Women in tech: 5 things I learned about succeeding in Silicon Valley

By Nancy Hoque

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the challenges women face in Silicon Valley—and in the tech world more broadly. Since many women here at Haas have come from tech or are looking to break in, the Haas Technology Club invited three female executives to a fireside chat to talk about what it takes to succeed in the Valley.

Our panelists included Liana Salaymeh, vice president of Global HR at Visa; Cathy Conk, director of product innovation at Netflix; and Eleanor Stribling, vice president of product at Kevala Inc.

Here are five key insights I took away:

1. Be savvy on salaries

When negotiating pay for a new position, don't disclose your prior salary. Instead, quote the market rate (unless your prior salary is higher than the market rate!). When negotiating for a raise, rather than comparing numbers with other people, focus on your scope of work and make sure you are paid what you are worth...and more.

2. Assess culture

Ask questions that help you understand what type of company culture you are walking into or operating in. Questions like: "What does success look like?"; "What does innovation look like?"; or, "Introduce me to your rising star"; and "Describe a person who is not successful," can help you determine whether the company culture is right for you.

Often, Silicon Valley admires attributes that are more outwardly apparent in men than women. (Why is that? That’s a question outside the scope of this post!) In order to succeed in the valley, it is important to be authentic. Don't worry so much about how others perceive you. Be open and candid and do not self-censor or limit your voice.

3. Do not perform quietly 

Talk about yourself and speak up for your work: "I did it," "I worked with the team," and "I am awesome." Just because you quietly work hard and perform well does not mean you will be recognized for it. Also become an advocate for others. Talk about what a great contribution they’ve made—and mean it of course. That in turn will cause folks to talk about you.

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4. Speak up

If you are in a meeting and have something to say, make sure you say it! Don't worry if someone else has already said something similar to your idea—it’s still important to share your point of view. By not speaking up, it may not be clear if you disagree or agree. It is okay to be wrong, but always show you have an opinion to contribute.

5. Leverage all resources

Network, go to meetups, join a developer community, keep up with tech trends. Listen to podcasts such as Radical Candor. You never know when a connection will pay off!

The moral of the story? Be resilient. Strong. Steadfast. Agile. Adaptable. Be a #GirlBoss.

The Haas Tech Club event was co-hosted by Risa Shen, FTMBA 2018, President of the Haas Tech Club. Notes for article by Alicia Huang, FTMBA 2018.

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Collections: Evening & Weekend  |   Gender Equity  |   Women in Leadership  |   Career
Nancy Hoque
Nancy Hoque is an evening & weekend Berkeley MBA student in the Class of 2019. She is vice president of Haas Tech Club and the Women in Leadership Club, and is also a Haas Lean-In Ambassador. A former solutions architect designing mission-critical communications for the U.S. military, and founder of a modest scarf fashion startup for Muslim women, she sought an MBA to prepare her to inspire and lead social impact. This summer, Nancy will work in product marketing management for next-generation cyber security at Symantec.