Leadership in the tech industry is critical, and women, in particular, have to shatter the glass ceiling to reach these leadership roles. Noemi Leon, Lead Engineer at Athenaworks has over a decade of experience in tech, leading engineering teams and advocating for diversity and inclusion in tech. In this post, Noemi will share her insights and advice on effective ways to be a leader in tech and continuously improve. Whether you’re an experienced tech leader or aspiring to become one, this post will provide valuable tips and strategies to navigate the challenges of the tech industry and enhance your leadership skills.
Characteristics of a Good Leader
When it comes to effective communication strategies for leaders, Noemi emphasizes the importance of being direct and clear. Clear expectations, rules, and goals can significantly reduce misunderstandings. She recommends addressing misunderstandings through direct calls rather than relying solely on messaging. No question should be deemed as dumb, and it’s crucial not to take things personally.
“Communication is always difficult but in remote teams it could become even harder. But if expectations, rules and goals are clear, that would mean less misunderstandings.”
Noemi believes in leading by example when it comes to fostering open communication among team members. By making herself approachable and encouraging team members to share their concerns, questions, and suggestions, she sets the stage for a collaborative and communicative environment. When communication gaps occur, Noemi emphasizes the importance of addressing them openly, allowing the team to understand the significance of effective communication and collaboration.
“When things happen due to lack of communication, I emphasize what we lacked and what we can do to correct it in the future, this way, people are able to see for themselves how important communication and collaboration are.”
Building trust within a team is a gradual process, and Noemi suggests promoting trust within the team rather than forcing it. “Trust is something that develops through time,” she says. By working as a cohesive team, seeking input from team members, being open about client interactions, and acting as a supportive leader, trust can be nurtured. Noemi highlights the importance of being there for the team, not just for task assignments, but as a reliable backup in challenging situations.
When it comes to conflict, Noemi approaches it among team members with a focus on collaboration. Emphasize the need to find a midpoint that allows the team to move forward, even when differing opinions arise. By establishing clear rules and values from the beginning, conflicts can often be prevented altogether.
As a leader, Noemi believes in demonstrating the behaviors she expects her team to emulate. By practicing what she preaches, she establishes credibility and respect among her team members. Noemi also acknowledges the importance of allowing team members to gain experience and learn from their own consequences, as long as it doesn’t cause irreversible damage to the project.
“For example, a leader may establish “it’s important to document the project setup”. A month after that, a new team member needs to set the project up from the ground, finding no documentation was created. Now the team member who should have created the doc now needs to assist the new team member. That would imply time and effort, and you may hear “Damn, I should have created that doc”.
Continuous Improvement as a Leader
Feedback plays a crucial role in self-improvement, according to Noemi. By accepting feedback as a friend rather than an enemy, leaders can gain valuable insights into their weaknesses and strengths, enabling them to grow and develop. Setting achievable goals and tracking progress through open communication are essential aspects of continuous improvement.
Well-defined objectives are essential to achieve progress, since without them the team can be lost and without direction. Recognize what is possible and achievable, defining unattainable goals will be frustrating and counterproductive.
To continue learning and developing as a leader, Noemi learns from others’ experiences through various mediums such as blog posts, conference talks, and books. As a leader, she encourages team members to do the same.
“I am aware that this depends a lot on the professional objectives of each one, but an important contribution of a leader is to function as a guide to share areas of opportunity, virtues, as well as suggestions to achieve their professional objectives.”
Challenges Faced by Women in Tech Leadership
Noemi candidly addresses the issue of gender bias and stereotypes in the tech industry. She believes in speaking up directly against such biases and making minorities aware of the importance of shattering the glass ceiling.
“I am not afraid or embarrassed to speak directly about it. If I come across a situation that shows differences of this type, I do not remain silent, even if it does not affect me directly or solely. I am aware that seeing situations and ignoring them also makes you part of the problem.”
When I asked Noemi why she decided to work in Athenaworks she highlighted that the culture of the company really caught her attention, and seeing women in leading roles. It was an opportunity to work in an environment that not only valued her expertise but also celebrated and empowered women in tech leadership. The presence of women in influential positions showcase a commitment to diversity and inclusion, which aligned deeply with her own values. Athenaworks provides the ideal platform to make a meaningful impact, lead engineering teams, and advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Noemi also acknowledges the struggle of achieving work-life balance and advises prioritization and self-management as crucial elements, saying “I have learned that time is a treasure, and that part of being a leader also involves prioritizing and managing myself correctly.”
Noemi believes mentorship and support play a vital role in the journey of women in tech leadership. She highlights the transformative power of guidance and support and encourages women to seek mentorship within communities and organizations.
“Reach out to communities near you or online: Women TechMakers, Women Who Code, Latinas in tech, etc. For what it’s worth, I’ve offered one-on-one mentoring to minorities for a few years now, free of charge. Regularly, sessions of 30 minutes a month. Whether for technical or career issues.”
If you are passionate about your job, you could be a great leader. It does not matter what your level of seniority is, nor the position you hold. Leadership is a set of skills that we all can develop and that will also boost your career while you raise others.