WIT Invest: How a Powerful New Program Was Born
July 18, 2016
Women in technology initiatives have always been a part of my professional career choices. When I interviewed for a job at LinkedIn more than two years ago, one of my criteria was to have a role that allowed me to focus on my passion of developmental programs for women in engineering. During the interview process, I spoke with members of the company’s senior engineering leadership including Mohak Shroff and Kiran Prasad about my desire to continue this work at LinkedIn. When I found out how much support women in technology initiatives received from senior leadership at the company, it solidified my decision that LinkedIn was the right place for me.
Our first foray in WIT
At the beginning of my time at LinkedIn, I had the opportunity to lead the company's Women in Tech (WIT) Empower initiative, which focused on empowering female employees to transform themselves and their career. WIT Empower aimed at providing tools and opportunities to help women in engineering cultivate their careers. We organized many different kinds of events, such as external guest speakers, leadership workshops, and speed mentoring. Despite the countless hours, late nights, and tireless effort that was put into the development of this program, it did not succeed to the level we had expected for a couple of reasons. The events tended to be more independent and not unified around a single overarching program, ultimately not having the long-lasting and actionable impact on the participants that we wanted. After that, those of us who had worked on WIT Empower took a step back to better understand how we could take our program to the next level. After reflecting on the lessons learned, reviewing survey results from female employees, and having candid discussions with leadership across the company, we decided to create a new program that focused on quality of engagement over quantity of activities.
Introducing WIT Invest, a new kind of WIT program
Based on our findings, we created WIT Invest, an ongoing program that focuses on accelerating the growth of women in Engineering, Operations, and Product at LinkedIn. WIT Invest is a four-month program that encourages transformation through mentorship, access to tools and coaching, and relationship-building to accelerate the growth of high performing and senior leaders in Product, Engineering and Operations. The program focuses on providing consistent opportunities -- from networking meetings, mentor check-ins and executive coaching sessions -- for participants to regularly focus on transforming themselves and their careers.
We are now two months into WIT Invest's pilot stage, and the program is already off to a great start. The pilot program consists of a small group of only 20 participants who work on the Product, Engineering, and Operations team. We decided to focus our efforts on smaller groups so that we can engage participants on a deeper level and provide each of them with individualized coaching and mentorship.
What we have accomplished so far
We began the program with a kickoff dinner so that the women in the program could get to know each other as well as executives in Product, Engineering and Operations. Also at this event, we brought in Nikki Watkins to conduct a leadership workshop, where she bridged the Emotional Quotient and Intelligence to help participants leverage their strengths. The impact of the various exercises resulted in forging strong relationships among the WIT Invest group. The Net Promoter Score for this workshop was an all-time high of 93, which indicates how likely they are to recommend this program to someone else.
We held many other events, like fireside chats with senior male executives, which were extremely encouraging. Both Steve Johnson and Michael Korcuska joined the group to understand the challenges that the women faced in their careers and got to share their perspectives on how to deal with these challenges. By having the support of male executives alongside our wonderful female mentors and leaders, we are all playing our part in bridging the gender divide.
Other events on the agenda have included bi-weekly group meetings with the husband and wife executive coaching team Judith Sherven, PhD and Jim Sniechowksi, PhD. These events provide an avenue for participants to continue to share their experiences and grow their relationships, as well as regular one on one coaching sessions to help each participant grow their careers.
We also invited women outside of LinkedIn to contribute to the conversation. Rathi Murthy, CTO of Gap, joined us during the Leadership Workshop to share her career journey. She gave us five key learnings from her session:
- Keep repeating your personal brand statement until you are seen as such.
- Write yearly clear goals and keep them visible on your mirror.
- Find your purpose; it will make you smile rather than ‘trying to smile’.
- Take learnings and coaching from all interactions.
- Create strategies to keep yourself in balance - seniority doesn’t have to mean stress.
Following the completion of the program, participants are encouraged to commit to sharing their learnings with others and advocate for other women in tech at LinkedIn.
What's on the horizon for WIT Invest
It’s taken endless effort and determination to get to this point but it’s very refreshing to see the true impact that WIT Invest is already having on the participants. I’m constantly reminding myself of the Malcolm Forbes quote “Failure is a success if we learn from it.” I am proud to take my learnings from WIT Empower and apply them to WIT Invest, so that we can create a better present and future for women in tech at LinkedIn.
In the future, we’re looking to grow this program as part of LinkedIn’s overall commitment to building a more inclusive, diverse workplace. This is just one of many initiatives we have planned for 2016!
This program would not have been possible without the help of so many people who are dedicated to furthering Women In Tech efforts at LinkedIn. I especially would like to call out Erin Earle, Sandy Hoffman, Erica Lockheimer, Catherine Snelgrove, Kathleen Magy, Melissa Afentoulis, and the entire WIT Executive Team. I’d also like to thank Product, Engineering and Operations Leadership for supporting my continued work on WIT efforts at LinkedIn.
Finally, a big shout-out to the WIN Invest program and leadership team. WIN Invest is a similar program in the LinkedIn Sales organization that helped inspire WIT Invest. Without the foundational work that they have done, it wouldn't have been nearly as easy for us to get our program up and running.