this article is based on a presentation from Women in SaaS Summit 2022. listen to the full unedited talk right here.
Women in tech, and especially women in SaaS, is my passion topic. That’s because I strongly believe that there's a very positive future for people in SaaS and tech companies.
My name is Emi Wayner. I work on Google Cloud’s marketing team, and I’m an advocate for women from under-recognized groups in tech. My job at Google is to lead strategy and operations for global customer programs.
Outside of my core role, I'm a mother of three and a Co-Chair of Google Women@ in LA. I’m also an advisory board member for an early-stage startup. I'm really happy for this opportunity to share my stories and learnings with you.
My origin story
I was born and grew up in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tokyo – near the fish market, if you’ve been to Tokyo. It's a fun place to go. My mother was a single parent for a few years. She was also a designer – far from tech and computer science. My father was a sales executive.
Since I was young, I’ve always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business. That came from my great-grandfather; he had a business focusing on media and printing from the 1940s to the 80s, so it was always my passion to help small businesses and startups.
Looking back, I was always an advocate for others. When I was in junior high, I became an ambassador for students in Tokyo and I represented the Tokyo students’ program.
I went to Canada for the first time when I was in high school (you can see a photo from that trip below) and I went to Australia alone without asking my parents to pay.
The third and most embarrassing picture was taken at my first startup in San Francisco. I joined that 10-person team while all my friends were going to work in investment banking. Soon after I joined, in a very typical dot com story, the startup went bankrupt.
When you look at my journey it seems very clean and linear, but the truth is it wasn't. It was a messy nonlinear tangle of failures and successes. I’ve become more and more comfortable with my nonlinear career path and personal path.
I haven’t gone in a straight line and done the same thing for 30 years like most of my friends, and that’s okay.
When you experience failure, you learn how to recover. You learn how to learn new things. You learn how to map your skills to new opportunities. That's something I want to talk about.
As I said, more than 50% of my friends and colleagues took the linear path. Japanese women of my generation usually get married before 25 and leave the workforce to have children before 30. I took a different path.
When I joined Google, I met so many people who had taken the scenic route too. I met former Olympic athletes, pilots, and doctors. That got me thinking about what I could do to build the right skills and get to the next level. How do people find what they want to do? How do they gain the right skills to do it?
The answer, it turns out, is curiosity.
The power of curiosity
Now, curiosity has become almost a buzzword. Everyone says you need curiosity to be successful. But when you really think about what curiosity means, it’s about building the awareness that you need to be able to see potential, help others, and do well in your everyday work.
Curiosity also fuels lifelong learning. If you're curious, you naturally want to learn new things every day. Not only does that help you build new skills, but it also leads to greater courage and confidence.
All of those are essential qualities to have when it comes to looking at similarities and differences between all the work that you do and the potential jobs out there. This is key to applying your current learnings to the next domain you enter.
It’s common to be afraid of trying something new. When you let go of that fear and embrace a nonlinear path, you can learn new skills and contribute in new ways to any domain you find yourself in.
These days, knowledge is very easy to access. We’re in a knowledge economy where you can look online and learn new things very quickly. As an employee, that makes it easy to gain the knowledge you need to join a new team or organization.
For those who don't take advantage of these opportunities to learn, new people can seem like a threat. You feel like you're not contributing enough or keeping up to date with the skills you need to succeed. That knowledge is always available, and the happiest and most successful people I know are those who harness it.
The cycle of renewal
Another important thing to keep in mind is our lives go in cycles. As I mentioned, I have three children. I had a baby when I was young, another when I was 27, and then in 2013.
That was part of my lifecycle. At each stage, I was able to find a job in a company that would give me the right amount of scope. According to research, a lot of women make their career decisions based on life stages like this.
Let’s talk a little bit more about cycles. The Hudson Institute has developed something called The Cycle of Renewal. When you think about it, renewal is the reverse of burnout.
In this cycle, you build your resilience, start something new, and you become happy. How often you go through this cycle is different for everyone. For me, these cycles come to me every two or three years.
There are four different phases to this cycle. I’m sure they’ll look familiar to you. Let’s take a closer look.
Phase one: Go for it – In this phase, you feel stable, excited, and full of ambitions and goals.
Phase two: The doldrums – This is when you start feeling trapped. Sometimes people in this phase feel angry or disappointed and their egos run deep. This is a trap that we should get out of as quickly as possible. When you learn about this cycle, you can identify when you’re in this phase and get out of it more easily. It all comes back to curiosity, which leads to awareness, which leads to confidence.
Phase three: Cocooning – This is when you come to terms with yourself and start searching inside for your true goals and dreams. This is an incredibly important stage. It might take some time, but my advice is to take as much time as you need and be patient.
Phase four: Getting ready – In this phase, you experiment with new things, nurture your ideas, and take some risks. This is going to help you grow personally and professionally before you go back to phase one, recover, and find success again. The last time I went through this stage, I did so many different things that helped me to identify new strengths and weaknesses and led me to success.
Resources to help you through The Cycle of Renewal
At Google, we’re fortunate to have access to a ton of resources. I want to share some of the tactics and resources that I have used along The Cycle of Renewal. Hopefully, they’ll give you new ideas for the future.
