When the senior director of program management position opened up on her team at Skillsoft, Kristen Maguire picked up some responsibilities while candidates were screened and interviewed for the role.
Then six months passed without finding the right fit, and one of Maguire’s colleagues approached her with an idea — she should apply.
“I was hesitant that I could fill the shoes of a woman who had been such a huge mentor to me, but I knew that I was already doing much of the job,” Maguire said.
Maguire has thrived as the senior director of program management and encourages HR professionals to take a similar approach to that of her own colleague as they look to fill vacancies –– take a close look at potential internal candidates and proactively encourage women to pursue opportunities.
Maguire isn’t alone in her hesitation to seek a role she didn’t see herself as fully qualified to fill. According to LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report, women are more likely than men to screen themselves out of roles before applying and ultimately apply to 20 percent fewer jobs over the course of their search.
With colleagues like Maguire modeling paths for women in leadership roles at Skillsoft, Senior Human Capital Management Developer Bindu Vasireddy sees new possibilities for herself and her growth within the company.
“I’ve noticed that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting promoted to management roles, but I can see that landscape changing quickly,” Vasireddy said. “Right here at Skillsoft, I can see a lot more women in leadership positions and am looking forward to growing into those management roles myself.”
“I can see a lot more women in leadership positions and am looking forward to growing into those management roles myself.”
The power of women taking on leadership roles in the workplace is more than just representational — as women move into positions of influence, they are also able to serve as mentors to support the development of growth pathways for others on their teams.
For Chief Information Officer Orla Daly, those relationships have made all the difference on her journey in the workplace.
“I’ve been fortunate to have had a positive experience overall, in part because of the strong women I have had the opportunity to work with, some of whom were sponsors or mentors,” she said.
Built In heard from Daly, Vasireddy and Maguire about their journeys in the tech industry and how Skillsoft has built a supportive culture for women across the company.
Tech Industry Journeys
Daly: Throughout my career, I have sought to engage in visible projects and company strategic initiatives, including rolling out core business applications and driving business transformation. Often, the risks were great, but so were the rewards. When taking bold steps, it's important to create a good support network and not to be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
In some instances, I have had to fight for these opportunities because I was seen as a critical resource on my team, and therefore there was a hesitancy to let me go. While that situation may create job security, it will also create a stickiness that is hard to shake and will make it more challenging to reach for new opportunities. Conversely, I also have had managers see potential and have confidence in me that I didn’t perhaps share and push me to take on new opportunities. When that happens, I would encourage individuals to embrace it!
“When taking bold steps, it's important to create a good support network and not to be afraid to ask for help when you need it.”
Vasireddy: My journey started in Hyderabad, India, where I first started programming with C++. I continued my tech journey in the U.S. working for companies across the healthcare, utilities, defense and retail domains before coming to Skillsoft. The tech industry has given me a lot of confidence as well as opportunities to travel, which I very much enjoy.
Whether I am programming or learning a new skill, it’s a lot of fun getting lost in the process of architecting and creating a new system of programs or figuring out where a problem lies.
Maguire: I am the senior director of program management at Skillsoft for our Percipio Platform Group, and I report to the senior vice president of engineering. As the only woman reporting directly to him, I have a unique perspective from my male colleagues. My opinion is sought, and I feel I can freely and respectfully offer different viewpoints.
Working in the male-dominated software industry for 20 years, I am used to direct and sometimes very blunt feedback. Percipio’s emotional intelligence courses have helped me sharpen my self awareness. As a female leader in the organization, I have also tried to pave the way for other women — encouraging high performers to apply for new roles, take on high profile meetings and most of all, listening and letting women give their input at meetings without interruption.
Supporting Women in the Workplace
Daly: As a leader, it is crucial to listen and take time to understand the real challenges. While the problem may be framed as generic, I do believe the solutions need to be considered at a more individual or group level. Different women need different types of support to succeed — it's not a one-solution-fits-all.
Vasireddy: We are also provided with an hour of learning every week where we are allowed to put everything aside and learn any skill we are interested in. Recently, I got curious about the hoopla surrounding Chat GPT and was able to get on the Percipio platform to complete a few courses on the same to get a feel for what Generative AI can accomplish.
Maguire: I am a member of the WINS group, which is a networking group within the company for women and their allies. This group has frequent events to discuss how we can ensure women at Skillsoft are getting the support they need. We have internal and external guest speakers talk about different topics such as introverted leaders, elevating your profile, female leaders’ path to the top and more. The questions and discussion in these forums are very empowering as we validate the thoughts and feelings of our peers and ensure all voices are heard.
Inclusion and Advancement
Vasireddy: In addition to our employee advisory groups and inclusion council, we have had Leader camps organized by La’Wana Harris, a certified diversity executive and a global leadership development professional and Su Joun, a diversity and inclusion scholar and practitioner. In other words, DEI is a big part of the Skillsoft company culture, including in courses on our learning platform. As a woman of color, I very much appreciate these undertakings because though I have never felt discriminated against in our workplace, I know that I can contact the DEI council in case I have a problem or if I have a question.
Maguire: As we move on past lockdowns to a work-from-home culture, I am acutely aware of the challenges of intermingling home and work life. Balancing child care and caring for aging parents can be challenging, and women often bear the brunt of this burden. Many women feel that they have to be constantly on and connected because they may need to leave in the middle of the day for an important appointment for a loved one. However, we need to ensure we are all disconnecting at some point every day and taking the time off we need to mentally recharge. With that said, I am always looking at ways we can engage our employees more to keep them excited about coming to work, as well as reminding employees about the importance of disconnecting and recharging.
Daly: While I have been fortunate in my career, I see the data and hear the challenges that we need to continue to tackle on the topic of DEI, particularly for women in tech. That makes me pause and continue to question how we can do better, so I can continue to support progress to a better place.