International Women’s Day – what’s the deal? Celebrated since 1911, it’s all about gender diversity. It has a dual purpose: it’s a day of celebration of women from across the globe as well as a call to recognize women as equals. International Women’s Day aims to push us towards a gender equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discriminations. This is something that we all can do if we work together – men, women and everyone in between.
To do our bit, we’ve sat down with a handful of our female workforce to get to know them a bit better and to explore their journeys so far.
Today, we get to know more about Sangita, our Chief Sales Officer.
Sangita, tell me a bit about yourself.
I was born in Birmingham, England and then my family moved to the States during the blizzard of 1978. Ever since then, I've lived in the Northeast of the US. When my family moved to Vermont in 1984, I started working in a local restaurant there. I mastered various roles (including a supervisor role while in high school) but, ultimately, the service industry wasn’t for me. It did give me a great foundation for my sales career and my leadership skills though. Side note: I just learned last week that the shifts that I supervised were the most profitable during the time I was there!
I met my husband in Cambridge, MA and we got married back in 2000. We have two amazing kids, a 12-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter. The three of them are my biggest cheerleaders.
How did you get into sales?
After graduating from the University of Vermont back in 1993, I briefly worked in advertising. After that stint, I landed myself an inside sales job at a research company. It’s one of the hardest sales jobs you can do because you’re selling ideas rather than a product that people can see and touch. It took a little while to get my head around it but after about 6 months, things started to click, and I realized that this job was a good fit for me. I ended up spending 21 years at that company.
Have you faced any challenges being a woman in B2B sales?
Most of my journey has gone smoothly thanks to my solid foundation as an inside salesperson. Also, having spent 21 years in one place, my colleagues had seen my progression and knew that I was a very capable sales professional. That gave me credibility and I think that helped me not to face as many challenges. I’ve also enjoyed being unique in a male-dominated profession, proving that you can be successful in sales regardless of gender.
Two situations come to mind though.
The first one: in one of my past roles, I received a large salary increase out of the blue. Initially, I was excited about it but as I was discussing it with my husband, the realization hit me that I had probably been severely underpaid. I wanted to understand what had happened so I discussed it with the Head of Compensation and he confirmed my suspicions.
The second one: In B2B Sales, often people look to the senior male executive to be the ultimate decision-maker. I had a situation where that happened: all the questions and conversation were directed to my senior male colleague. Towards the end of the meeting, this senior male colleague shocked the room by saying, ‘She’s the one that makes the decision, not me.’ I still remember the look on people’s faces in that moment when they realized they had made some very wrong assumptions.
What lessons did you learn from facing these sorts of challenges?
Keep an eye on your equity and compensation. I think women tend not to negotiate their salaries in the same way men do. We need to remember that just because women aren’t negotiating it, this doesn't mean that they don't deserve to be appropriately compensated.
On this subject, there are two things that we, especially as women, need to remember. One - speak up for yourself. Don't just accept the first offer because it won’t be the best offer. Always negotiate. Two – be comfortable and confident in yourself. I see so many female professionals second-guessing themselves in the workplace and trying desperately to avoid failure. Instead, take a leap of faith and say, ‘You know what? Let's try this! If I fail, I fail, but I will learn.’
You relay so much confidence. Have you always been naturally confident or is it something you've built up over time?
I’ve definitely always had confidence but I’ve had to work on it to reach the level I’m at today. I feel it comes from knowing what I'm talking about and being prepared. When I am confident with what I’m saying, I can get up and talk in front of anyone. I know the saying is ‘knowledge is power’ but for me, knowledge is confidence.
So, solid knowledge is essential for female sales professionals to appear more confident. What else is essential?
The way you talk and the words you choose matter. A lot of people talk with an inflection towards the end, making everything seem like more of a question rather than a statement. Also, people use the word ‘think’ a lot. But do you think or do you know?
When you don't speak confidently enough, people poke holes in what you say. This tends to hurt women in the workplace more than men as they may not speak with enough authority or speak up at all. Remember, you know what you're talking about so just be confident and speak up.
Have you experienced any issues when speaking with more authority?
Yes. When I speak authoritatively, some people are like, ‘Oh, you're aggressive’. But people rarely say that to a man (!). Just because I'm very direct and I will speak up when I don’t like something, I’m aggressive? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, you do come across people who judge you for these behaviours, marking you as ‘fierce’, ‘super demanding’ or ‘challenging to work with’. I’ve heard those words being associated with me.
Once people get to know me though they realize that the things they’ve heard about me aren’t true. What they do realize instead is that I am an extremely passionate individual who wants to make a difference.
How can we encourage other women into senior leadership roles?
We need to make them realize that it's not as daunting as they may think. Pursuing a senior leadership role doesn’t necessarily mean you have to choose between having a family or a career. It’s not easy to have both but you can definitely have both. You have to organize your life a little more and be prepared to make choices. It also helps to have a partner that is your strongest advocate and is willing to help. I love the example that it is setting for my kids.
An upside of COVID is that it’s made people more understanding of the challenges that people face. With children being home from school, I think it has acted as a reminder that everyone is balancing several things. I hope that we can all keep this in mind as we move forward and remember it's not all about work. It's more about how we bring ourselves to work and how we’re allowed to be ourselves.
What advice would you give to women establishing or trying to progress their careers?
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. You may not feel 100% ready but taking on that challenge will help to push you forward and can also lead to greater visibility.
And let’s make it easier for the women that follow us – let’s help pave a path for equality for them.
Opensignal, Tutela and Comlinkdata, the industry’s three most disruptive players in telecommunications performance measurement, are now part of the same company. They have come together to create data and analytics solutions that will enable communications providers to constantly optimize both their network and market performance, advancing connectivity for all.
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