Women Of The Channel 2014: IT Execs Get Candid On Career Successes, Failures

Steps To Success

Dreaming big was the theme executives from Symantec, FirstRain, Google and VMware tackled during a panel at Women of the Channel West, hosted by CRN publisher The Channel Company last week.

The speakers shared lessons gleaned from personal experiences on how to compete and succeed in business.

Here are some of the highlights.

Speak Finance

Knowing the numbers is crucial, said Laurie Evans (pictured here), senior director of global partner programs and strategy and director of global partner strategy and operations at VMware.

Being profitable in the cloud takes a long time, and understanding the balance sheet is necessary to win the argument of going to the As-a-Service model, she said.

"If you're building strategies, you have to have that financial fluency to build your programs around it," Evans said.

Get Code Savvy

Technology is the future. The runway for innovation is large and "we're just at the beginning of it," said FirstRain President and CEO Penny Herscher.

Her advice: "Learn how to write some kind of code."

"We as women are just not present enough on the creation side. Get comfortable with the creation of technology," Herscher said.

Career Planning

Life happens, but that doesn't mean you can't plan, said the panelists.

Careers should be viewed more like a jungle gym than a ladder, Google Head of Channel Marketing and Programs Francine Geller (pictured here) said, citing the metaphor from Fortune magazine editor Patricia Sellers.

"I think you have to have a loose plan," Symantec Director of Channel Marketing Jana Valenti said. "You have to think about your personal brand and what you're putting out there."

In Retrospect

Panelists were asked what advice they would give to their 16-year-old self:

Jana Valenti (pictured here), Symantec
"…always push yourself forward."

Penny Herscher, FirstRain
"Lighten up. I took myself really seriously and I was very aggressive, and I was probably horrible to be around for about 20 years."

Francine Geller, Google
"Take those risks. Get out there."

Laurie Evans, VMware
"Be flexible ... Life took a hold of my hand; I didn't lead life."

Regrets And Missteps

Knowing how to prioritize projects and learning which ones to bring your A game to is important said VMware's Evans, who said she's made many missteps throughout her career.

"We as women are perfectionists," Evans said, adding that taking the time to pause and evaluate what projects require the most attention is important. "It is OK to push back and ask questions about what you're delivering on."

FirstRain's Herscher offered a different perspective on a misstep she made, reflecting a theme that ran throughout the Women of the Channel West conference:

"Not going home every night to say goodnight to my kids for 12 years ... It was a terrible mistake for me."

The 'Bossy' Label

Panelists also were asked how they dealt with the "bossy" label in their various leadership positions.

VMware's Evans (pictured here) said collaboration can help in escaping the label by making everyone on the team feel that their voice is important and being heard.

On the flip side, FirstRain's Herscher said there's nothing wrong with being called bossy, and leaders need to overcome fears of how others might perceive that decisiveness.

"I embrace it," she said. "You've got to own it. Don't be afraid of being the boss. There are times where you have to be willing to say, 'Look, this is my decision.' Don’t be afraid. Don’t let them intimidate you."