The Executive Woman's Guide to Self-Promotion

Ambitious women sometimes have a hard time getting noticed, but marketing one's accomplishments is a requirement for career advancement. Six female CIOs offer advice to up-and-coming women in IT and explain how they learned to network without compromising themselves.

By Esther Schindler
Wed, December 12, 2007

CIO — To move up in any organization, IT professionals need to engage in a little marketing. Self-promotion isn't the crass skill of acting like a brazen minx, but rather gaining the interest and attention of others and, over time, earning their respect and trust. Reputation is everything for any would-be IT executive, and it's important to get it right.

However, some women must overcome aversions to self-promotion, conflict and voicing their opinion. "This has been difficult for me," admits Denise Stephens, the director of Information Technology and CIO at Washington Savannah River Company. "I must consciously conquer my natural tendency to hold back when interacting in conflict situations." Women can worry—occasionally with reason—that they'll be negatively labeled if they are assertive and speak out. "I keep this in mind but do not let it hold me back," says Stephens, "as I have rarely seen women penalized by these labels if they get the job done."

Your career is in your power. "Some women hold back because they don't think they can network or communicate on the same level as their male peers or management. Get over it," says Janis O'Bryan, CIO and senior vice president of IT at Hudson Advisors. "If you are good at what you do, and a professional, you can compete for the next level. Don't self-impose a glass ceiling."

Volunteer for Visible Assignments

You want to be appreciated and acknowledged for making a difference. That means you have to do something that has a visible effect—and also gives you the opportunity to shine.

Take charge of something visible, that people need, advises Magalene Powell-Meeks, Deputy CIO at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Put yourself in the position of solving a problem, and solve it for them," she says, "Even if it's a crappy job." Be the leader in that position, even if it's a small one, she says, and apply your unique technology or process to help those people. Become the go-to person in your discipline.

The momentum you build is more important than a fancy title, says Powell-Meeks. By helping your customer (whether that customer is internal to the company or an outside user), you build trust with your customer base—a big key to advancement. "Your reputation and your character are what sell you for the next big job," Powell-Meeks says.

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