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In the heart of Women’s History Month, Artera hosted a panel titled “Navigating the Path to Leadership” as part of its Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) event. The panel was hosted by Maren Ray, Product Designer and Women’s ERG Lead at Artera, and featured insights from three distinguished Artera leaders: Sarah Shillington, Chief Customer Officer; Sujata Mujumdar, Director of Engineering; and Jess Oveys, Director of Product Management. Each shared their unique journeys to leadership, shedding light on the challenges and victories they encountered along the way.

Career Journeys

While all panelists have experienced different career journeys, three significant themes were highlighted collectively throughout the discussion: a strategic selection of mentors and the value of mentorship, the seizing of growth opportunities and the importance of advocating for oneself.

Having been guided by key figures at various stages of her journey, Shillington pointed out the transformative power of selecting the right mentors – people she admired within her department – emphasizing the pivotal role mentorship played in her career. She also shared a compelling story of how she proactively drafted a business plan for a role she believed she could excel in, demonstrating initiative that led her from a Director to a Vice President within a span of just two years.

Oveys shared her serendipitous entry into healthcare and underscored the importance of seizing opportunities for learning and networking. She highlighted how aligning with people in roles she aspired to and advocating for herself helped her transition into product management—a field she passionately pursued despite initial uncertainties about her path.

Mujumdar’s narrative complemented the other panelists by reflecting on both the challenges and opportunities she faced as an individual contributor. She recounted the significant influence of a hands-on team lead early in her career, who not only mentored her but also encouraged her to share her knowledge with the team, thus establishing her leadership and teaching abilities early on.

Strategies for Career Progression

Collectively, the panelists stressed the necessity of being one’s best advocate, recognizing business needs and the importance of self-coaching and seeking feedback for continuous improvement. Their stories illustrated not just the hurdles women face in ascending to leadership roles but also the strategies and mindsets that can facilitate this journey.

The panelists agreed that demonstrating your value – even in a nontraditional way – and developing as many transferable skills as possible is the key to making yourself the “obvious” choice when it comes to progressing your career or securing a promotion.  

In order for career progression to occur, however, there must be a business need, Oveys suggested. At the end of the day, it’s critical to  “make changes that benefit you,” she said. If you take an inventory of where you want to be in 5, 10 and 15 years, try and work backwards from there to see where you’d like to grow – in the timeframe set for yourself. 

Mujumda also urged the audience to perform a critical self-assessment of their career aspirations and how current roles align with these goals. Such introspection, combined with constructive conversations with supportive managers and an expansive network, can pave the way for meaningful career development, she suggested. 

Shillington emphasized the importance of making yourself “visible” – excelling in the role you’re given to get deemed as a high performer and high-potential employee. Additionally, another key quality to aim for is to be “coachable” – this means asking for feedback and identifying gaps in your capabilities to reach for that next level in your career.

Addressing Microaggressions

On tackling microaggressions, the speakers shared personal anecdotes and strategies for addressing subtle biases and inappropriate behaviors. From maintaining professionalism in the face of unwarranted comments to leveraging light – but direct – communication to challenge and educate, their experiences highlighted resilience and the necessity of creating an inclusive workplace culture.

Above all, all three women recommended speaking up, addressing the issue and staying empowered to push back on something if necessary. Even when it can be difficult, take it upon yourself to have a one-on-one conversation, ask for clarification directly or seek out help from a manager to resolve the issue. 

Balancing Family and Work

Parenthood – as with any major life event – can have a significant impact on one’s career and working life.

All three panelists experienced a shift in their career journeys when becoming mothers. They gracefully discussed the reality of balancing parenthood and work, sharing strategies on how to manage time more effectively, set boundaries and more. 

Honing time management and prioritization skills at work, implementing house strategies such as meal prepping, and seeking support systems both within and outside the workplace, were all deemed critical by our speakers. They also noted that taking time off, going for walks and taking time to prioritize oneself is vital to a healthy work-life balance and reducing burnout.

Final Thoughts

Concluding the panel, the leaders shared their reflections on avoiding career stagnation and the importance of seeking new challenges and learning opportunities. They underscored that acknowledging and learning from missteps—whether staying too long in a role or not seizing leadership opportunities early enough—can lead to significant personal growth and professional advancement.

The event also featured a segment on HR resources and career development strategies, where Nicole Ossey, VP of People, provided valuable information on leveraging company resources, such as learning stipends and development plans, to support personal and professional growth.

Overall, this panel not only celebrated the achievements of women leaders at Artera but also offered practical advice and encouragement for others looking to forge their paths within their career. The shared experiences and strategies highlighted the multifaceted journey to leadership, underscoring the importance of mentorship, advocacy, resilience and continuous learning in achieving professional success.

Interested in learning more about Artera’s ERG programs or careers? Learn more here.

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