Dawnna St Louis grew up in a dangerous neighborhood and, by her teens, she learned that if she didn’t make some changes, she was destined for a life of early motherhood, poverty and even crime. Speaking at the closing general session at PPAI’s Women’s Leadership Conference in July, St Louis recalled how she took stock of her situation, overcame her limitations and went on to create her own successful IT company.
In the largely male-dominated IT world, she was a rarity. But it was a good place to learn the do’s and don’ts that ultimately proved her success. In her no-nonsense style, St Louis encouraged the women in her audience to embrace their self worth and rise to the top with these tips:
1. Give yourself credit for department or company victories, no matter how big or small.
Here are some ways to do that:
• Identify a challenge you had a role in solving
• Write down three ways you were involved in solving the challenge
• Determine the benefits of your contribution to the organization
2. If you have a seat at the table during meetings with higher-ups, don’t take notes. Don’t be the scribe. You don’t want to put yourself in the position of being the secretary and not the leader. Your position at the table is important too. Sit at the head of the table or in the center on one of the sides. Alternatively, sit next to those seats. Always face the door. Never take a seat in a corner, especially in a corner by the door.
3. Walk in the shoes of the person you want to be. Know the value of what you bring to the table and don’t let anyone else tell you any different. Look at your failures as things you had to learn to get to where you are now.
4. If you have an upcoming meeting where you anticipate you may not be listened to, enlist the help of a supporter in advance. Ask that person to assist if you get interrupted. For example, if someone tries to cut you off, the other person will step in and say, “So-and-so was starting to say something and I want to hear what it is…”