These Seattle Tech Managers Share Advice for Carrying the Torch of Women in Leadership

From civil service to corporate leadership, firsts in women’s leadership pave the way for those that follow. Built In Seattle sat down with contemporary tech leaders to gather their advice on guiding the next generation of managers in tech.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Dec. 29, 2022
These Seattle Tech Managers Share Advice for Carrying the Torch of Women in Leadership
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In the evolution of women’s leadership, every first begets another. 

Before there was the first woman governor Nellie Tayloe Ross, first full-term woman senator Hattie Wyatt Caraway and first woman Vice President Kamala Harris, there was Bertha Knight Landes — who, in Seattle, became the first woman mayor of a major American city in 1926.

Well ahead of her time, Landes pushed the limits of her role, advocating for the moral and infrastructural cornerstones that would support Seattle’s evolution into a diverse coastal metropolis. Leaving behind a legacy of altruism and pragmatism, Landes ushered in the city’s industrial boom, which set the stage for Seattle’s metamorphosis into one of America’s most promising tech hubs. 

Landes’ spirit of innovation lives on in Seattle’s contemporary tech scene, where women in tech carry the torch of intentional leadership. Convoy Engineering Manager Anila Anitha sees people managers as modern pioneers — she recommends leaning into one’s firsthood. 

“As people leader, you are always acting as a trailblazer for others to follow,” Anitha told Built In. “Don’t hesitate if your style of leadership looks different than other leaders you know or if you don’t see role models who look like you.” 

Swiftly Vice President of Sales Engineering Talia Nour-Omid shared her community-minded guidance with Built In.

“Advocate for yourself,” Nour-Omid said. “But advocate even more strongly for your team.” 

Elevating those who follow is a common theme in women’s leadership. It is a mindset that Landes championed often — and one which both Nour-Omid and Anitha echoed. 

“Use your leadership position as a platform to amplify the voices of the lesser heard,” Convoy’s Anitha said. “Lift folks up who can go miles with your support and sponsorship.

 

Talia Nour-Omid
Vice President Sales Engineering • Swiftly

 

Swiftly aims to provide technology and solutions for retailers worldwide. Founded in 2018, Swiftly offers solutions designed to drive engagement and empower retailers to own the digital relationship with their customer. Vice President of Sales Engineering Talia Nour-Omid strives to gather insights on her team starting with the interview process. She looks for three primary qualities: a sense of wisdom, intellectual curiosity and intrinsic motivation. “People who are willing and able to teach are better at putting the team before the self,” Nour-Omid explained to Built In Seattle. “I’m also interested in people who ask not just the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ — and those who understand what drives them.” 

 

Briefly describe your career journey and your current role.

I’ve always had a passion for solving problems and building things. Software engineering and product management were a natural career progression for me. I’ve worked at large and small companies and have been fortunate to grow my expertise with each new opportunity. 

My background includes various product management roles at larger companies such as Nordstrom, Mint.com, and Disney — as well as leadership roles in product and user experience at startups like Earny. In my current role as head of product at Swiftly, I have had the opportunity to build product and engineering teams from the ground up.

The better I understand an employees’ personal drive, the more I can support their growth.”

 

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?

As much as I enjoy building technology, I am far more passionate about building high-performing teams — and that begins with the people. The better I understand an employees’ personal drive, the more I can support their growth. 

Taking the time to learn what makes each employee tick and how they need to be supported allows me to create an environment that leads to a stronger and more cohesive team.

 

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

Make sure your team has the tools and processes they need to be successful. Act transparently and give feedback generously. Finally, take a personal interest in your team’s growth. 

 

 

An image of Convoy's offices.
Convoy

 

Anila Anitha
Engineering Manager • Convoy

 

Convoy’s mission is to transform the trucking industry. Convoy uses machine learning and automation to move millions of truckloads to benefit the shipper and carrier marketplace and eliminate carbon waste. To tap into the motivation of her team, Engineering Manager Anila Anitha focuses on three action items: active listening, vision-setting and clear communication. “First, understand your team’s personal goals — and what brings them joy,” Anitha told Built In Seattle. “Second, paint a clear picture of the ‘Northstar Vision,’ and, finally, communicate a clear framework that empowers individuals to own the micro-decisions that deliver results.”  


 

Briefly describe your career journey and your current role.

I am an electrical engineer — working in embedded systems, writing software on physical products — by education and a builder at heart. I woodwork and cook as hobbies. Building beautiful products and figuring out the most optimal way to obtain maximum utility has always been a passion of mine in everything I do. I found the most practical combination and application of my skills and interests in my role as an engineering leader. 

I currently lead engineering for an incubation program at Convoy. We are small, tight-knit group that is building the next big thing for the company. This involves leading through fast-learning iterations to build the right product for the customer and then scaling it. My team operates like a startup within a startup and the journey is as exciting as it is challenging.

Own what you bring to the table and lean on your strengths.”

 

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 have learned that tapping into motivation is the most sustainable way to build engaged teams and delightful products. 

As a people manager, I view myself as someone who empowers people, channels their energies and accelerates the group to achieve goals — be it in building products or their own careers.

 

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

Own what you bring to the table and lean on your strengths.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Convoy, Swiftly and Shutterstock.

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