Women in Sales Blog

Everyone says "We need more women in tech"... I say We need more women to know that they want to be in tech

Posted by Feb 14, 2014 10:07:00 AM Ali Powell


When I first graduated college I spent the summer in Nantucket working as a nanny and selling belts to people on vacation. I graduated from a small, private liberal arts school in Florida. I have a degree in International Business from Rollins College. 

There are all kinds of women. These women as we know them, started out as young girls. Everyone who talks about women in tech in the media and on blogs seems to write articles about how young women need to be exposed to technology to make them want to be in tech. I like this strategy and I think it is smart.little_girls_have_dream

I agree that we have a lack of women in tech and a lack a women in leadership in companies in general. We should try to change that. But, I do no agree completely with what everyone is saying about exposing young women to tech early- you are saying that just because of being exposed at a young age that will make them want to be in tech at a later age. Don't get me wrong, I do think that is one strategy and one way to help this but I think there is an underlying problem that we need to address. That problem is that young women and women graduating college don't know what types of things a startup or a technology company can offer them. We need to expose these women to what working at a startup or a tech company is like. Not all of  that needs to be focused on getting more women to code or know how to code. I think we have all gotten really stuck on teaching women to code so that this will make women want to be in tech. You don't have to like to code to be an asset to a tech company or startup. We need more women to know this. 

As I said, there are all kinds of little girls who grow up to be the women in our workforce. We need to think about those kinds of people and expose them to the types of things that technology companies offer HUMANS in general, not just women. Women have an unfair advantage right now in the tech space. That is because of all the press we put on this concept of women in tech. So women out there not in tech, which I was one of them once... I wish someone told me flat out why working in technology is cool and why it is great for any person - whether you are a girl or a boy, whether a man or a woman. 

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I want to tell a little story about how I ended up working at a technology company.  I want women graduating college to read this and see that just because you don't code or don't want to that does not mean you shouldn't work in tech or in startups. I don't know how to code. But, I am very, very happy working at a technology company and I want more women like me to be exposed to how I got here. I want more women like myself working in tech because we can make our companies better. My CEO always asks me why I am good at this job and I always try to explain why. He asks me questions how my background and if any of that has to do with how or why I am good at what I do here. I think it does have a lot to do with why I am successful and happy working here at a software company. 10 years ago if you told me I would be selling software, I would have laughed at you. I want more women to know that software companies, tech in general give women (and men) the opportunity to be yourself and chart your own course. If I had known that earlier I would have started my career in tech and startups earlier than I did. 

Here is my story on how I ended up in tech. I hope this helps other women who are graduating college and don't know what to do with their lives to think about tech, software, and startups as a great option for their career. I also hope this might touch women in the corporate world who don't know why they are there and feel like there is something more they could be doing. I was one of them and am so thankful I am not still there. 

Before I came to HubSpot 3 1/2 years ago I worked in the corporate world. I hatedddddddddd it! I only did it because I thought I had to. I didn't know about this "tech world" I live and breathe now. I wish I had and if I hadn't had the type of curiosity my parents genes fortunately gave me then I might still be sitting in a cubicle at this moment wondering what could be out there. Curiosity is something that has helped me get to where I am now. Curious people are good fits for startups and for technology companies. 

After college I knew that I would probably move to NYC or Boston, where I was from and where my family lived. I ended up moving to Nantucket for the summer and into the fall of that first year I graduated. I did that because I wasn't ready to face the real world. I didn't know what I wanted and I knew that I wanted to put it off. I knew that I wanted to spend one last summer having fun and not worrying about the real world where I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life... 

At some point my parents who are successful business people started asking me when I was going to move on from the summer. When I was going to get a "real job" and when I was going to come home and pursue a "real career." As if a nannying gig wasn't good enough because that is not what someone should do with a business degree. 

I finally got the itch myself. I got the itch to do more than I was doing. I started wondering what more I could be doing and as summer came to a wind down I was ready to figure out what I wanted to do. Lesson here for parents who want their kids to do something more- let them figure it out on their own time because you pressuring them probably won't help, it will probably cause them to not want to do "more" even more. 

After I got that itch to do something "real" I moved back home and started applying for jobs. Yikes, that was not fun by the way. It was super, super hard. What did I have that others didn't? What is my value prop? What type of job could I get? What was I worthy of? 

