In anticipation of our upcoming event on January 26th, CFWIT board member Hannah Wilson sat down with our speaker Sandy Howe for a Q&A style interview.
Hannah Wilson: How do you describe your personal style?
Sandy Howe: I am very collaborative, as I strongly believe that collaboration is the foundation for success. Whether it's working hand-in-hand with customers to understand what their needs are, or working closely with my own team to determine the best solution, collaboration has the power to create a win-win situation for everyone. By listening to all the different ideas and what everybody needs, you can better understand the direction the company wants to take and support that effort.
HW: Have you ever had to update or change your branding to get where you wanted to go?
SH: I don't think I've ever had to update my personal brand. However, it took some time to really understand what my brand was. There was definitely a time when I didn't even know I had created a brand. Being aware of your personal brand, what drives and motivates you, is something that can help you succeed in life.
HW: And your personal brand is collaboration and teamwork?
SH: Yes, my brand centers around bringing people together to determine the right solutions and solve problems. I'm really known for getting things done. For example, when working with customers, I invest the time to understand what their challenges are and what they’re trying to accomplish. I then create a list of what needs to be done and work collaboratively with people inside and outside my organization to get it done. A number of people will tell you that if something gets on my list, it will be done. Understanding the issues at hand and working together with people to find solutions is critical to the success of every project.
HW: Do you think that personal branding affects women more than men?
SH: It's important for women to know their brand. At first, it was difficult for me to figure it out for myself early in my career. Maybe men are more aware, but I would still challenge that they probably are in the same position - not everyone knows that they have a brand or know the importance of it.
HW: Who has influenced you the most in your career?
SH: I've been very fortunate in my career. I've never had a formal mentor, but I received a lot of great coaching and support from a number of people I worked with and respected -- customers, former managers at ARRIS and other companies I worked for, and of course my family. They have mentored me more than they realize. I have been very open to receiving feedback from people that I really value and admire, and they've been wonderful in sharing that. When you receive constructive feedback, you’re more likely to make a change. And when the person coaching you sees you’re making that change, they keep giving.
HW: Do you have an example of a time when they helped guide your career?
SH: I had a manager once, who is a great friend now, who actually kept pushing me to take on new jobs and opportunities. It was extremely rewarding, because it helped me realize my potential and ability to take on new challenges and new roles in the company, as well as see myself succeeding and helping the company grow. One key thing that women need to do more of is to be fearless and take risks.
HW: In personal branding in your career, when is breaking the rules ok?
SH: I think it's important for you to be authentic, so your brand has to be authentic. If you like to wear pink, and you wear pink every day, don't stop wearing pink, because pink is your color. I love jewelry, and everybody knows that about me. I always think about accessorizing and will not stop wearing scarves and jewelry because that's what I like. Don't lose what's authentic to you.
HW: Where do you find inspiration?
SH: Inspiration can be found in many places. I find a lot of inspiration by people who give back to the community. I try to give back, because it is important to help people advance and do better, especially when you’ve had opportunities of your own. It's very inspiring to see people investing their time, especially if they don't have a lot of time.
HW: Is there someone in particular who you've seen that from recently?
SH: One of the things I find unique here in Wilmington is how the restaurant Circa 1922 gives back to the community. They give people food on Thanksgiving. Living downtown, I can see people walk 20 blocks to get there for their Thanksgiving meal. There's no publicity around any of it, which makes it even more meaningful. It's also very inspirational, because there are so many people in need.
HW: What is some advice you have for women in a non-technical job who would like to move into a technical career?
SH: Don't be afraid to take the risk. There are so many opportunities in technology. Marketing, which is what I'm in, is a perfect place to come in and learn the technology, but be aware that you’ll be constantly learning. Once you learn the foundation, you will have to continue educating yourself, because technology changes so quickly. Every engineer I know will tell you that they're constantly reading, studying and researching. If you like to learn, technology is a great place to be.
HW: What advice do you have for women who are currently in technology for them to grow their career?
SH: It's about taking risks and learning something new. I believe the greatest opportunities are in new technology solutions. Take the risk and break out into something new.
HW: What are some of your favorite business books you would recommend?
SH: One of my favorite books for women that offers great advice is Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. Women could also benefit from the book Fierce Conversations. It's about the conversations you need to have throughout your career as an employee or manager. Lastly, I really enjoy reading The First 90 Days. It's a book I go to every time I change jobs, because it helps you identify what your job is, what your role should be and what you need to do to be successful.