Microsoft executive Gavriella Schuster shares her thoughts on career opportunities for women in technology and mentoring opportunities for younger colleagues.
We recently shared an interview Sean Ferrel and his team at Managed Solution conducted with Todd Stewart, VP of global infrastructure and IT operations for Western Digital. With our Women of the Channel Leadership Summit East conference taking place next week in New York, we thought it would be good to share an interview Sean conducted with Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, one commercial partner with Microsoft.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
What career opportunities do you see for women in technology that are not STEM-oriented?
Schuster: There are so many. The thing is, sometimes people don’t see the opportunities because they think you have to be able to code and build a product. But there are so many tech jobs around running a business where what you’re selling and what you’re building is the technology.
Looking at the world ahead, I don’t think there will be a business that doesn’t involve technology. Today, I’m working with farmers and IoT devices that allow them to farm better. It’s weird to think farming is moving towards technology. But the industry can’t afford not to.
Across industries, business leaders are re-thinking the business model of the business. How do you think about the brand? How do you think about marketing it? How do you think about selling it? Who are your customers? How do you create great customer experiences? How do you create scale mechanisms to reach your customers in your market (which is where partners come in)? How do you run finance around that? How do you make sure the people you’re hiring are growing and hiring other great people?
People management, leadership, HR systems; these are all questions you need to answer to successfully run an organization. And they’re all tech jobs.
I think we can do a better job helping our young people understand these jobs are everywhere. I had a student from the University of Michigan job shadow me one time. She said she learned so much in that short amount of time that it helped her define her career goals. I believe in mentorship programs and job shadow programs to help students understand that these jobs are available and to help them dream of these careers.
Are there any books, podcasts or other educational programs you would recommend to young women?
Schuster: One of my absolute favorites is Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. It’s about stepping out, taking risks, being vulnerable, and doing your best everyday. She’s pretty remarkable and I love her message; you don’t have to be someone different or do things differently. You can be the best version of you and do what you do best. It’s a really inspirational book.
Another favorite is Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion by Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He has a whole course on “winning forever” that I was lucky enough to participate in through Microsoft. He ran us through the importance of positive thinking and positive coaching, expecting the best of yourself, giving yourself grace for your mistakes, and just going out and doing better every day.
One of my key takeaways was this: at the end of the day, make an internal highlight reel, similar to reviewing the plays that worked in the game. I used to do a lowlight reel. On my way home, I would think of all the things I didn’t get through in the day, or all the conversations that didn’t go right; all the things I could have done better. I learned that’s just not helpful. All it did was reinforce the negatives. What you need to do is build a highlight reel and think about all the things that did go well and learn from the things that maybe didn’t go the way you’d hoped. Then you can think about how your day can be structured tomorrow to do even better.
Another book I love is called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s awesome. It’s all about work-life balance and focusing on the things that matter, while letting go of the noise and not letting yourself get distracted by the unimportant things.
We also have Jae Ellard who leads a company called Simple Intentions come and lead mindfulness sessions for my team.
As someone who has carved out a successful career path as a female executive, are you currently mentoring others? If so, what are some of the things you are doing?
Schuster: Mentoring others is extremely important to me. It inspires me and gives me energy. Another great thing that I learned from Pete Carroll’s course is to develop a personal statement, and know who you are. You should be able to describe your personal philosophy on life in 25 words or less. When I challenged myself to do that, I found that coaching, mentoring, and helping people helps me learn and grow and gives me a lot of energy.
When people ask me to coffee or ask to shadow me, I always say yes. There are three reasons: I love doing it. It expands my network. And I always learn something new. Probably 30 percent of the time, I continue connecting with them month after month or year after year. I see such great changes and growth in these people. It’s as rewarding as watching your own children grow. I love feeling like I’ve been a part of their growth.
Another way I try to help others is through women mentoring groups I’ve launched to help empower women to make sure they have a seat at the table and can contribute in meaningful ways. We are also very involved in Women in Technology (WIT) and helping the partner community increase their diversity and help women grow in their careers.
(Editor’s note: To read the full interview with Schuster, click here.)