Did you ever feel like Big Bird? Imagine those gangly orange legs and bright yellow feathers walking down a New York City neighborhood. Try that now in a high-tech office in the Silicon Beach, Valley or Forest, in front of a computer, passing through the lounge, or sitting at the head of a board room table, leading the meeting. Tangi B., Technical Recruiter for Data at The Walt Disney Company related her experience overcoming Imposter Syndrome similarly. Imposter syndrome can make someone feel out of place like Big Bird, but even though Tangi has had an exciting and successful career placing top talent, she was courageous enough to speak from her experience and shared helpful resources at our Women’s History Month panel titled Amplifying Your Voice as a Women in the Workforce.
On March 25, 2021 Women in Big Data (WiBD) members, leaders, and friends convened with the Grace Hopper Community and Disney technologist teams to celebrate our efforts to Connect, Collaborate, and Champion inclusion and diversity in big data and technology. This was the first event of its kind for WiBD and made possible by our sponsor, The Walt Disney Company. Over 100 guests attended the virtual panel contributing to an enthusiastic chat as each of the speakers offered insights and inspiration covering themes of leadership, vulnerability, and resilience. The speakers, coordinated by Disney’s Outreach Team member, Elena D. represented big data and technology functions across Disney and Hulu teams. Any professional might aspire to the exciting positions showcased for this panel, however they might not know how these professionals have navigated personal and professional adversity like Hulu Vice President of Software Development Billie Sue C. and Product Manager Neha Z., or a quest to understand and understand and leverage their authentic self like Associate Director for Enterprise Program Management Judette P..
Could you imagine vulnerability as a source of strength? Like taking those Big Bird moments and making them meaningful not just for you, but for others as a shared endeavor? Ally T., Sr. Director for Retention Analytics enlightened the audience on how she intentionally examines personally challenging experiences so they can be shared and useful for others. In particular, amplifying her voice at speaking engagements just like this event was one of those cases as public speaking never came naturally. Examining her highly vulnerable experiences in speaking to large audiences led Ally to enlist the guidance of a professional coach and tackle something that could have otherwise been a setback. Ally shared how she embraces the vulnerability of public speaking and can now speak about this topic with clarity, confidence, and insight.
Other panel speakers shared that they too had worked with coaches to overcome challenges and accelerate winning results. As a career coach myself, it is always an honor when I “get” to partner with someone to brighten their path with the many tips and techniques that I have devoted my time to studying and sharing. That can be easier said than done for most who are working overtime to upskill and juggling a workplace that may not always be fair. “This is a Good Ol’ Boys Network” is a phrase that more than one of us invited to speak had heard directly in our careers. A core message from each of our speakers is that despite the adversity, they never lost sight of themselves in terms of their career focus, professional passion, capacity to take on a challenge, consideration for their own self-worth, and compassion for others.
After the panel, guests were invited to virtual booths featuring the Disney recruiting team, panel speakers and Women in Big Data leadership. Lively virtual conversations ensued resulting in networking and knowledge sharing. Guests spoke about managing career changes from coast to coast, being early in their career yet knowing that they don’t know all the ropes and having a baby mid-way through an MBA program after a technical career pivot.
Disney closed the experience with an inspiring message reaffirming their intentional focus on equity and support for women to amplify their voices in the workforce with Women in Big Data. The event did not end there! For the next few days, WiBD leads across the nation exchanged enthusiastic messages and attendees commented on social media posts to appreciate the inspiring takeaways. My favorite was a comment by a new WiBD member who recognized how the speakers demonstrated such grace in the way they shared their insights and experiences. As we examine a new era of equity, the workplace attributes that will achieve that powerfully, and a challenging pandemic year, there is rich opportunity where we can come together with the purpose to amplify voices that inspire grace.