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5 leadership insights from the 2023 Aptos Women’s Panel

Aptos colleagues from around the world share the lessons learned on their personal journeys as women in leadership

Women’s History Month, held annually in March, is an opportunity to reflect on women’s individual achievements, collective progress and cultural impact. To celebrate Women’s History Month, on March 23 Aptos hosted our 2023 Aptos Women’s Panel.

During the panel, female leaders from Aptos shared their unique experiences and perspectives, providing a wealth of inspiration for burgeoning leaders. To pass the wisdom along, we curated a selection of five takeaways you can apply to your career.

In this blog, you will learn insights drawn from each leader’s path to success, how they each find optimal fulfillment, their tips for navigating the leadership journey and more.

Embodying leadership lays the foundation for a career in leadership

Few start their career with the role of leadership. But those who embody the character trait of leadership, regardless of role, are the ones who typically end up where they belong.

Nikki Baird, Vice President of Strategy at Aptos, started her career as an individual contributor. She used her early career to develop her skills of communication, persuasion and vision.

“All I had was me and my ability to convince people that I saw something that was valuable to pursue and worth going after,” Baird said. “Leadership doesn’t just mean that you have people who report to you. It really means: ‘Can you set out in a direction and get people to follow you?’”

She credited this philosophy with helping her achieve her goals and overcoming any gendered power structures and obstacles she faced as she advanced her career.

Smitha Pradeep, Director of Human Resources at Aptos, had a similar experience. She found that embodying leadership had a positive impact on her and her colleagues’ careers as well as the companies she’s worked for.

“The minute you change your mindset to being a leader, you show that you want people to come along with you. If you prioritize the growth and want your people to grow together, you are automatically growing,” Pradeep said.

Relationships are powerful for overcoming obstacles

“Early in my career, I thought that if I worked harder, if I over delivered and if I did more than the guy next to me, that I could navigate any internal structure, any political landscape or any hurdles I saw out there. And for the most part, it did work. But it came at a really, really large personal sacrifice,” Nicole Crowe, CMO at Aptos, said.

She developed a new approach: Find common ground with those who may have resistance to a woman in leadership. You have the same objective as they do and share the same responsibility to make the company and your teams successful.

“I have found if you come in with a very humble spirit, 99% of the time, it works,” Crowe said. “I also became very comfortable with asking for help from my peers. When I was younger, I saw it as a weakness. But I am at a point where that’s not an issue anymore.”

Your peers can be a source of strength.

Flexible boundaries help achieve optimal work-life balance

Careers can be demanding. There may be times when your work life and personal life are at odds. Throughout your career, you will likely have to prioritize and reprioritize.

“I think the best advice is to have boundaries,” Amy Krawczyk, Global Controller at Aptos, said. “Because we do want to be successful. But it doesn’t mean we don’t love our family. We need to have that balance. So having the self-worth and confidence to know how to say no sometimes is really my best advice for anybody.”

Boundaries do come with a degree of fluidity.

“You always say when you’re younger, ‘I’m going to be that woman who has it all.’ And what I realized is you can have it all. You can have a career. You can have family, friends, your health, everything. But what I realized is I can’t have it all at once,” Crowe said.

“Sometimes I’m a supermom and I’ve done great things at home and I gave 80% at work that day. But then there are seasons when you’re all work. You have to find that flexibility and be okay with that,” Crowe continued.

It’s important to discover what leadership means for you

Asked what advice she’d give to her younger self, Hu Min Langridge, Senior Legal Director at Aptos, shared these three tips:

  • Build your personal brand and brand equity. “Start with the basics: Build relationships with your colleagues and get to be known as someone who’s dependable and gets things done to a high standard.”
  • Learn about yourself. “Know what growth or leadership looks like for you. Work out your strengths and passions and how you can plug these things into your company’s business goals. Work out what the development areas are for yourself.”
  • Start acting like the leader you want to be in your current role. “Volunteer for things that are uncomfortable. If you see something that needs to be done, be the change agent. Put your hand up. It could operate as a stepping stone for something greater.”

The right culture will give you the tools and support structure to develop yourself into the leader you aspire to be. Finding a mentor within that culture can be instrumental in accelerating your growth — especially early in your career or in traditionally male-dominated fields like technology.

Fortify confidence in yourself and your colleagues

Fundamental to leadership is self-belief. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Push yourself when nobody is watching. Confidence can be developed. It compounds.

“Find your voice, speak up and be confident,” Krawczyk said. “You’re going to make mistakes. And you don’t know everything. Nobody knows everything. But if you want to lead, just raise your hand and say, ‘I want to do it.’ You’re going to learn along the way.”

Invest in yourself and those around you, and you can make an impact — as a leader and as a representative of female empowerment.

For those looking to continue the conversation about female leadership, check out The Female Quotient, a woman-owned business working with companies and conscious leaders to curate experiences, thought leadership and solutions designed to achieve gender equality in the workplace and beyond.