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Recently we were lucky to have two of the women vice presidents at Cadence – Karna Nisewaner from the Legal team and Alessandra Costa who leads the Field Engineering team in North America – visit India and have interaction sessions with our women employees in several sites. Though the sessions were aimed at women, much of the advice is relevant to everyone who works, irrespective of gender, the type of work you do, location, and size of your organization.
Karna spoke about her unconventional journey from studying for an undergraduate degree in Engineering at Princeton, where (no surprises) she was one of a few women in her classes, to teaching computer science in Singapore and then going on to completing her law degree from UCLA.
I asked her to summarize the three most important take-aways from her talk.
Alessandra, or Ale, spoke about the importance of building a personal brand, and a lot of her talk focused around how to do that.
She started by talking about easily recognizable brands such as Lay’s and Coca Cola, and highlighted how these companies have spent millions of dollars in building up four factors that make up brand value: recognition, trust, financial value and inspiration. She then drew the parallel that women should also build their personal brands at the workplace focusing on these factors, while remaining true to oneself. She maintained that building your personal brand is important not just for yourself, but also for the company and for the community of working women everywhere.
One of the interesting things that Ale said was that when you have to introduce yourself to someone outside the organization, be precise in your description and don’t be shy about talking about how your role is adding value to either the organization or to the customer. Again, it’s about building the brand – being recognized for the work you do, building trust and showing how you and your team add value to the business. As an example, Ale said that when she introduces herself, she tells people that she runs field engineering for Cadence North America, and that field engineering adds value to Cadence and its customers by [XYZ]. She encouraged the audience to write a short personal press release that articulates one’s role in and unique contributions to the organization.
Ale also stressed the importance of networking within the organization. Step out of your office, cubicle or classroom and meet people in other groups. Eat lunch with someone new. This is an easy way to get your name recognized beyond your immediate work group and build your personal brand within the company and community.
And finally, good advice for everyone - say yes to things even if you don’t think you have the perfect, 100% fit for the job. If you are 50% or 60% there, that’s good enough because you can learn the remaining 40% on the job. The benefits of breaking out of your comfort zone are well worth taking a risk.