This is the first post in TapClicks’ “Women in Tech” series
Driven by a desire for learning and an interest in technology, Kristin Lundin has climbed her way up from a computer operator through technical support and into the role of the Senior Director of Product Solutions at TapClicks in Silicon Valley. Throughout her career, Lundin has developed the following three guidelines to help a woman thrive in a still very much male-dominated industry.
1. Don’t be afraid to be uncool
Even at a young age, Lundin gravitated towards hobbies and interests that were more commonly associated with boys. Intrigued by building things and inspired by her 4 brothers, her career aspirations in middle school ranged from computer programming to civil engineering. She admits that, at the time, she didn’t quite understand that tech “wasn’t really a girl thing” except that there weren’t many girls in her classes. Uninhibited by what society said was appropriate or cool, Lundin didn’t listen to stereotypes that would have limited her options.
Later in her career she used that same unconventional path in her career growth. She once took a job back in technical support after having moved/been promoted into product management. This decision was definitely not the typical step in career development growth, but it was simply, in her mind, the best way to learn the latest product. It could have been seen as a step backward in her career, but she saw it as an opportunity to grow in a different direction.
Lundin notes that taking an unconventional path has its benefits: “I was a bit of a novelty, a strong technical girl stubbornly refusing to stay in her corner certainly made some people uncomfortable.” But she says it also probably helped her get access to mentoring and even some opportunities.
These days the definition of a cool girl has also changed, notes Lundin. Present day girls in gamer-girl culture are helping to redefine what is “cool” for women in tech. She says this is a good thing. Although being “cool” was never the driving force in Lundin’s career she acknowledges that it does sometime influence a woman’s choice to take on a challenge, particularly in the male-dominated tech and engineering fields. Instead, she recommends following strengths and interests and not being afraid to risk being “uncool” in pursuit of your goals.
2. Stay focused on the goal
No one takes a straight line toward a goal. Each path is going to have twists and turns and successes and setbacks. In the midst of challenges, Lundin recommends staying focused on the end objective and not letting setbacks derail your focus. Sometimes the setback is simply providing you a new way to achieve what you want. Lundin shared that when she found out a position she had held for some time was being eliminated rather than allow the event to discourage her, she refocused and went back to college and ended up with a great new opportunity shortly after. She says that remembering where you’re headed and looking for ways to stay engaged will help you through a difficult time.
Lundin states, “anybody is capable as long as they do their homework and put forth the effort.”
Lundin’s advice helps her cultivate a mindset that is open to challenges. Another example was that although she started out in the corporate world, Lundin also jumped off the traditional path to follow a passion and started her own costume design business. This presented unexpected and brand new challenges, that eventually paid off when she found her way back to the corporate world. The experience of running her own business enabled her to develop a deeper understanding of how SMB customers use marketing. Lundin states, “Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to take all of these different experiences together to help grow a business.”
3. Look for mentors and emulate quality leaders
Lundin highlights that during her career, many of her opportunities came because of some valuable risks her superiors were willing to take on her. Having quality mentors and learning from people who you admire is one of the ways, she says, to really grow and be successful as a woman and a leader.
Whether dealing with challenges of being a woman in a predominantly male field, learning a new discipline, or even reacting to the daily pressures of a changing market, Lundin approaches her challenges by consciously working hard, taking on new challenges and looking for others around her that have something to teach her. She says “I would not be here if not for several senior managers over the years who said ‘Sure, give it a shot.’”
She suggests looking for leaders that you admire either in or out of your industry, and do the work to build a relationship. Pay attention to the things that leader does and ask them for their insight. Be prepared for some hard insights though; it’s not easy to be told where you need to improve. No one gets to the top of their game without a great combination of opportunities, coaching and the willingness to take chances.
These principles have helped Lundin survive the tech hubs of Boston and most recently Silicon Valley. Guided by a proactive attitude, Lundin advises “Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something if you believe you can. Instead, prove them wrong.”