication techniques such as technical blogging, podcasting, or web conferencing you can target connecting with larger audiences asynchronously. 

When you’re creating online blogs or videos or courses you’re helping to bring up your peers and the next generation of tech workers. It has a different interpersonal dynamic, and is certainly less formal, than traditional mentorship, but it has some of the same motivating factors behind it. It’s all about improving people’s work and their experiences in the industry.-Kasey Smith, Content Strategist, Digital Marketing

5. Study up on leadership best practices

To inspire others to lead we need to be good leaders ourselves. Being a people leader requires adapting your leadership style to the situation and the different personalities you work with. There are several books and online resources on leadership practices that you can lean on to help build out your leadership style. Being an avid reader myself, a book on leadership traits and practices is always on my current reading (or listening) list. I also enjoy the One Minute Leadership Series by Lakshmi Seetharaman, Power of Wake, Power of First Small Step, and many more with Power of Constraints being the most recent one.

In your leadership journey, you may also come across situations where you need to let people go. It could be that their interests have changed over the course of time or they have found better opportunities outside of your team. This brings a lot of mixed emotions for any leader but knowing that this is a great way of building new partnerships outside of our own teams can be quite helpful. 

As you evolve your leadership style over the course of your career, consider sharing your own tips on a periodic basis. You could do that either in local settings at your team level or broader forums across your organization and beyond. This article from the Capital One Careers blog has great leadership lessons for women in tech from four of Capital One’s engineering leaders. I found it very helpful in my own work on this aspect of my career. 


I want to thank Mindy, Melanie and Janene for their help with this article. Stay tuned for the next installment in this five-part series: Integrating Work and Life as Women in Tech.

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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