Cape Fear Women in Tech board members Hannah Wilson, Audrey Speicher, and Emilyanne Atkinson asked soon-to-be Cape Fear Women in Tech event speaker Sandy Howe twelve questions about her personal branding and career. Sandy’s event will be on January 26th, 2016.
Hannah Wilson: How do you describe your personal style?
Sandy Howe: My personal style is very collaborative, whether it’s work getting customers – it’s what their needs are, working with my own team – listening to all the different ideas to figure out the best solution, and working with all the different stakeholders both inside and outside of my company. The more you understand what everybody needs, you understand the direction the company wants to grow. It really allows you to set up for a win-win with a collaborative approach.
HW: Have you ever had to update or change your branding to get where you wanted to go?
SH: I don’t think I’ve ever had to update my brand, but in my career it took me time to learn and really understand what my brand was. There was definitely a time when I didn’t know. Fortunately I had created the brand, but I didn’t even know I had created it. The awareness of your personal brand is something that can help you.
HW: And your personal brand is collaboration and teamwork?
SH: Yes, and bringing people together and figuring out the right solutions. And actually, my personal brand is that I’m really known for getting things done. My real personal brand is when I listen to customers and what they were saying. They always said that I had a list, and if I put on the list what they needed to accomplish, it always got done. And I got it done by collaborating and working both internally within my company as well as externally. So everyone knows me with a list, and I always have a list. And I don’t look at the list, I know what’s on it, and the list makes me get it done.
HW: Do you think that personal branding affects women more than men?
SH: It’s important for women to know their brand. At first it was something that was difficult for me to figure it out myself for my career. Maybe men know it more, but I would still challenge that they probably are in the same position – not everyone knows that they have a brand or know the importance of it.
HW: Who has influenced you the most in your career?
SH: I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve never had a formal mentor in my career, but I’ve had a lot of great coaching in my career. Customers, past bosses, past executives from a different company where I worked, my family. They have mentored me more than they realize. I have been very open to receiving feedback from people that I really value and admire, and they’ve been wonderful in sharing that. When you get that feedback, you make a change, and when the person coaching you sees you make that change, they keep giving.
HW: Do you have an example of a time when they helped guide your career?
SH: I had a boss, we’re really great friends now, who actually kept pushing me to take new jobs. At this point I worked in a company, but I was changing jobs every 18 or 24 months. One key thing that women need to do more of is to be fearless and take risks. It was extremely rewarding, because I then realized I still had an ability in taking new thoughts, new challenges, new roles in the company, and succeeding and helping the company grow.
HW: In personal branding in your career, when is breaking the rules ok?
SH: I think it’s important for you to be authentic, so your brand has to be authentic. If you like to wear pink, and you wear pink every day, don’t stop wearing pink, because pink is your color. My thing, and everybody knows this, is that I love jewelry. I always think about accessorizing, and I won’t stop wearing scarves and jewelry because that’s what I like. Don’t loose what’s authentic to you.
HW: Where do you find inspiration?
SH: Inspiration can be found in so many places. I really find a lot of inspiration by people who give back into the community. I really admire them and want to give back, because you have to help more people to advance and do better, especially when you have opportunities of your own. It’s very inspiring to see people give a lot of their time, especially if they don’t have a lot of time.
HW: Is there someone in particular who you’ve seen that from recently?
SH: Here in Wilmington, one of the things that I think is so unique, is what the restaurant Circa 1922 does around town. They give people food on Thanksgiving. Living downtown, I can see people walk 20 blocks to get there for their Thanksgiving meal. There’s no publicity around any of it, and it could be a great publicity for them. It’s very inspirational because there are so many people who need help.
HW: What is some advice you have for women in a non-technical job who would like to move into a technical career?
SH: Don’t be afraid to take the risk. There are so many opportunities in technology. Marketing, which is what I’m in, is a perfect place to come in and learn the technology. Someone in technology is always constantly learning. Once you learn the foundation, you will have to study like everyone else in technology, because technology changes so quickly. Every engineer I know will tell you that they’re reading and studying and researching. If you like to learn, technology is a great place to be.
HW: What advice do you have for women who are currently in technology for them to grow their career?
SH: It’s about taking risks and learning something new. I believe the greatest opportunities are in new technology product solutions. Take the risk and break out into something new.
HW: What are some of your favorite business books you would recommend?
SH: One of my favorite books for women, that I think has a lot of great advice, is Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.
Something I think that’s important for women is a book on Fierce Conversations. It’s about the conversations you need to have throughout your career as a manager, or even as an employee.
The last book that I really enjoy is The First 90 Days. It’s a book that I go to every time I change jobs, because it identifies what your job is, and what your role is and what you need to do to be successful.
Make sure to RSVP for Sandy’s event and share it with your friends!