Advice from a frontline manager

By Katerina Arzhayev, SUSE’s Leader of COO Initiatives

At the age of 25, I began managing people for the first time. My new direct report was just starting her full-time career. Seemingly overnight, I became responsible for her professional and personal development. As an individual contributor, my success was based on my performance. Now, my success had a component outside of my control: someone else’s performance. So, I did what anyone would and sought council. The best advice I heard came from a surprising source – my nineteen year old sister who had been people managing for several years as a supervisor in the service industry.

I was told that if I worked hard, studied often and performed well, one day I would manage a team. My sister didn’t get the memo, so three months into her role as a barista she volunteered for a Supervisor role to manage a team of peers – people she laughed and joked with, 17 and 18 year olds she considered friends. Overnight, she became a boss.

“I stopped treating my coworkers as if they are my family” she said. “I forced myself to have the mindset that you’re supposed to have in a service job, which is ‘I am here to work’. I had the mindset, ‘If I don’t like you, I won’t like you’, but I am a shift lead. So even if I am mad, I am still nice to them. I got a more realistic view of my job.”

This important realisation helped her understand that difficult conversations and critical feedback are not personal – not to her, as the giver, and not to the employee, as the receiver. Her communication of company processes and policy did not make her a bad person, no matter the side glances or hushed complaints.

Yet, here I was, afraid of delivering any feedback that could be perceived as negative for fear my relationship with my new team would be damaged. How would my entire personality, built on being liked, handle a potential conflict?

“When I manage, I remove myself from the situation,” she said. “If I am managing someone, I put their needs and perspective first. It’s not about how I feel. If, all of a sudden, they get emotional, I don’t take that personally. I am the manger.”

Being a manager is a different kind of role, she explained, but it is not one where you need to change who you are, or who you want to be.

“I know all the employees on a personal level. I try to customise my approach based on the person, because I know them. I did my research. I am not a people pleaser, but I am not shy. I am not going to stay quiet if someone needs managing.”

Yet, this takes time. Step by step, we can build those relationships. My sister’s rules are simple and by following them, both her managers and her team know who she is and what kind of manager she aspires to be. This may seem like such basic advice, yet all of us need the :

  1. Don’t talk about me with other employees, or about other employees with me. If you have something to say, talk to me in private, say it to my face. Don’t say it to other people whom it doesn’t concern. Don’t be afraid to address the problem head on, when it arises. Do not let things fester. Avoiding conflict causes longer, and more drawn out, conflict.
  2. Don’t set me up to say things. Be direct with your questions and comments, instead of leading and secretive. Be upfront, don’t play your cards. Don’t manipulate the situation. Through open conversation and an honest desire to resolve things, we can all move forward.
  3. Don’t focus on me. Micromanaging sows dissent and turns off my creative desire to be and do better. When I know everything is set, I stop being proactive. I stop demanding more from my team. I am in this role for a reason, I was promoted for a reason, I manage people for a reason. Provide me with support and guidance, but also let me take risks and fail.

Note: The content of this interview was in the scope of primary research conducted by Katerina Arzhayev with the goal of describing the average career journey of women, and identifying and documenting their best practices for managing and being managed.

About SUSE

SUSE logoSUSE is a global leader in innovative, reliable and enterprise-grade open source solutions. We specialise in Enterprise Linux, Kubernetes Management, and Edge solutions, and collaborate with partners and communities to empower our customers to innovate everywhere – from the data centre, to the cloud, to the edge and beyond. SUSE puts the “open” back in open source, giving customers the agility to tackle innovation challenges today and the freedom to evolve their strategy and solutions tomorrow. Follow SUSE on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Join us for Ada Lovelace Day Live Online!

Don’t forget to join us for Ada Lovelace Day Live Online on Tuesday 11 October, 20:00 BST, where you’ll get to hear about everything from poo to energy to candle flames to maths to the science of the human voice from our illustrious speakers Prof Sophie Scott, Dr Priti Parikh, Fran Scott, Susan Okereke, Yasmin Ali and Aphra Le Levier-Bennett. Tickets are free so book now!

Using data to make decisions

Katerina Arzhayev, SUSE’s Leader of COO Initiatives, talks about how companies can use data to help make decisions.

This video was provided by SUSE, one of Ada Lovelace Day’s generous sponsors.

About SUSE

SUSE logoSUSE is a global leader in innovative, reliable and enterprise-grade open source solutions. We specialise in Enterprise Linux, Kubernetes Management, and Edge solutions, and collaborate with partners and communities to empower our customers to innovate everywhere – from the data centre, to the cloud, to the edge and beyond. SUSE puts the “open” back in open source, giving customers the agility to tackle innovation challenges today and the freedom to evolve their strategy and solutions tomorrow. Follow SUSE on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Join us for Ada Lovelace Day Live Online!

Don’t forget to join us for Ada Lovelace Day Live Online on Tuesday 11 October, 20:00 BST, where you’ll get to hear about everything from poo to energy to candle flames to maths to the science of the human voice from our illustrious speakers Prof Sophie Scott, Dr Priti Parikh, Fran Scott, Susan Okereke, Yasmin Ali and Aphra Le Levier-Bennett. Tickets are free so book now!

J.P. Morgan offers free Finding Ada Network subscriptions to UK women in tech

JP MorganThe Finding Ada Network is delighted to announce that we have partnered with J.P. Morgan to offer free mentorship for 50 women in technology in the UK.

The scheme will pair mentees from across the UK with women in technical roles within J.P. Morgan, with mentors available from different levels across the company, from junior software developers to senior tech leaders.