Honestly- not much. It seemed like everything I thought I deserved to do for a job was not something I was a good match for. I needed more experience - hiring managers and other people I interviewed with kept telling me I needed more experience for the jobs I wanted. Well, wait a second I thought...I don't have experience in that because no one has ever let me do that. How I am supposed to get more experience in something if no one gives me a chance to prove myself. Prove that I can do the job that I was applying for. I wish I known that startups and tech companies were a good place to scratch that itch that I had. For some reason I was too big for my britches and felt like I was a good applicant for jobs I was applying for. Those big corporate companies didn't think that. I would have to settle for some stupid, entry level job because that's all I knew that I could do. women_in_tech_-_we_need_to_expose_more_women_to_tech

I was not getting job offers left and right. Like most people out of school - getting a job is not an easy feat. I think there are reasons for that as well because we don't do a good job as a whole helping young people know how to pursue things that would make them happy and in turn help them get jobs that would help make them happy and provide value to the world. That is for another day. 

I started applying for jobs in finance like everyone else who I graduated with.  Woohoo- like every other girl or boy after college with a bachelors degree in somethin to do with business. I am not an Ivvy league graduate, I am not a genius. We need more everyday, hard workers in tech.  I am not talking about how to get into tech from those perspectives. So please don't take it that way. I am talking about how do we get more women like myself who didn't know it existed, women with real goals and just don't know that this world exists. I would bet that women graduating from Ivvy League schools were exposed to the idea of startups and tech before I was.  

Here is my story summed up and I am only going to tell this because I want you to understand that if I had known about tech jobs earlier in my life and what they offered someone like myself I would have (HELL YES) been applying at startups and tech companies instead of huge banks, and finance places. Those huge banks and corporations that people like myself when graduating think they should work at are in fact not the best choices for people like myself.  We as women and people in tech owe it to those women who are sitting in cubicles right at this very moment wondering what else they could be doing with their time instead of something that doesn't matter to anyone and more importantly doesn't matter to them. 

  • I graduated with a bachelors degree in International Business from Rollins College in 2006. I come from a normal family who worked hard to get where they are today. My parents are successful and they have instilled a great work ethic in me. I have a lot to be thankful for. 
  • I moved to Nantucket for the summer and had fun selling belts on main street. 
  • I moved home and started to apply for jobs at big banks and corporations and "networked" because that is all I knew I should do with a business degree. I didn't know what startups were and what tech companies were because no one ever exposed it to me in a way  that made it intriguing to my personality and my goals that I had for myself. 
  • I worked at US Trust Private Wealth Management under Bank of America for 3 years. It was a good three years of my life and I learned a ton working for 2 very smart women who have influenced my career and life probably more than they know that they did. People always ask me know why I am good at sales at HubSpot. What makes me good at what I do today - I always say my time in private wealth management helped form me into the sales person that I am today. I learned how to work for CEOs, how to do weird things, do things I didn't know how to do, do things that I didn't know what their importance was to my role, I learned how to work with people in general. I worked with CEOs and high net worth people who seemed to be of a higher class than me and I thought I had something to learn from them. Little did I know that these 3 years would form my way of doing business. I an not scared to talk to anyone. That makes me pretty good at sales. I don't worry about calling or talking to a CEO. I don't worry about having a huge meeting with a bunch of VPs. I live off of that stuff, I like it, no I love it. But, if I had not worked with these type of people at US Trust I don't know if I would be saying that right now.
  • I left US Trust because I always had this little voice inside of me telling me that I should help people. I didn't think that working at a bank was helping people. I wanted to try working at a non profit and see if that was my calling. I worked for a non profit for about 6 months, was laid off and honestly even while working there knew it wasn't my calling. I thought working at a non profit would help me to impact the world more than I could in working in the business world. I was wrong, I didn't like the messiness and the  mentality of working at a non profit.  I still had an itch inside and I didn't know how to tackle it.
  • When I got laid off from my non profit job I left the building really sad. The cab driver took me to my little studio in beacon hill and I cried a lot that night. I think I drank some wine too and tried to wash away the fact that I left a great job at US Trust to take a stab at working at a non profit. What the Heck was I thinking....I thought I mad a mistake. But, looking back all of these jobs and moments help shape me into who I am today.
  • I have a natural drive inside of me ALWAYS ....no literally always going, something always telling me do something more, do something bigger, do something more, etc. It never stops. That might be a good thing because that is what kept me wondering the years before I came to HubSpot what I could do more of. I always think there is something more, I still do. That has not changed. I woke up the morning after getting laid off and reset. I starting thinking about what I really wanted in life. No not, like I want to buy an apartment in 3 years type of thing, more like what makes me happy. What type of work environment do I want and why. I started to ask myself questions about what I wanted in life right not and not years from now. I started to get to work finding what that type of company might be. what_would_you_try_if_you_had_no_fear
  • My work became the job boards, Monster, etc. I was always looking up companies and looking up jobs that I thought I might be good at. I finally found a sales job at UPS where I could get paid a good amount of money and keep working on the fact that I thought I wanted to be in sales...I still don't know why I thought I wanted to be in sales. Maybe it was my Dad, because he leads a group of recruiters. Who knows...but for some reason I thought I would be good at Sales. I got a job at UPS working as a sales rep managing some accounts in Boston. Apparently the Boston location was a good one and I was lucky to have that territory. I didn't feel lucky though. I didn't like my job at all but I was not going to fail. I was going to do really well and crush it at that job. Even if I didn't like it. I knew there was something more for me, I knew I needed a pay check and needed to have a job to keep learning things about "sales." So I worked at UPS for about  7 months. Not that long but long enough to solidify what I like and don't like about work places. I didn't like certain things about working at UPS and for Bank of America earlier in my career. There were similar things at both places that I didn't like and I needed to remember those things while I was looking for my calling.  I don't like when people tell me what time I need to be at work, what time I have to be at my desk, what I need to do everyday to see a certain output that my job requires of me. Why should someone tell me those things? Why can't I tell myself what I need to do to get the output that my job requires. I constantly got scolded by my manager. Who to set the record, I really, really, really liked her. She was so sweet and I think she knew that I was not a good fit for UPS. She would take me aside a lot and tell me I was late for work. I don't know about you but I have a hard time getting anywhere by 8 AM SHARP. So, long story short - I didn't and don't like being told what to do. If I am not doing a good job, no rather  great job at something then you as my  manager have the right to tell me I am not. BUT, until that happens trust me and trust that what I am doing is correct and what I need to do to do my job to get the output expected. 
  • I started writing articles for BostInnovation around that time. I spent every single night at startup events. Which even at that point  I still didn't really know why I was doing what I was doing. It was giving me some joy outside of what I was doing at this dumb corporate job everyday. I was happy at night because I was doing something that I felt like I was learning something.  I was on my path to learning about what makes someone a good fit to work in technology and startups. I found out a couple things while writing for BostInno. I realized that I like to learn. I was going to these events with startups at night, going to talks by startup founders, etc and writing recaps about those events. I have always liked learning and am always trying to learn something. These events and writing about them, looking back I realize that I was learning something and that excited me. After learning about startups and tech companies I started to get intrigued by their way of life. I wanted that way of life and was going to find a way to get it. 
  • Startups seemed to be the type of company that would fit what I wanted to do in life. Tech companies, people who worked at startups, etc - they seemed fun, they seemed like they were always learning, seemed like they were smart and hardworking but also were always trying to do something MORE, something BIGGER> ah ha moment happened. a_ha_momentThat is what I wanted. I wanted to learn everyday, I wanted to work hard, I wanted to be valued, I wanted to do things the way I wanted to do them, I wanted to be able to make a difference in the world or something I cared about. All these moments in my early professional career and probably even my childhood lead me to be curious about the type of company I wanted to work at. I was lucky that I had this type of curiosity because it lead me to a startup. But, what about those women out there who know they deserve to work at a company like mine but don't know they exist and don't know that tech companies have jobs that they would be good at? 

