The Career-Minded, Curious Mother with Kate Emshoff (2/2)

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Welcome to episode 118 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of our interview with Kate Emshoff and discuss aspects of motherhood and career along with interview considerations and women in technology.

Original Recording Date: 04-06-2021

Kate Emshoff works for Innovatis Group and serves as the Senior Director of Program Management and Operations for VMware User Group (VMUG), one of Innovatis Group’s largest clients. Catch part 1 of our interview with Kate in Episode 117.

Topics – Mother as Part of the Woman, Advice for the Career-Minded Mom, Interview Approaches, and Women in Technology

2:17 – Mother as Part of the Woman

  • Kate’s mother-in-law was a stay at home mom.
  • Kate’s husband has always supported her pursuing a career.
  • Even on days she feels overwhelmed, her husband reminds her that she would be otherwise unhappy and lose her mind if she wasn’t pursuing a career.
    • He knows her well enough to understand she needs to be in a career she loves and enjoys.
    • If she was not, she would feel unfulfilled.
  • Listen to Kate’s story about being able to give her husband the freedom to take risks and make big moves.
  • Does it offend a mother of young children if you say "I could never do that, have a career and be a mother / parent of small children?"
    • Yes. People may not understand it is extremely hard for a mother of small children to go to another country and be away from them.
    • Traveling to other countries made Kate more appreciative of her country and appreciative of how big our world is. She loved being able to give her kids the perspective of different cultures and countries.
    • Listen to her story of having to make a trip to Vienna with less than 24 hours notice, being 12 weeks pregnant, and feeling sick the whole time.
    • This type of feedback from others can make you question your sanity.
  • Does being away from family like this help you be more present when you are with them?
    • Kate knows she and her family have a system that works for them. She is thankful her kids are with people who care when she is away.
    • She sees mother as a part of her but not the entirety of her.
    • Being a mother should not be something we use to define a woman’s capabilities.
    • Kate’s boss at the time of all of her international travel (though a woman) did not have children and couldn’t understand why Kate wanted to take a full 12 weeks of leave to have a baby.
      • Her boss eventually had a baby and finally understood the struggles associated with leaving the country and needing to worry about all business travel related items as well as caring for small children. She and Kate were about to support each other.
    • No one Kate knew was doing anything similar to what she was with the international travel.
      • Kate’s friends said things like "I will travel when my kids are grown" or "now is not the time for me to travel."
  • Nick mentioned Caitlyn Bryan’s story of taking extended maternity leave after initially not knowing if she would take the full time.
    • Kate references a documentary called Zero Weeks about the US and maternity leave.
    • Kate had spoken with the producer of this film about being filmed at the office, but it never came to fruition.

13:50 – Advice for the Career-Minded Mom

  • Trust yourself, and listen to your gut. The rules someone else has made don’t necessarily apply for you.
  • You can have it all if you find the right company.
    • Look at the turnover ratios and the number of women in leadership (very important to Kate).
    • Have a strong support network.
    • It is a little lonely out there with not many like minded women out there who really want to pursue a career while having small children.
  • Kate might not feel comfortable asking a company what the policy for maternity leave is how they treat women.
    • Pay attention in interviews for subtle details about a work / life imbalance (i.e. working late, sending e-mails late, etc.).
    • Listen when people talk about their bosses, and make sure someone alludes to a woman in leadership. That is very important.
    • Ask the HR screener about benefits packages, etc.
    • Once you have an offer, you can ask more of the HR questions.
    • Listen to Kate’s story about asking if a company had a formal HR department and the interviewer’s reaction.
    • It can be tricky during the interview process to determine what the culture is really like.
  • In Kate’s last job search, she submitted her resume but also networked with others. She prioritized things like an organization of interesting thinkers where she would often feel like the dumbest person in the room and that had a high level of integrity.
    • The field didn’t matter to her, and it did not have to be in a field where she had experience.
    • She was talking with a consultant in the field who recommended she talk to the company where she works now.
    • She reflected on the things she liked most in previous jobs.
      • She realized at some point in a previous role that she had not been committed to learning and decided to lean into it (taking courses, coaching, mentoring).
      • Focusing in on what she loved about coaching and mentoring others.
    • At this point in her career, a strong mentor and a strong boss are critical.
    • Surrounding herself with people smarter than her makes Kate feel more comfortable and that she is growing and learning.
    • Hire to your weaknesses. Get people better than you that you can learn from, and Kate learns from her team every single day.

22:57 – Approaching Interviews

  • How does Kate’s approach to interviewing another woman change based on her experiences with the process?
    • She is careful not to ask questions that may make the candidate feel uncomfortable.
    • She gets annoyed when someone does not try to negotiate their salary (especially women).
      • It’s challenging for women to ask for more money, but Kate celebrates when it happens.
    • In performance reviews, people use the words "I feel / think I have accomplished X."
      • You don’t have to say I think / I feel. You did it!
      • This behavior is a pattern for women that Kate has seen.
      • There is a role to play in mentoring and coaching to make everyone better.
      • Nick cites the interview with Brad Christian in which Brad says technical people are too humble about their accomplishments.
  • For the male bosses who are managing women as direct reports, seek an open and honest relationship, and listen to feedback. Be inclusive and helpful. Make sure you understand the perspective from your employee’s side.

26:52 – Thoughts on the Tech Industry

  • Kate is relatively new to the tech industry. Here experience in radiology was that it is like the tech industry of medicine.
  • VMUG has just launched a diversity and inclusion advisory council. This is in the early stages, and hearing how much everyone wants to address this makes them take it even more seriously so as not to be just lip service.
    • VMUG has 3 female board members.
    • There is much work that needs to be done in the diversity and inclusion field (in addition to inclusion of women).
  • It’s uncomfortable to be the only woman on a large call. Kate does a lot of financial management and reporting. Right now this is a committee full of all men. Another woman will be joining the committee soon, and Kate is excited about that.
    • Does this lessen the blind spots of others?
  • What about men as direct reports to women?
    • Kate shares a story of throwing a baby shower for a member of the team that was a man when his wife was about to have a baby. Maybe a male boss would not have thought to do this.
  • As it relates to VMUG, there are not a lot of women members, but it seems like those who are members are somewhat active.
    • We need to tackle getting more women students interested in the IT field in general.
      • Whose responsibility is this? VMUG may not be solely responsible for this, but they can help.
      • Kate didn’t see examples of women in science or technology when she was younger, and those examples matter.
      • Check out Girls Who Code and Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network as ways to contribute.
  • It all comes back to being open about how we think, how we feel, what we worry about so that we and others can be more empathetic to others.
    • If we can make everyone more comfortable talking to one another it would go a long way. That may also be the formula for world peace (an ambitious goal).
    • It takes time to develop deep relationships to feel comfortable enough talking in an open way as described here.

36:36 – Parting Thoughts

  • Follow what you are truly interested in. People feel pressure to find a passion. Kate encourages us to find what is making us curious, making us wonder, and making us ask more questions. That is where we should go.
  • Sometimes there are reasons you don’t go in that direction like no other representation in that area. This is all the more reason to go and stand out.
  • If you are asking a lot of questions about one specific thing there may be a reason why.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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