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The Road To Leadership

Camila Kill speaking at TECH(K)NOW Day in March, 2017
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About this talk

Camila will take the journey of how to progress into a leadership position. If you are wondering how to start, of even if you are close to taking that next step, this talk is for you.


I'm Camila Kill. I joined as Technology Director, and I'm really passionate about helping people realise their full potential by going to leadership positions if that's what they want to do. So hopefully, I'm gonna share with you today a little bit about my experience and how you can also do that, basically. So, how does the journey begin? I guess the first thing that people go through when they want to kind of go into leadership is looking at what does it actually mean and how do I get there, and it can be really overwhelming, or people potentially don't believe in themselves or think that it's something too far away from it. So, I'm gonna share with you seven steps that will make it a little bit less daunting and easier for you to kind of take that road as well. So, how do I know it's for me? I guess the first thing that I'd like to bring is that it might not be for you. So it doesn't mean if you are in a technical industry or if you are working, the way is not always up. You can always improve your career and go into more kind of niche markets or looking at how you can contribute in different ways, but you don't necessarily need to go into a management position or a leadership position. It's not all that you can do. But if you feel like it is for you or if you would like to get help trying to understand whether or not it's for you, then look at the signs. So normally, you are already someone that is comfortable where you are with the role you're in, you understand the bigger picture, you ask the right questions, people come to you for help, you can translate the business needs into the technology that can be answering those questions. So you can listen to those signs and actually realise that you're probably a little bit further than you expected you to be anyway. The other thing that is really natural is when people come to you for answers or to make tough decisions for them. So they trust that you've got that capability to kind of go that step further from them, so you can then realise oh actually, I've got that potential to be in that leadership position because other people already demonstrate they trust me. So it's one of the kind of key signs that you can have as well. From my experience, and I'll be sharing a little bit of my experience throughout the presentation, that's how it happened to me. I felt a lot of ownership from what I was trying to deliver back when I was a software developer, and it was really important to me to always know the reasons why we were doing something and actually understand what impact we would be making. And people did come to me for those tough decisions: what can we do, if something goes wrong and the systems go down, how can we fix it, how do we organise ourselves to try and find out what the problem is. So, I then realised that I had that potential in me. I guess ultimately as well, if you are thinking about leadership, try and understand if you care about the other people in the team, you know, would you be interested in improving their careers as well, because once you go into a leadership position you have that sense of caring and sharing with your team, with your peers, so that everybody grows with you and that's something really important when you are looking to be in a leadership position. Okay, so you've made that decision and you think that that's for you, so it's time to get ready basically. There are several ways of doing that, and some people are really lucky and they have managers that really get it and they really try and improve and kind of show the path to the direct reports. But sometimes we are not so lucky and we actually need to take control and be proactive about your own career and how do you get your own, how do you make it happen instead of just waiting for a manager or someone that is already up there to try and help you out. This has happened in my career where I was ready for more, I didn't know what to do, and if it wasn't for me, for my proactiveness, I wouldn't have kind of developed as fast as I probably wanted to at the time. So it's really important to take control and be proactive, so if there is anything from this presentation that hopefully you take away today, it's about being proactive and actually taking control. It's your career, it's what you want, and you can ask for help, but actually if you are really ready for it, then you can take control and you can make it happen basically. So that you can get ready, the first thing that you need to do is look at your strengths and weaknesses. So what you basically could be doing is okay, so where do I want to get to right now? As a stepping stone, for example, you want to manage a small team or you want to kind of just progress one step into your career. So, do some research. Try and understand what is it that that next role needs. There will be things that you already know but there will be extra things that you haven't been exposed to or you don't even realise that it's needed. What I have done in the past is I looked at job specs of roles, similar roles that I would be focusing on, looking at what the requirements were there, or people that I already knew from my network that were doing that job, then I wanted to know a little bit about their career and how they got there and what is really important for you and what do you do on a daily basis that is really challenging. Talk to your manager. Come to your manager and say look, I've been thinking about what I want to do and I'd like to brainstorm with you some options. It still doesn't seem too clear for me what my possibilities are, so it would be really interesting to try and do some brainstorming with you and try and understand, because you know my strengths, you could potentially help me find what I should be focusing on. And once you've got a little bit more of an understanding of what is required for this next step, then you can do some self-reflecting and try and understand what it is that you already have in the bag, I don't need to worry about this, I can do this with my eyes closed, or what is it that you know that potentially you struggle or you sometimes come across quite confident on this particular topic, but actually behind the scenes you're really nervous and you could do with some more practising or anything like that. So, it's really important. Again, because you took control of your career and you know where you want to get to, you are the best person to also have that very sincere kind of talk to yourself to understand where is it that I know I have to work on before I can even consider trying to put myself out there. A lot of you will be able to tell. But, without also asking other people and getting feedback sometimes we have blind spots where we don't really realise that we need something and only feedback will help us. So feedback is a very powerful tool, and it also should be with you throughout your career, not only for leadership positions, but actually for any career, really any work that you do. With