This is an amazing opportunity for women with a tech or STEM background to find a mentor who can help them develop their careers over the next twelve months. Mentees will be given a year’s free access to the Finding Ada Network online mentorship and knowledge sharing network, including our world class online mentorship platform and exclusive content covering careers advice, personal and professional development, plus HR policy and advocacy advice.

We have decades of evidence that mentoring helps women succeed, that mentees improve their soft skills, confidence, and communications skills, and develop better ways to process feedback and solve problems. Crucially, mentee’s career prospects are improved too, as they are more likely to be promoted, enjoying on average a five times higher rate of promotion compared to non-mentees.

This project becomes even more essential now – as COVID-19 makes life more challenging, women especially need additional help and support. And because the Finding Ada Network allows mentors and mentees to manage their mentoring relationship entirely online, it is an ideal way to access that help and support.

To apply for this scheme, please complete the short form below.

IWD: Shifting the balance in STEM

On International Women’s Day, Ada Lovelace Day and Clarivate held an event, Shifting the balance in STEM, at Microsoft Reactor in London on getting younger girls into STEM, the issue of gender bias, and the various pathways open to girls.

Our panel, Yasmin Ali, Allison Gardner, Liz Seward, Timo Hannay and Bella Harrison (bios below) were asked by moderator Nandita Quaderi to share when and how they got interested in science. Some of the panel knew at a very early age, others didn’t like maths and science at all but later discovered another way of engaging in STEM. Bees, sperm and Star Trek all also made an appearance!

SchoolDash founder and ALD advisor Timo Hannay talked about how girls lose interest in STEM in their mid-teens, despite there being little difference in ability between them and boys. He speculated that it could be due to expectations, both their own and from adults such as teachers. Teachers’ gender might also have an impact, for instance, biology teachers are more likely to be women, whilst physics teachers are more likely to be men. Yasmin Ali pointed out how engineering was not highlighted as a career for children, and that she found out about it by accident. This is despite it being a highly rewarding and inclusive industry.

Bella Harrison from Primo Toys discussed the issues around toys being heavily gendered, and how they are aiming to make toys that are more inclusive. She also talked about how children’s interests are socially influenced, especially by their school friends, and how school activities, such as learning to code, can be supported by coding toys at home.

The event also explored organisational changes to support diversity and Liz Seward from Airbus Space Systems discussed the LGBT and neurodiverse policies that they have incorporated, as well as the diversity targets for their managers. Airbus have reached a point where about 30 percent of their incoming engineers are women, which is about the same as the number of women leaving university with an engineering degree.

Seward also made the point that diversity means letting women be women, not forcing them to behave in the same way that men do, and that companies need a range of management styles in order to really be diverse. Mentorship and sponsors are crucial to developing female leaders.

And Allison Gardner explored the emerging problems of bias in AI due to the lack of diversity in development teams. The number of women in computer science has decreased since the 1960s, and some of the interventions to try and halt this decline have not worked. To try to combat this lack of diversity, Gardner has set up a women in AI network to give access to mentors and support, so that women gain more confidence in coding.

A lively Q&A followed the discussion, and we finished the evening off with drinks and the opportunity to talk further about the issues raised.

The panel:

Liz Seward, senior strategist for Space Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. She is also the Chair of Women in Aerospace Europe’s UK group, bringing together women and men who are interested in supporting and getting involved in a more diverse and equal workforce within the space sector.

Timo Hannay, founding Managing Director of SchoolDash, an education technology company based in London that provides maps, dashboards, statistics and analysis on schools in England.

Yasmin Ali, chartered chemical engineer, writer and presenter. She was awarded the Women’s Engineering Society Young Woman Engineer award in 2013 and is passionate about promoting engineering stories and careers to the public and young people.

Bella Harrison, Operations Lead at Primo Toys. Primo creates inclusive coding toys that have introduced more than 1 million children in 180 countries to computer programming in early years.

Dr Allison Gardner, Teaching Fellow at Keele University and Programme Director for the Science Foundation Year. She is a co-founder of Women Leading in AI, encouraging women to shape the debate around the use and norms of AI and big data.

If you’d like to know more about Clarivate Analytics, follow them on Twitter @Clarivate. Clarivate is a global leader in providing trusted insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation.

Win a ticket to Startup Grind London!

Digital Science and Ada Lovelace Day are giving you a chance to win a ticket to attend Startup Grind’s Europe Conference in June, in London. To win a free ticket worth £298, just tell us why you want to attend!

The event takes place on 13th June 2018 and brings together 2,500 founders and investors and over 100 European startups. There will be more than 75 speakers across three stages, featuring a range of sessions including keynotes, educational workshops, and VC Q&As, covering this year’s hot topics, such as Blockchain, AI, to name a few.

How to enter
Using the hashtag #DigiSciComp and CC’ing @findingada and @digitalsci, tell us why you would like to attend the conference. Keep your answers short and sharp (you only have a few characters!). Think about what you may learn by attending – the more adventurous, the better!

Here are a couple of examples:

  • #DigiSciComp I want to attend the Startup Grind because I want to network with some of the most influential people in tech!  @findingada @digitalsci
  • #DigiSciComp I am keen to attend Startup Grind because I work on one of the hot topics, I want to hear from the leaders in that field. @findingada @digitalsci

Tweets must be received no later than the 28th of May 2018 at 12pm BST, and you can only enter once. Please make sure you follow @DigitalSci and @FindingAda on Twitter, as we will need to contact you directly if you win.

All eligible tweets shall be considered by our three-person judging panel comprising: Katy Alexander, Suw Charman-Anderson and Cameron Shephard. The panel will select the winner which will be announced on the 31st May

We’re really excited to see what you come up with – now get tweeting!
Please read the terms and conditions before entering.