Leadership Lessons Learned from a Female CTO


Today, many government contractors are actively focusing on closing the gender gap and elevating women in technology positions. As more and more women rise through the ranks, most encounter the need to shift their professional profile from a technologist to a business leader in order to continually progress in their careers.

Mastering the fundamentals of executive leadership and personal branding can be especially challenging in the government contracting industry that is known as a risk-averse and a tight-knit marketplace. Here are a few lessons learned from my journey as a female CTO and team leader.

Be Present in Industry Conversations – Most successful executives are trendsetters at heart, however, building up a public image to reflect that in a credible manner can be a daunting task. Technical managers can catapult their career opportunities by participating and influencing industry conversations that drive trends and speak to broader customer needs. Identifying key issues and market triggers and providing your unique point-of-view and expertise can help you become known as a thought leader. Being recognized as a credible industry voice precipitates strategic relationship building and can expedite your career goals.

Embrace the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Regardless of your career trajectory, the responsibilities at the executive level are much greater than those at the manager level. The stakes are higher and the consequences of success or failure have a much bigger impact on the organization as a whole. Generating results becomes more about leading others, rather than individual contributions or excellence in execution.

Leadership development takes years and there will be hiccups and shortfalls along the way. The key is to remember is that growing professionally is a process and there is always room for improvement.

Tell Your Story Proactively – Regardless of how disruptive and innovative your work is, unless you are able to articulate the business benefits it drives for customers, its value (and by extension, your value) may fly under the radar. As technical communities, tools, and platforms continue to multiply daily, it’s easy to build a following and educate customers about the benefits of your technology and expertise. In turn, this will help elevate your personal profile in the industry and allow you to be seen as an influencer.

Become a Connector – Initiating and participating in industry-driving discussions is a great foundational step to developing influence and recognition for yourself. When it comes to executive visibility, serving as a connector between peers and industry experts is one of the most useful competences a future leader can bring to the table.

Whether you are working towards a promotion or want to elevate your profile as an industry leader, there are a lot of benefits in getting involved with networking, opinion leadership, and industry groups. And remember, executive growth is a process and you should embrace the journey.

Laurel Fielding is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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