Be the Change You Want to See in the World

A big thank you to Anna Baram and Mika Matsumura who captured the key messages of the speakers.

On Thursday, May 16, FWSF held our signature “Master Class: Lessons in Leadership” event featuring a panel of distinguished women leaders in the technology industry: Irina Berkon (CFO and Board Member of Metallicus), Shannon Nash (CFO of Nash, an Alphabet company), and Shannon Power (CFO of Scope AR), moderated by Liz Fisher (certified health coach and former FWSF Board Member).

Four panelists

The panelists offered their candid perspectives on what leadership means to them, discussed challenges and pivotal moments they encountered in their careers, and shared the lessons they learned along their leadership journeys.

The panelists cited a number of challenges that they overcame in their careers, including being often underestimated and not considered for promotion as a woman, double standards on female ambition in terms of how much one may be able to express one’s desire to advance, and common regrets when they had to make trade-off decisions balancing their families and careers.  In terms of work/life balance, they shared that they learned to have a longer-term view, making sure that they spend quality time with their loved ones, rather than worrying about the quantity of time.

Moderator and panel of four women

Some of the valuable lessons learned discussed by the panelists included:

  • Leadership can be learned through imitation, iteration, and appropriate rewards. Even bad leadership examples may present great material to learn from. 
  • It is important to be authentic and incorporate personal experiences to help one grow as a leader.
  • Shannon Nash shared personal anecdotes that are powerful reminders that every obstacle presents an opportunity for growth and development. Every career has ups and downs. Be responsive to critical feedback, it’s an opportunity to course correct and become better.  Cultivate resilience and tenacity to withstand the down times.
  • Shannon Power highlighted the importance of actively seeking guidance from experienced leaders and building a strong support network – visibility and mentorship are crucial factors in career advancement. Learn how to navigate positioning yourself for future opportunities in your organization.
  • Irina Berkon underscored the importance of diversity in driving organizational success. Diverse leadership teams bring a wealth of perspectives to the table, resulting in more creative solutions and better outcomes.
  • Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Create the right role for each team member – it will be a win/win for both the company and the employee.
  • Emotional intelligence is critical for leaders. Per Maya Angelou’s famous quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
  • Share the credit, own the responsibility.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people.
  • Give back, lead by example.

The event concluded with a lively Q&A with the audience. The questions touched on the future of the technology industry in San Francisco, the best approach to recruiting staff, and how to ensure equal opportunity access to funding sources for women entrepreneurs.

Women Networking

One question that resonated with all of us: "Are you of the mindset that it's better to wait to get the right people to help your organization accomplish what it needs to, or do you think there are situations where it's better to try someone who may not be the perfect fit for now, but is 'in the seat,' so to speak?" Shannon Nash acknowledged the urgency sometimes necessitated by immediate problems, like the workload associated with an IPO. Shannon Power suggested temporary or contract work as a solution while seeking the right permanent fit and she emphasized hiring for motivation and willingness over specific experience. Irina Berkon noted similarly that she prioritizes attitude and ethics over technical skills.

Women networkinhg

It was an inspiration for all of us in the room to hear the panelists’ stories that were both uplifting and relatable. And it was a call to action for all of us to take the lead!

Women networking at event

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