It seems almost everyday there is an article written about there not being enough women, especially female leaders, in technology. While I’m not an engineer, I have managed to make a career for myself in tech. Not counting my first year out of school when I was working a variety of non-profit jobs, I now have 5.5 full years of experience working in some area of the technology industry.
There are days when I dream of one day being CEO or VP of a company, but in reality I don’t have what it takes to be a leader. I’ve written about my poor lack of management skills previously, and while some of them can be learned and approved on, I just don’t have what it takes to lead. I’m quite socially awkward to begin with, and I am a bit of a perfectionist. I have trouble managing myself let alone other people. I’m decent with managing an agency where the relationships are not so connected, but I can’t see myself becoming a true in-office team building type of leader, ever. I’m not a follower, either, though. I’m a do-er. I like to come up with ideas and make them happen, and then move on to the next project. (Maybe I should work for an agency… hmm…)
Leaders must be extremely confident in their own abilities, confident enough to make someone look up to them and at the same time not to worry that the person who gain enough power to replace them at any given time. They must know when to prod someone to improvement versus when to let things just get done. When they prod, they must be gentle but firm, and ideally closer to right than wrong. They must be able to follow up on priorities, ensure process is followed, and deliverables are of high quality.
Since I’ve decided I will never be a leader, at least not in the technology space, I’ve been wondering what my goal in life should be. It’s a bit frustrating because where I am now professionally, in a senior manager level role, puts me in a prime position to move on to better paying roles with leadership written all over them. When I get to that point, will I really want them? I wonder if there will come a time in my life when everything will click and I will suddenly be ready to lead. But I’m more absent-minded professor than slick and savvy CEO. But instead of dedicating my life to study and research, I yearn to create.
In 20 months I will be 30 years old. The biological clock is also ticking and this only makes me more confused over what my career path should be. I just cannot see myself as VP or CEO of a company — in fact, the only thing I can really clearly see myself being is a mother. That can happen with also being VP or CEO, but not in the way I envision it. Even if I was a natural born leader, would I ever be able to achieve the same career success as a man with the same talent and proclivities?
All the while, I don’t like the bitter taste business leaves in my mouth. I’m the type of person that wants everyone to win, and while it’s fun to feel part of a team competing against another group (in fact, the professional world is the first time I’ve ever felt like I sort of fit in), it’s still something that grates away at my values. It’s not my business in particular, it’s any business. It’s the nature of the game. Some people (I’m guessing mostly men) thrive on competition, which works well in business — especially cut-throat, rapidly changing industries like technology — but those people are definitely not me. I hate competition and I hate feeling like I’m attacking someone else(‘s product) or that they are attacking me back. Are there a lot of women that really enjoy this sort of this? Is it possible that men just thrive on this constant war and women biologically are inclined to protect and nurture?
This must be why the technology industry is such a boys club. I can’t talk the same talk. I can’t shoot jabs at the competition, or get into the game fully heart and soul. Watching newer members of my company, all male, jump on board and get into these conversations, makes me realize how much of an outsider I still am. It might be because I’m a woman, or it might be just because I’m not someone who excels in business. I’m reasonably talented at marketing strategy and overall enjoy anything involving strategic thinking and defining process. I’ll put down the rules to the battle, but will step out and take a long walk far away before the first shot rings out into the night.
The trouble is that success, at least financial success, relies on one’s ability to stand up and fight battle after battle with a chance they’ll win the war. Is it so wrong that deep down I want my knight in shining armor to come and rescue me from the war and tell me he’ll fight the battles while I stay home with the kids? Not that I really want to “stay home,” but I want that option, and more freedom. Many people don’t even have that option ever, and I don’t think I “deserve” it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want it. Or, that suddenly a life of doing a more mundane yet important job like cutting hair or designing living rooms seems much more attractive, versus everyday waking up to battle.