Technology and startups seemed like the natural fit. 

I started to follow HubSpot and apparently the head recruiter started following me too. I was so excited when I started interviewing at HubSpot because I knew this was my chance to get out of the corporate world and start to do something where I actually felt at home and actually felt like I was valued. 

Here is what I wish I had known that startups and tech companies provided people like me. If I had known these things when I was graduating  maybe I would be further along in my career in tech than I am now. I constantly say this to the younger girls in sales with me here at HubSpot. But, I started my career in tech and startups when I was 25. I wasted a few years of my life to the corporate world. I hope that maybe some other people gradating out there don't waste their time like I did. If I had known about startups and tech I think I would have been working in them all along. 

Finance and big corporate companies are not your only way to get a job and make a career for yourself.


Startups and tech companies don't need just engineers they need people like you and I too.


Figure out what you are passionate about or what you like then try and find a company that has that type of vision too. Startups are a good place to do this because they all have this HUGE vision or mission that you can be excited about too.


Women_in_tech-1If you love learning, startups and tech are a great place to do that. A normal company is not going to give you that.


Stop thinking about what everyone is telling you to do and think about what you want. Think about what makes you happy and discover cultures and companies where you know that culture will match. 


Do you like to get to work whenever you want? Do you like open cultures? If you hate when people tell you that things are done a certain way just because then come work for tech!   If you want to be your own person then tech and startups might be a good fit.

Technology companies and startups will let you do the things that you want to do. We need to stop talking about getting more women in tech but rather exposing more women to what technology has to offer them. 

Now I can get behind that. 
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Topics: Women in startups, Women in Tech, women in sales, Women in Tech Events, women in technology

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