feedback though it's important for you to explain to people what is it you're trying to achieve because one thing is to say how did I do today with that meeting, the other thing is to say look, I'm looking into my next step and this is what I've been thinking about and doing this time of role, and it would be really helpful if you could tell me what you think that potentially could be my blind spots if I actually am in that role. And it's very important to kind of make the feedback process something really relaxed and comfortable for that person to actually be able to give you the feedback. If they think you're gonna be offended or you're not gonna understand what they mean or anything like that, then they are more likely to just say oh no, you're fine, you can do it with your eyes closed. But actually what you want is you want those people to actually be telling you what you need to hear so that you can then concentrate on improving those things. What has worked for me was trying to go for a coffee with someone and just explaining where I was at and trying to get some feedback. You can make it as relaxed or as formal as possible. I mean it depends on how you prefer things. Or you can even ask your manager to ask feedback to other people because then they are more likely to tell your manager what they think you should be improving on. It's really important to be humble and try and not take it personally but actually take advantage of those feedback and working on it. So, you've then got all this feedback, you've done your self discover, you know where you want to get to, now you just need to understand how you can bridge that gap, and bridging that gap can be quite straightforward or it can be complicated. But what I would suggest to do is you collect everything that you know you need to be ready for, put aside the things that you already have a grasp on, or things that you really kind of already have control of, and then look at your weaknesses, and try and prioritise your weaknesses as to what potentially something that is damaging my career right now, do I need to fix that even for the current role? Because sometimes we are looking at the next step, but actually other people will go well, hang on a minute, before you do that, you've got to go back a little bit and just fix this couple of things here. So, you have to then just kind of get a good understanding of your priorities and then try and focus on what you should be improving first. What I would suggest as well is that you focus on quick wins. Sometimes when you want to get to that next step, there are simple things that potentially you weren't focusing on before, but now suddenly you've realised that you've got this feedback and you actually understood that you need to be able to demonstrate that straightaway. So things like being more organised, arriving on time, setting expectations. If you've got something to do and it's gonna take you three days, but you're only gonna start next week, then set the expectation with the person that is gonna wait for that piece of work and say look, this is my schedule, so I've got to do all of these other things first, so this will be ready for you but only next week, if you need it prioritised then we can discuss. Or things like starting to ask about the bigger picture and trying to understand why you are doing something. Okay, you've got to fix this problem on the website, but why is that? Is it really important? And if you know the reasons why you are doing something, sometimes it becomes even kind of more interesting, or you're even more passionate about making that change and fixing that problem or bringing other people with you to be able to do that faster. The other thing that is important there is we might be trying to fix too many things at the same time, but it's important for you to try and fix things in the pace that you believe you're gonna be able to achieve them. There's no point trying to change 10 things on your daily activities, because you'll be very stressed and you'll be then letting go of some other good practises that you've done before. So try and find the pace that is right for you. And then there'll be other weaknesses that you actually need more help or you need a little bit more time to work on, they're a little bit more complex, it's not from one day to another that you'll be able to do it. The important thing here, and I phrase it kind of that is really important is because you know your pace, you know how you like to learn things, you know what works for you. For example for me, I google things first, I watch YouTube videos on any topic that I've got difficulties on, and then I find people within my network that I can get some coaching or get explanation, and then it suddenly becomes a topic that is not as daunting to me anymore. And then further from there I get some feedback on what's the best way for me to learn anything else, do I know enough of what I should have the knowledge of these topic, or do I need to go and do a course. Some companies do kind of learning and development courses in leadership and things like that. So, it's always important to expose yourself to those because then you start realising oh, okay, so I think I need to actually research these other things a little bit more. Taking to your manager, trying to see how you could kind of bridge that gap. Once you've gone through that process of getting yourself ready on those topics that weren't necessarily as natural to you, then the next step is to try and get out of your comfort zone. Trying to get out of your comfort zone is really difficult sometimes because you're stepping to the unknown and you don't know how well or how badly you're gonna get out of it. But it's really important and you can do it in a very safe way or you can do it in a more kind of bold way as well. So, why is this important? This is important because that's how you would demonstrate to other leaders in your organisation or where you are that you are becoming ready for the next step. Also, sometimes it may feel like you are potentially doing more work than you should be doing, but actually what you are doing is you're taking advantage of the opportunities and you're learning it with a little bit more practise, and actually that's only gonna be positive for you as an outcome in the long run. So some examples of how you would do it is being proactive, adding value, trying to champion initiatives that potentially you wouldn't have done before, offer help to other people, expose yourself to new things, and build key relationships with other people in other teams or things that you would potentially need to trust on when you get to that next level. While you're in that stage it's also important to try and realise whether or not this was actually the right decision. Is this really what I want? If you feel like now that you're doing all these other things you miss actually being in your old job and doing your old tasks, then potentially maybe now is not the time, you could wait a little bit, another couple of years or anything. But try and understand if you're just afraid or if you're just kind of not feeling confident, or if it's because you really didn't enjoy it. And then you start creating the opportunities. Again, you can be very lucky where you're just kind of coming to work one day and suddenly the opportunity is