One of the resources I use is Google’s #IamRemarkable initiative, which focuses on empowering women and other underrepresented groups and celebrating their achievements.
The path to those achievements involves thinking about your strengths, your dreams, your personal grounding, and what you want to accomplish in the next six months. All of that together helps you become more confident and resilient throughout your journey.
Taking this course completely changed my mindset every day, and that was invaluable. I encourage you to check it out and search for other resources that will help you through stages three and four of The Cycle of Renewal so you can go back to stage one quickly.
Coaches, sponsors, and mentors
Because I’ve changed my job and location so much over the last two decades, it has been hard to find and hold on to coaches.
However, coaches, mentors, and sponsors are such a critical part of our success – both personally and professionally. If you don’t have a coach, a mentor, and a sponsor, start looking for them today.
It’s important to know the difference between these three types of people who are going to help you on your journey. The simplest way to explain it is that a coach talks with you, a mentor talks to you, and a sponsor talks about you.
Think about those differences and how you can contribute to those relationships, then start connecting with the right people to make sure that you're set for success.
The last time I went through phases two, three, and four of The Cycle of Renewal, I hired many executive coaches outside of Google. They really helped me back into the “Go for it” phase.
Search inside yourself
There are so many books, audiobooks, and podcasts available to us today. These are amazing, but as you take on board the knowledge they have to offer, you need to make sure you search inside yourself.
A long time ago, when I was in phase two of The Cycle of Renewal, I read The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard. It helped me realize that to be a high performer in my personal life, I had to think about what was important to me. There was one quote in particular in this book that really resonated with me:
Imagine at the end of your life you are standing before your Creator, and He asks: Did you use the time I gifted to you each day to be a purposeful being? Did you follow your own path and make your time count? How faithfully did you tend to the dream I sowed in your soul?
I read this quote and it made me think about how when I’m on my deathbed, I don't want to regret not doing all the things I wanted to do. I started thinking more about the future, my values, and my ambitions. They’ve changed quite a few times over the last 20 years, and that's okay.
If you're a woman in tech, whatever role you play, I would highly encourage you to search inside yourself to discover what’s important to you. If you build new skills and stay curious, you'll find resources all around you that will help you achieve your goals. There are lots and lots of resources available online – you just need to find the right resources for you.
Empower your teams
I want to ask you a question: if you’re a business leader or a SaaS business owner, do you offer all the resources your employees need?
I went from a 10-person company to a 100-person company all the way to a 100,000-person company, so I know that whatever the size of your organization, learning resources are vital; however, they’re often lacking.
Think about the support systems that you can offer, especially for women and under-recognized groups. Start offering mentorships and coaching. You need a natural and systematic way of building community. That's essential if you want to build the next wave of talent for your organization.
Top tips for women in tech
I'd like to close this article by sharing some top tips from powerful women in tech. All of these tips are from a video that Google put together – you can check it out here.
My top career tip for women in tech is to surround yourself with incredible role models.
I think one of the best things that I've found for myself in my career at Google and my career broadly has been learning from and surrounding myself with incredibly smart, talented, motivated people.
These are people who lift me up, who champion me, and who give me the opportunity to champion and lift up others.
– Tulsee Doshi, Product Manager at Google
Know how to overcome impostor syndrome. I face it every day, but I have learned to really focus on the value that I bring. Maybe you're scared that you're not technical enough or you don't fit this idea of what someone in tech “should be”, but that changes every single day, and we're redefining it as women.
– Stephanie Wong, Developer Advocate at Google
Bring your whole self. Don't worry about what “in tech” is supposed to mean. I used to be a photographer. I used to shoot a lot of concerts in a pit with a lot of men, and I feel like what I learned by navigating that scenario is very applicable to my day-to-day life now.
– Rachel Been, Design Lead at Nest
When you work in tech, you are so lucky for many reasons. So many fields and verticals can benefit from tech, so advantage number one is that you can work in so many different fields and on so many different problems. And of course, advantage number two is that if you work in tech, because you have this unique perspective that's so valuable, you’re very hireable.
– Dale Markowitz, Applied AI Engineer at Google
I have a tip on how to overcome the “I'm not enough” fear when applying to your dream job. The solution is building a skills-based resume rather than a timeline.
Empathy has taught me that people need to really quickly understand if they should call a candidate up or not within the first 30 seconds of reviewing a resume, so save your detailed experiences for interviews and only share a few relevant items that make employers curious to learn more about you.
– Alexandrina Garcia-Verdin, Developer Advocate at Google
One tip for women in tech: just don't be afraid of trying different technologies and rules. You might surprise yourself with what you find and what you like.
– Priyanka Vergadia, Developer Advocate at Google
Get comfortable talking about your work. So many of us have this mental hurdle of “Am I bragging? Is it too much? Should I be talking about myself? Shouldn't my work be talking about myself?”
But the reality is we are great cheerleaders of others. We talk at length about their accomplishments, and we need to be equally good at talking about our own work.
– Shilpa Vir, Product Manager at Google
Embrace changes as they come and be prepared for any opportunities that may come by so that you're always ready to take on new opportunities.
– Swetha Srinivasan, Software Engineer at Google
Do not fear. Be brave. Women belong in tech – do not let anyone make you think otherwise.
– Esra Küçükoğuz, Software Engineer at Google