By: Trinh Abrell
When I first started my professional life, I was just worried about doing my job well. My peers were very multi-cultural, multi-generational. However, as my career progressed and I moved up the ranks, I found myself often the only female in the room.
I started to look at the org chart; there were fewer and fewer women further up the food chain. I joined women’s networking organizations to change that. Through my involvement as part of the Ellevate leadership team, and later as President and Co-president, my passion grew as I heard from women from different backgrounds sharing their challenges and successes.
So when Suzanna Keith, a close friend from high school, contacted me to share a new idea for a business focusing on helping women reach the C suite, I was an instant fan. While Ellevate is a platform that provides programming to support and coach women on career opportunities, Hello Career Guru’s online service offers a personalized game plan and curated content unique to each woman’s profile and ambition.
Last year, Ellevate’s Houston chapter hosted a panel event featuring two of Hello Career Guru’s founders Sonal Rinello and Suzanna Keith. These two amazing women brought such rich and diverse experiences to the table. I recently had an opportunity to follow up with them right after the Hello Career Guru launch in March.
Trinh: Suzanna, tell us what Hello Career Guru is and share your founder story.
Suzanna: Growing up in Appalachia, I saw very few female career role models. Then, after Bryn Mawr College and NYU Stern Business school, I became even more frustrated as I saw my friends and professional colleagues hit their heads on the glass ceiling or not advance in their careers as they deserved with all their hard work and dedication.
So in April 2016, I founded a group called “Women In Innovation” which held a series of seven lectures about innovation and empowerment with C-suite female leaders from across the nation. The events sold out, with over 600 women joining “the Meet-Up” without a single dollar spent.
From that, I conducted a proprietary “Know Instant Insights” poll and found that 88% of women want a career trainer, 76% would pay for it, and 66% would use it more than once a week. The analytics proved an urgent and frequent need gap. Hello Career Guru Inc. was born.
Hello Career Guru is the first-ever artificial intelligence (AI) powered virtual career trainer to help women advance professionally. Hello Career Guru offers women one unifying platform for developing their personalized career game plan with recommended actions and resources. This game plan leverages proprietary female C-suite executive insights to reflect real-world experience from those who have achieved at the highest levels.
The “Hello Career Guru” name came from the opportunity to use breakthrough voice-activated technology like Alexa which is the future of work. In fact, be sure to check out on Alexa our Hello Career Guru Salon Podcasts.
Trinh: Suzanna, what career tips would you give to a young woman whose goal is to end up in the C-Suite?
Suzanna: I recently attended a seminar with some incredible C-suite women and one of them had the perfect advice: Shellye Archambeau, one of the top minority women in tech who has written an excellent book, “Unapologetically Ambitious.” Shellye’s advice was when you introduce yourself in business meetings, don’t just say your title. Let others know what exactly you do so that they can see the value you bring and get you on the radar screen for other opportunities.
Trinh: What are the important things to keep in mind when looking for a job to help you progress with your career and reach the C-suite without sacrificing work benefits or a good workplace just for the sake of getting experience in order to progress?
Suzanna: Take your time and evaluate what kind of boss would you like. Per our C-suite dataset, one of the best pieces of advice is “Look for a smart boss,” someone to mentor you and support you, even if it is more of a lateral move.
If you can get them to help you, find a sponsor in the company or a senior executive who is in another vertical but part of the promotion decisions. Finding balance is a tough thing, because like Indra Noori, the chairwoman of Pepsi for over twelve years, said:
In order to have a big career, it takes a village, a helpful husband, friends, and family all around. Not every woman has that and needs to figure out a way to map herself for success.
Trinh: What advice would you two give to be more visible in the workplace?
Sonal: Per our C-suite leaders, one of the best ways to be more visible is to volunteer to lead a task force, a new process committee or the office charity fundraiser. And while you are doing this, remember that key leadership skills of C-suite women are:
- Be a good listener.
- Have empathy.
In fact, one of our thought-leaders, Rita Capek, who is an HR expert, suggests bringing empathy to the C-suite is critical during these chaotic times. Then, there is nothing bad about being nice, as Fran Hauser in her book “The Myth of The Nice Girl” emphasizes. We highly recommend Fran’s book, because it helps you realize that you don’t have to be hardcore to get to the top. Be your authentic self.
Trinh: How do you navigate a career with trying to have a family?
Sonal: It will not be easy. But neither is staying home, or having less financial security, or not doing something you love or are good at. Continue work when raising kids, even if part-time. You are a role model for your children. Another one of our C-suite mentors, Roopa Unnikrashnan, in her book “Career Catapult,” also talks about how important it is to take time to relax, find time for yourself, and also be with your family.
Women have dropped out of the workforce to take care of their family at record-breaking rates since COVID. However, as we rebound, these women are also returning to work and back on the path to the the C-level. We have seen what women can achieve and many are ready to go beyond those pioneers.
[Related: How to Reach the Next Level in Your Career]
Trinh Abrell is the Director of Project Delivery at Paysafe Group. She loves getting people to move in the same direction, envision the same goals, and accept or embrace change.
Originally published at https://www.ellevatenetwork.com.