2012 TechWomen Professional Mentor, Jennifer Sherman, shares her thoughts on the responsibility to mentor, a woman’s presence in the work place and stepping outside of your comfort zone to take on the next big thing.
Congratulations on your promotion! What is next for you?
I will be the Senior Vice President of Product Management at Aptean. I never saw myself leaving San Francisco but when I got the call and was asked, “Are you ready to move on?” the answer was yes.
Is there anything you are nervous about?
I don’t know what I don’t know. I don’t know what I have not yet anticipated and if I can handle it, comfortably, and with flare. When you’ve been at a company for 15 years, you really know that company and how to get the information you need to get your job done. Having to re-learn that will be interesting in a new setting.
You started your career at Oracle. What will you miss most when you leave?
The people. They are incredibly bright, very driven and very supportive. They’ve been really amazing for my career. I’ve had great leadership and great mentors; it’s really meant a lot.
How involved were you in promoting women’s professional development before mentoring with TechWomen?
Until I heard about TechWomen, I wasn’t very involved in women’s activities in San Francisco. Aside from my TEDx talk, I never saw how I could add value. TechWomen was much more compelling. Maybe it’s because we come to this notion that responsibility is given to us by some external party and I was waiting for someone to bestow it upon me but it really is a choice. When I saw that I could choose to help be responsible for the development of women in technology on a global scale, I thought to myself, yes! Yes I’ll do that!
You were matched with an Emerging Leader from Lebanon. How were you able to help her?
During one of our first conversations she told me there was only one female senior manager in her region at work, so she had minimal exposure to women in management positions. I reached out to everyone I could and set up meetings with female executives every single day. She learned about how they were making decisions about their careers and their lives, which was a topic she had limited access to. It was great to get that glimpse for myself too.
What was your major lesson from those conversations?
We’ve got to figure out a way to give women better choices, and to allow any path they choose to be an acceptable path worthy of our praise and honor.
Mentorship is often a mutually beneficial relationship. Did you find that to be true for you?
I did. Because I was able to experience what she experienced and learn what she learned. I was able to witness the cultural differences in a different way, almost from the inside out.
What did you learn from your Emerging Leader?
She held herself beautifully; she walked into a room calmly. There was dignity in her poise, and there was no apology in her stance. If women could harness that, if we could carry ourselves like her, women everywhere would have that executive presence that men seem to have naturally.
Did your experience with TechWomen contribute to your decision to join Aptean?
I was having all of these conversations with women, encouraging them to lean in to their careers and then I realized that I had been sitting comfortably where I was for a while. I was perfectly happy and intellectually fulfilled but not really pushing the boundaries. When you turn the microscope on yourself, are you living the same advice you’ve been giving everyone else?
Would you recommend participating in TechWomen to others?
Yes! My network of professional women grew so much. I think about it like living in New York and never visiting the Statue of Liberty. We’re in the hub of entrepreneurship, tech organizations and amazing work that women are doing for their development. Being a part of the TechWomen program is your opportunity to finally visit the Statue of Liberty. I had incredible experiences and they had been in my backyard the whole time!