Welcome back to our Women in Tech. This series will introduce global women in Technology. From Canada to Jordan, they live around the globe. In today’s post on Women in Tech, we meet Patricia Skinner. She’s an amazing woman, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a few years. I’ve asked to work with her on a number of global middle eastern projects – unfortunately the clients either never committed, or the timing wasn’t right. Either way, I’m proud to share her experiences and this interview with you. Please feel free to ask her any questions I may have not asked below in the comments section. You can find her on Linkedin, Twitter and of course, Google +
1. What are some of your “rules” for effective leaders?
Be true to yourself.
Transparency should figure large in everything you do. In business it’s not always possible—or wise—to be transparent about everything though.
The welfare and integrity of the team is everything.
Never throw anyone under the bus, no matter how powerful or powerless they may be. It is terrible karma, quite apart from anything else.
Never take the credit for someone else’s brilliant idea or achievement. Karma again. But there’s more than just Karma. If someone is giving his/her absolute best and you steal the credit (and in my book it is theft), they won’t bother to put in the same level of effort again and their dampened enthusiasm will affect the team. Giving people credit for what they do dramatically raises the effectiveness of your team.
2. Are you doing what you love and getting better at it? How? What skills allowed you to start?
I plan to be learning for the rest of my life. I’m focusing on leadership skills at the moment.
I love to read about other tech people and entrepreneurs I admire: Richard Branson, a super-successful serial entrepreneur; Marissa Mayer, presently at the helm of Yahoo! and hopefully turning it around; Evan Williams, who started Twitter. Then there’s Chris Sacca, who is a Twitter, Uber, Instagram and Kickstarter investor, angel investor and a first-class business mind.
Speaking of Twitter, it’s an amazing tool for business. I follow the above on Twitter along with a host of others I learn from on a daily basis. For me, there’s no social media tool like Twitter to keep you in the loop and on your toes.
This article about outstanding business leadership is the sort of thing I love to read;
My verbal and written communication skills are the foundation of everything I’ve achieved professionally, and I continue to value those skills in others from whom I learn.
3. How do you empower your team?
I make it a viable thing for them to give their best by creating a ‘safe’ environment to grow: this means taking responsibility when things go wrong, but totally giving them the credit when everything goes right. To make this work you have to follow up on your team closely, so that you have an idea pretty early on if anything is not going the way it should.
It’s also important to be honest when you think someone’s on the right track, but even more honest (in the nicest way possible—sometimes this involves harsh words) when you see a train wreck looming.
I also like to encourage my team to continue to learn every second of their lives, and giving them the space to do that.
4. What will you do today that will matter one year from now?
Treat the people I work with in a way that I’d like to be treated. Never act because you feel it’s what’s expected if it feels wrong. Always listen to that small voice inside.
Other than that, read. Even on the days when I don’t actually do anything I scan my feeds for the latest important business and industry news. Forbes and Business Insider are also great for keeping informed and anyone who is vaguely interested in business success should be subscribed. I also follow Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal. Oh, and Mashable is a must.
5. Delegating is not an easy task… what do you delegate? Is it something you need to go back over…just in case.
I usually don’t delegate anything that, if it went wrong, could have a resounding impact—unless I’m 100 percent sure of the team member. That may be bad of me but I’m anal retentive about not allowing a project to fail on my watch!
I try to delegate in tune with an individual’s development (stretching them a little, but not throwing them to the sharks), and give them tasks that will look good on their resume. I totally agree with Richard Branson about educating and developing people so that they’re highly desirable to other companies, but treating them right so they don’t want to go.
As I mentioned, I do believe in following up on projects closely. The more critical the project, the more often I follow up.
6. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
I would certainly say that the safe environment I just talked about allows people the freedom to be creative. Knowing that they will get credit for anything great they do is encouraging and inspiring.
7. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
In my experience, great ideas often come from team members, sometimes from us (me and my business partner at the moment). I have had some outstanding ideas originate in meetings where an idea is allowed to develop between members of the team, sort of like water running over rocks in a waterfall. You never know quite where it will land as it’s shaped by each rock it passes over.
8. You have two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
Assuming I’ve researched them both to make sure I haven’t missed anything—gut feeling. My own intuition has always played a large part in my hiring process anyway—as in everything I do in life.
9. Your number one advice to someone in a new leadership position?
Yes, it is part of your job to be friendly, but you and your team should be quite clear on the fact that you can never be their friend. The dynamics of a ‘friend’ relationship would not allow for, or enable, your unique position as captain of the ship. If the dynamic changes from you at the helm, to you and whomever is your best friend at the moment, the ship is going to be sailing in many different directions pretty much randomly, and is much more likely to sink.
10. If you could have lunch with 3 great women in history, alive or dead, who would they be and what would you eat?
Oh how exciting!
My first choice would be Fatimah Al Fihri, who founded the oldest university, Al Qirrawiyyin, in Morocco way back in 859. We would have to eat a traditional Moroccan tagine, followed by their amazing mint tea.
Amelia Earhart would be my second choice. I would love to experience her exuberance and sheer force of character, as well as hear from her how she really died. I imagine we’d have cheesecake and a latte.
The third woman I’d love to meet is my Irish great-grandmother, Elizabeth Power, daughter of Sir Thomas Power, who ran away from her privileged life to marry my grandfather, Thomas Flynn. They ran away to London and she never saw any of her family again. How could she have done that? We’d meet at my house and eat scones with jam and clotted cream, washed down with tea in cups from my china collection.
11. Are you doing what you love – would you do things differently to get there?
I’m not there yet! I’ve had an almost charmed career, and I’m very grateful for that. But I would like to make my own company more successful than it is at the moment.
12. Your favorite story about a success or a failure you have learned from. Could be a stalker, could be a failed client… we want to know about your process.
Sadly, my on-the-ground experience of other business leaders has been more how not to do things. However, I’m inspired by quite a few stories from the world of business. I love Richard Branson’s account of an event that was the catalyst that eventually led to Virgin Atlantic. To cut a long story short his flight was cancelled and he needed to get somewhere, along with a lot of other stranded passengers. He tracked down a charter plane and charged all his fellow passengers for a seat. I love this example of the ability to ‘think on your feet.’
13. You are well known in your niche, how are you helping other women (if you are) and giving it forward.
I like male and female members of my team to forget about the gender thing and just get on and do what they do best. The communal effort to improve the team is far more important than gender. It is just not part of my plan to favour the hire of women over men because to me, that’s just the opposite side of the gender issue. Two wrongs don’t make a right. For me, the best person for the job gets the job! However, if any member of my team (male or female) was hostile to the opposite gender I would try to put them right and if it didn’t work, fire them.
It may seem strange but I’ve never focused on gender and never felt that my femininity was an encumbrance. I’m comfortable in my skin and want all team members to feel the same, because you can’t get far in life until you are comfortable with yourself.
14. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I have this thing where I can’t sleep with any part of my (even my little toe) hanging over the side of the bed. I must have seen a horror movie or something when I was small. Just can’t do it.
15. How can we as women make the world a better place?
Women are powerful within their own context. But we’re different from men. I honestly believe that men and women have different gifts. As a woman, learn to revel in your God-given abilities and use them to make life better for yourself and those around you, in ways that your brother can’t.