Voices in Tech: Why networking is important for women in tech

Developing a skill that can be practiced and perfected
By: | Issue: July, 2019
June 7, 2019
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Beverly Magda, an associate provost at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania, has over 20 years of experience working on large-scale systems projects and organizational systems changes. Her experience led to publications and presentations about technology change. She holds a doctorate in systems engineering, a Master of Science in telecommunications management and a Bachelor of Science in computer science.

She will speak about the importance of women networking to women, especially in STEM, as part of the Women in Technology summit at UB Tech® 2019, held June 10-12 in Orlando.

Why is networking especially important for women?

Some women just feel uncomfortable with networking—putting themselves out there, speaking up for themselves and promoting themselves. But networking is important to help women navigate their career paths. It’s not only about the people who we meet along the way who could provide us with growth opportunities; it’s about having a networking group day to day. I call it your personal board of directors—people you can count on for career or personal advice. You need a group that you can call when you’re about to commit career suicide.

My personal board of directors work in nonprofit, for-profit, and they’re CIOs in academia and in finance. It’s having that diverse group or that personal board of directors that you can count on to help you navigate your career.

Is networking different for women and men?

I find that some women just aren’t as comfortable as we feel that men can be with networking and building a group network. It’s harder, even for me, to be able to say, “I have this skill set. I have this.” And I think as women, we just don’t do that as much as men. We don’t want to brag. We consider it bragging. But I’m just telling the facts. Yes, I’m a woman with a doctorate in STEM.

Women need to realize that they’re valued more than they believe they are.

How can women build more confidence in the workplace?

You need to recognize that you have certain skill sets and you’re leading innovation. You are just stating facts. That’s where your network comes in. These people can remind you of where you started and where you are now. You can ask for what you want. You can negotiate. You have the upper hand. Nobody did this for you. You need someone to pump you up and tell it like it is. But you also need someone to remind you what not to do. These people don’t have to be your best friends. I don’t even hear from some of them until I have a problem. In general, people want to help.

What important skills are needed for successful networking?

Confidence and being able to think about the skill sets you have are important. You can actually reflect upon them yourself: “I’ve done this for so many years. I’ve done that for so many years. I can offer someone help with that.” Someone might not be comfortable saying, “I do this, this and this.” So they can say, “I have the skill set. How can I help you?” It’s important to reflect on your value. In order to be a leader, you need certain qualities, and having the ability to network is one of them, even if it means getting out of that comfort zone.

Can we apply the same skills in our everyday work?

Absolutely. Networking skills are not just important as we climb the ladder of success; we need them in everyday business. It’s important to be able to build relationships and a network at work. Building relationships is critical not only for developing your career externally but also internally.

Melissa Nicefaro is deputy program director for UB Tech® 2019.


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