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ARA Panel at kCura: Building Your Tech Career Toolkit

August 28, 2015

  • Jessica Smith

ARA, the Chicago-based advocacy group for supporting women in tech through mentoring, held a networking and panel event Wednesday night at kCura in the Loop. The ARA panel was their biggest yet, and it seems like their great events just keep getting better.Black twitter bird mobile Click to Tweet.

A Word from the Sponsor

After a great networking hour, the night got underway with remarks from Karen Nowicki and Joe Pantuso, kCura’s engineering directors. They talked about kWOW, kCura’s Women of the Workplace, an open resource group for women in the workplace. Nowicki spoke about the group’s genesis and the eye-opening research showing that workplace teams with women on them are smarter and more productive. Pantuso, one of whose daughters studies Computer Science at Miami of Ohio, shared a few of his “aha moments” around women in technology.

All Star Panel Discussion

The intro was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Sandee Kastrul, President and Co-Founder of i.c.stars. She introduced the all-star panel: Sally Anderson, Head of People Development, Americas Large Customer Sales and Global Clients & Agency Solutions at Google; John Higginson, CTO at Enova; Iman Jalali, Chief of Staff at ContextMedia; and Lou Redmond, Director & Global Head of Technical Recruiting at Motorola Mobility.

The conversation was navigated and led adeptly by Kastrul, an insightful listener and connection maker. Black twitter bird mobileClick to Tweet. She invited discussion with questions like, “How do women advocate for themselves in the workplace?”; “What defines us as a leader?”; “Are there gender-specific gifts/strengths?”; and “What do you recommend for people’s career toolkits?”

ARA Panel Advice Highlights

Wednesday’s panel brought a variety of perspectives and came from men as well as women and included thoughts and advice like:

•  Have uncomfortable conversations. Ask for blunt feedback. Ask hard questions. -Iman Jalali
•  When it comes to career management, you have got to own it. It’s yours to own. The organization doesn’t owe you. -Lou Redmond
•  One of the things you can do to lead in your company is to help onboard new employees. -Sally Anderson
•  You can deliver hard messages, but at the end of the day you have to treat people with humility, dignity.-Lou Redmond
•  If you don’t ask, they can’t say “yes.” -Lou Redmond
•  Show character and aptitude when interviewing. – Iman Jalali
•   I volunteered for a risky career move. It paid off and that taught me to raise my hand -John Higginson
•  Develop a “career board of directors” of people you can trust, lean into. -Sally Anderson

ARA’s Success & Mission

Since ARA’s launch, the organization has had nearly 1,500 people register for their mentoring program. More than 2,500 have registered for ARA events so far. They recently launched ARA Silicon Valley and have five more events planned across the country this year.

“Recently we have seen headlines announcing women leaving tech ‘in droves’ and high-profile discrimination lawsuits. ARA continues to keep its mission focused on pushing the discussion forward, helping women overcome challenges and showcasing the success stories of women working in tech,” said Megan McCann, Co-Founder of ARA, in a recent news release. She added,“We know there is an undeniable lack of women in IT, and it is imperative that men and women alike collaborate and share their perspectives on what is necessary for women to play a more significant role—both in volume and influence—in the tech industry. Our goal is to advance women into leadership roles within the IT community, regardless of market, and to help overcome and change known stereotypes.”

Lextechers are glad to be part of the ARA community and look forward to seeing more from this tremendous group!


Check out kCura’s Twitter aggregation of the event on Storify.

Did you go to this most recent ARA event, or have you been to one? What’s been the best piece of career advice you’ve been given for advancing in the tech field?