Today’s guest post is written by Neicole Crepeau.
Recently, Gini Dietrich wrote about Achieving Workplace Equality that referenced an article “A Rant About Women” in which the author said that women would go further if they were more self-promotional. Gini isn’t so sure we women need to be self-promotional, but I’ve found that tooting my own horn is an important and necessary part of doing business.
I learned that lesson during my 13 years at Microsoft.
Don’t get me wrong; I was raised not to brag. My parents brought me up to let my work speak for itself. I don’t like to gloat and to this day I tend to be a bit embarrassed when people praise me. Nevertheless, during the years at Microsoft, I learned to regularly note and promote my achievements. While my work is the main reason that I got great reviews and was considered a star performer, I have no doubt that my efforts to get that work noticed helped significantly.
Keeping my brand top-of-mind
Microsoft is, by and large, a male-dominated culture. From the top down, it’s a place where you are expected to have ideas, put them on the table, and defend them vigorously. Sometimes the debates get heated.
I fit into that culture pretty well because I’ve always had strong opinions and enjoyed debating. I’m able to defend my ideas well but I am also open to other good ideas, from anyone.
Unfortunately, as I participated in these debates, I found that my good ideas, on occasion, were appropriated by others. For example, I might have come up with a new design and engaged others in prototyping it. Then, somehow, it became their design. Even if I was the visionary leading our team, a more vocal person might end up being credited with the team’s stellar work, simply by virtue of his being vocal.
The problem was especially apparent if I was contributing outside of my core competency, in someone else’s area of expertise. Because I’m a jack-of-all-trades type, I did that a lot. People can’t always accept that good ideas or work came from someone who wasn’t a specialist in their field, so they tend to remember the idea or work as their own.
Out of necessity, I began to make sure that I got credit for my ideas and work. I did this in what is probably a more female way. I didn’t say, “I had this great idea.” Instead, I would say, “Remember that idea I had about blah-blah-blah.” Or I might say, “My team is xxx” instead of “The team is xxx.” I would make sure to bring up my work in many contexts. If I was meeting with another group and discussing a project that was my baby, I might say, “Well, over in our group I’m leading our team in doing this-or-that.” I wasn’t bragging. I was just making sure people knew that I was at the center.
By making claims to my ideas and work, and doing so repeatedly, I ensured that no (man) could take credit where it wasn’t entirely due.
To this day, I’m still seeing the benefits of tooting my own horn. Just last spring, I was talking with a vendor about doing some writing for his company. He had worked at Microsoft for a time, though we never worked together, and I had never met him before. In our first conversation, he said, “Oh, I’ve heard your name around Microsoft. You’ve got a great reputation. I have no doubt you can fill several different writing needs for us.”
I left Microsoft in 2007, but my reputation may never leave.
Make no mistake about it: I did outstanding work at Microsoft. But sometimes it takes more than just doing outstanding work to really get noticed. Sometimes it takes talking about your outstanding work, either blatantly or subtly. So, my advice, ladies? Toot your horn, in a womanly manner.