there, or you can take control, you can be proactive, and you can start having those conversations, and really bringing the opportunity to you. So talking to your manager, try and explain, look, I now feel ready, can we find something that I would then be exposing myself a little bit more formally into that role, even if it's just a secondment or anything like that. And then hopefully those opportunities will be coming up. The other thing that is also important is trying to understand what are your responsibilities right now, how can you share them so that potentially, because you are such an important and single point of failure in terms of knowledge for your team, potentially that might slow you down into getting the new opportunity as well. If your company feels like they really need you for that particular role, it might become more difficult for you to step out into another role, if people feel that they'll be really having this big gap left behind if you're not there. The other thing that is important is sometimes there isn't an opportunity where you are in the company you are, and it might be a time when you have to then think okay, so I know I now need to make a decision about my career, and it could be that you actually need to move on and look for opportunities outside. And it would be a good opportunity to actually look at the industry you are in and really try and find an industry that you really care about and you're passionate about, and then hopefully, that will make your leadership position even easier because you care so much about the subject you are trying to work on. So, congratulations, you made it! Now what? The first three months of your new job can be really difficult and daunting, so what you have to do is just make sure you prepare yourself and kind of make sure you understand that the first three months will be really uncomfortable because you've got to learn so many things and everything is part of your responsibility now. But setting key kind of expectations and objectives with your manager are really gonna help you understand if you are succeeding or not. Sometimes our managers are new as well or they've not done that role before so they won't be able to come and tell you one by one what is there to be done. But you can always go back to them and offer yourself: look, this is what I think my role is, I'm gonna try and achieve that, if you ever change your mind about that, then let's discuss and see. And very important, delegate your old job as quickly as possible because you don't want to have all this extra responsibility now but still be spending time doing your old job. So make sure you find safe ways of delegating what your old job was so that that doesn't come and bite you. And celebrate, relax. But ultimately it's just the beginning, you have to, you know, to be a good leader, it's always about trying to improve yourself on and on and really, you know, I like to think that, if I've been inspired by any manager I had before, then I try and apply those things that I felt were really impactful in my career, and I try and incorporate that into my leadership style as well, and, to be honest, it's a really fun place to be and really rewarding as well. So I'd like to thank you but before I do, I just wanted to present Captain Obvious, which is out representative, and say that is not only passionate about travel, it's also passionate about tech. We have a big team of 150 technologists in the London office and an even bigger team in our partners in Eastern European. So, if you are looking for a leadership position or looking for the next step in your career, then come and have a look at the opportunities at, and I hope to see you soon. Thank you! - [Audience Member] Hi, Camila. Could you tell us where you ask for feedback? Did you find it useful to get feedback from peers as well as manager? I know you talked about getting feedback from manager. But which did you find most useful: from your peers or from the manager? - Yes, I found it really useful to get feedback from peers because it also helped me understand what they thought about me, did they see that I was that leader that could potentially be someone they wanted to report to, or even to find things that I needed to improve for my current role before I would even consider to go next, so it was really useful. - [Audience Member] Hi! Did you find it difficult sometimes as a woman to be a leader in a male environment? How did you cope with any conflicts because of your gender? - Yes, definitely. Really difficult, especially because in technology you have that sense that if you don't know enough about the subject, then potentially you shouldn't speak up, and I, yeah, I came across many occasions where I was even mistaken by someone just organising an event instead of being one participating in the event, so definitely. But what I've done is I tried to play the, oh, I'm not sure what you meant there, type of style, and spoke my mind and I was confident about what I knew, and just kind of took it on. I'm also from Brazil so in the early part of my career I had to not only change the way I dress to be a little bit more kind of in line with my other colleagues and try and not be so girly at work and things like that, but it paid off. And that's one of the reasons why I'm here because I'm really passionate about trying to bring that kind of leadership from females into the technical industry, and I don't want to just kind of impact the generation we have now but also the generations that are being formed right now and actually for them not to have that same kind of limitations and problems that I had when I began. - [Audience Member] When you get responsibility, of course you get stressed and overwhelmed with a lot of tasks, so how do you stay calm and focus and manage to do everything on time? - I think with problems or with big kind of workload I always try and break that big problem down into smaller problems and then suddenly it's not as big anymore because there are things that you know exactly what to do and you know they are really quick and you can do them quickly. There are things that you can delegate to others and you can, yeah, even allow other people to be learning as they go, because you are sharing some of your responsibility with them. And just really trying to think about that kind of moment that you are in and say you know what, I'm safe, I'm fine, there's nothing wrong here, I can just organise myself. And then pick the low hanging apples from the tree, do those, and focus on the things that are really important. So there is always like 20% of your tasks that are really important, they need to be done, and the other things you can set the expectations to people and say I'll get back to you in a week's time, but right now this is my focus, and it's always setting the expectation. And even at home you can always prepare people in your family and other people around you and say look, my next three months will be really manic because I've just kind of got myself into this new role, it's really gonna push me so if you can step in and help out in the house while I can rest. Or make sure you exercise, make sure you eat and drink water, because then you feel like your best and you can tackle those challenges. Okay? - [Moderator] Great! Thanks very much, Camila. - Cool, thank you. - [Moderator] Thank you!