October 11, 2013

Guess who gets the call when instant replay goes on the fritz?

At the recent RichTech WomenETC – Virginia Women in Technology Conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Michelle McKenna speak. She’s the Chief Information Officer for the National Football League and shared fascinating insight about what it’s like to be a female and working mother in both a male-dominated industry (technology) and a male-dominated organization (football.) Her career choices have been challenging and her decisions have led her on an interesting path. Needless to say, her Sundays have never been the same!

In her comments, she addressed the importance of communication. Not necessarily typical business communication in the sense of meetings and memos, but more about actually talking to people, having conversations and sometimes tough ones.  She raised the very relevant point that often this candid conversation unsettles the HR or legal departments, yet insists on its importance.

Recently, McKenna interviewed a female job candidate whom she was very eager to bring on the team. McKenna believed the woman might be at the stage of her career where she would be wondering about having children while taking on this job. McKenna openly addressed it, saying “if you are worried about doing this job and having children, let me tell you my story…” She went on to share how she juggles her travel and out-of-state office location with the schedules of her teenage children and with help and support from the other adults in their lives. “We just have to tell our stories…” McKenna says.

It was a point of relate-ability between the two professionals that seems very personal, but it was also a complex career concern to address. McKenna’s openness paid off. The candidate accepted the job and told McKenna that she would never have done so without hearing McKenna’s story.

This reminds us that candor can happen in unexpected moments and have a significant impact. If we make it a habit to tell our stories, openly and honestly, we are able to create connections that grow opportunities for ourselves and those around us.