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Women Of The Channel: 'Lead By Letting Go'

Santa Clara Professor Terri Griffith discussed new ways to look at leadership and mentoring at CRN's first Women of the Channel West Coast conference.


Professor and author Terri Griffith delivered some sobering statistics about women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field as the opening speaker at CRN's Women of the Channel West event held Wednesday in San Francisco.

About 33 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 are interested in science, technology engineering and mathematics, or STEM, according to Griffith. However, 3 percent of female college students actually graduate with a STEM degree. Learning how to be a more effective leader could help close the gender gap and make the STEM industry more attractive to the next generation of leaders, she said.

"How do we transition from someone who executes to someone who leads?" Griffith said during her presentation. "Intentionally think through what you can let go of."

[Related: Empowering Women In The Channel]

Griffith, whose talk "Lead by Letting Go" kicked off the inaugural West Coast iteration of the daylong conference, focused on education, empowerment and recognition of female executives in the industry. The Women of the Channel event has traditionally been held in New York, with this year's event taking place from Dec. 9-10.

Griffith, who is an author and chairs the Management Department at Santa Clara University, presented a number of tips on how women can be more effective leaders by letting go of self-doubt and dated rules that haven't evolved with changes largely brought on by the digital age.

Her talk on success centered around four pillars: how to more effectively work, lead, learn and mentor.

"She was awesome," said conference attendee Joanne Poggi, channel marketing manager at San Jose, Calif.-based Polycom. "I think her lead by letting go [concept] is something that resonates with everybody."

Poggi, whose been with Polycom for eight and a half years, said she always strives to be more efficient in her work and Griffith's talk spoke to the broader theme of "letting go of routine."

Griffith said a "reboot" in the workplace is needed and leaders need to let go of the concept of employees working face to face in one office. The same goes for education, she said, and the idea that learning stops once college ends.

"We will need to re-educate ourselves, but do we really need to go back and get a whole degree?" Griffith asked the audience. "Can we let go of the idea of a traditional degree?" she said. "Hold tight to learning, but maybe let go of these 'sticker' approaches to learning."

NEXT: What Women Of The Channel Thought About Griffith's Tips

To push more females into leadership positions within the STEM industry, mentoring needs to improve and move away from a "top-down" approach, Griffith said.

Attendees found Griffith's tips actionable and said they'll put them to use in the office.

"I've been a supervisor for about a year now, so a lot of the things she said I'll be taking with me," said Mary Gibas, desk supervisor at Vernon Hills, Ill.-based technology products and services provider CDW.

Gibas, who has been with CDW for nine years, said letting go of old routines and fears were key takeaways from the presentation.

They're similar ideas Amy Whelan, national channel executive at Riverbed, said she got out of the presentation.

"I'm in a sales position role, but want to lead a team in the very near future," she said. "By letting myself go and not being afraid and learning by examples, those are some of the tools it will take to be successful."


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