4 Women in Tech Share Their Best Advice for Managing a Team

by Janey Zitomer
February 12, 2020

“If your team feels and knows that you care about them as human beings, they’ll work harder,” said Leila Horejsi, VP of customer success at Outreach.io. 

Horejsi has found that her empathy helps her retain talent when the going gets tough. Employees find support in authentic connections as they make strategic shifts or receive tough criticism.  

Beyond compassion, there are dozens of other ways managers can empower their direct reports to do their best work.

We spoke with women leaders from four Seattle tech companies who shared advice that has made them better managers throughout their careers. Their recommendations included, but were not limited to, hiring people who intimidated them, being comfortable shaking things up and knowing the unique strengths of everyone on their teams. 

 

ExtraHop VP of HR Sheryl Loeffler hires people who intimidate her. It’s one of her many professional and business development strategies that have contributed to her success. She explained why it’s made her a better leader and shared one piece of managerial wisdom she always keeps in the back of her mind. 
 

What’s one really important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a people manager and how has that made you a better manager? 

Hire people who intimidate you. Early in my career as a manager, one of the scariest things I did was decide to make an offer to someone who seemed way more knowledgeable, skilled and experienced than me. It triggered my imposter syndrome in the worst way. Swallowing that fear and hiring great people is one of the things I’m most proud of. Hiring smart, curious, driven people doesn’t cancel out my experience or value. It amplifies it. I learn from my team all the time. I’m a better professional and a better manager because of it.  

Hire people who intimidate you.’’ 

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams or aspire to?

Managing a team is not the same thing as being able to do everyone’s job. At some point in your career, you’ll very likely manage people with diverse skill sets and deep subject matter expertise that may far exceed yours in certain areas. And that’s a good thing. It’s not your job as a manager to be able to do everyone else’s job for them. It’s to clear a path for them to do their jobs effectively, support their continued skill development and provide clear strategy and guidance that keeps everyone on the same page and working toward the same goal. 

 

April Ayers
Customer Success Team Manager


For April Ayers, customer success team manager at vCita, tough face-to-face conversations are necessary for growth. Over time, Ayers has learned that in addition to dishing out honest feedback, she must listen to feedback from her team and course-correct quickly to drive results. 

 

What’s one really important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a people manager and how has that made you a better manager? 

Be comfortable shaking things up. Process and procedure are foundational. But trying new things is extremely important for long-term growth. Listen to your team’s feedback on program designs. Then, if you can, enact change quickly to drive results instead of just action. Sometimes we fall into habits that bore our team, make them question the “why” or make them apathetic. 

If you prepare them enough, your team should feel comfortable failing in order to ultimately find success.

Hold your team to the same standards you hold yourself to.’’

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams or aspire to? 

Be OK having tough, actionable, face-to-face conversations. Hold your team to the same standards you hold yourself to. As women in management, I think we take on the world, which leaves us with no room for creative thinking and promotable tasks. We are always patching holes in the ship, as it were. We need to be able to trust our teams to do their part and hold them accountable when they do not. 

 

Leila Horejsi
VP of Customer Success

Leila Horejsi, Outreach.io’s VP of customer success, empowers managers to lead from a place of positivity. She assumes that everyone on her team is looking to better themselves, and then she gets to work helping them do just that with manageable, long-term strategies for success. 

 

What’s one really important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a people manager and how has that made you a better manager?

People fundamentally want to be successful and do great work. They just need the tools, coaching and support to get there.

People struggle in their roles for many reasons, including lack of resources, lack of training, lack of coaching and on and on. If you build the programs and create the change management and training necessary for people to succeed, they will be able to execute against just about anything. Align their success with programs that challenge them in areas that push them to learn. I have found that strong, successful teams enjoy both the wins and the challenges that get them there. Coach with clear and concise programs and processes that align your team with personal and company goals.

This mindset has made me a better people leader. Believing that people always want to be their best allows me and my managers to focus on coaching, motivating and understanding each individual team member’s needs. We emphasize making people successful in not just their specific role, but also in their long-term career.

Always lead from a place of kindness and humility.’’

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams or aspire to?

Always lead from a place of kindness and humility. It’s OK to be kind while being strong.  

I believe there is a misconception that in order to be strong, you can’t connect with people or come across as too caring because people won’t take you seriously. This is not at all the case. If your team feels and knows that you care about them as human beings, they’ll work harder. Additionally, if things get challenging or stressful, they’ll trust you and their manager enough to work together on a strategy rather than leaving the company. 

 

Asmita Chaturvedi
Director of Technology

Expedia Group Director of Technology Asmita Chaturvedi uses her empathy to her advantage in business. And as she’s built her team from the ground up, she’s learned that employees will bring different strengths to the group.

 

What’s one really important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a people manager and how has that made you a better manager?

I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to know and value the unique strength of everyone on the team. Everyone thinks, learns, interacts and builds relationships differently. Managers should learn to integrate this uniqueness into their overall plan. 

Respecting that fact has made me interact more compassionately and better fine tune development efforts. I consider how prepared each individual in my team needs to feel to do their best work, as well as what drives them and will challenge them. It also helps tailor individual recognition.

Break ground by learning from a more experienced version of you.’’

What advice do you have for other women who manage teams or aspire to?

Women are natural empathic listeners. Use this quality to earn the trust and rally your team towards a cause/vision. At the same time, speak up and be heard. All too often, women fall back on “saying less is more” or presume that they cannot speak up without knowing every detail. It’s important to strike the right balance.

And finally, if you are just starting out as a people manager, find a mentor. Break ground by learning from a more experienced version of you.

 

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