GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, talks about her journey into the technology sector, and how others can consider a career in tech too.
As a young girl growing up in Newfoundland, I received the typical societal messages around gender differences and capabilities. Luckily, I had a very strong foundation of equality at home to drown some of that noise out. My parents weren’t entrepreneurs – they had more traditional 9-5 jobs – but my mother was a strong woman. Both she and my father gave me the space to think differently about what my career could be and permission to ignore barriers and go for what I wanted.
Ask yourself the right questions
That said, I didn’t start my career as an entrepreneur – nor did I start out in tech. I spent five years working as a chartered accountant for a large corporation. And, despite being intrinsically driven to do my best work, I certainly suffered from imposter syndrome in the early days. I had his perpetual feeling that someone was going to realise that I didn’t know what I was doing; that I would be “found out.”
But then one day I had an epiphany that changed everything. After many experiences sitting in meetings with very senior people who boasted long careers and big titles, I found that I could very clearly see what was and wasn’t going to work out with their decisions. So, one morning I woke and rather than asking ‘Why Me?’, I said to myself: ‘Why not me?’
Any notion of imposter syndrome disappeared that day and it never returned. And I never looked back, going on to successfully run four tech businesses, the most recent of which is Axonify.
Fifteen years ago, a tech leader asked me why I was the only local female tech CEO in Waterloo, Canada, where Axonify is based. I told him to just wait and give it time. Happily, I was right. And I was glad to do my part to enable more women to lead in tech and rise through the ranks.
My co-founder, Christine Tutssel, is also a woman and after almost 10 years in business we have 180 employees, half of whom are women. That’s not to say that I lean hard into supporting women over men—I always choose the best person for the job. And I strongly believe in trusting people to show up every day and do their best work, giving them the support they need and the space to try things without fear.
Fear is extremely paralysing, to people and businesses
My advice to any woman reading this is to stop fearing the things you don’t know.
Early in your career, you think everyone is smart and you’re afraid to speak up. Don’t fall into that trap. Be yourself. Work hard and ask lots of questions along the way.
Insatiable curiosity is one of the characteristics of any great leader. And don’t be fearful of making the wrong choices. There are no wrong choices, because even if you end up doing something you don’t love for a little while, the experience is meaningful because it showed you more clearly what you don’t want to do. It sets you on your right path. Lose the fear and the caring too much about what people think and you’ll free up so much mental energy that you can channel into doing amazing things.
There’s never been a better time for women to get into tech
The evidence is strong that women are changing tech for the better and providing great ROI to investors. There are so many jobs beyond traditional engineering now, and the industry could use more confident female role models.
Women everywhere just need to muzzle the fear, shed the imposter syndrome and ask themselves the same simple question that I asked myself one morning 15 years ago: Why not me?