Illustration by Linda Gobeta
This article was written by Jana (Director Quality Assurance) for our internal International Women's Day website.
Editor's Note: Being a yes-woman is great, however, it is important to pay attention to your bodies’ signals and be a no-woman if this is what's best for you and your health.
We hear and read about strong women with great careers and achievements and want to be like them. We want to be strong-willed, confident, and successful. And if we hear someone who says they don’t want these things, then we think they’re lying.
Not everyone needs to be a career-driven person but imagine having those personality traits in other areas of your life…
Most of us are not confident enough to march into the boss’s office and ask for more money because we deserve it. Most of us are not stubborn to the point that we get what we want, to say our own opinion even if nobody else agrees. That is okay.
To change that is hard, but we can start with a simple step - saying yes to opportunities.
The “Yes” got me pretty far without years of worrying that I didn’t have enough skills or that I am not a good fit for the role.
I remember working as a receptionist at a small firm. It was the only thing I could do after graduating high school with no specialization. I remember getting a warning and losing bonuses after I arranged milk in the wrong way. Oh, those old times…
I made a lot of friends in the IT department and one day one of them came to my desk and said that he had just had an interview with an IT manager. They agreed that the role was too junior for him but he promised them that I would send them my CV and would interview for the role!
You can imagine my reaction. However, I said yes.
I studied books for two weeks, I googled a lot. And after a two-hour interview, I got the job of a junior tester.
The most important thing wasn’t the books. It was the “yes”.
After four years I started being pretty unhappy because I couldn’t find any common ground with my boss. It escalated so much that I found myself sitting with his boss and trying to solve the situation. Meanwhile, I was socializing outside of my project with other colleagues at the company, and one day another friend came to me, and, knowing my situation he suggested that I should change the project. He had changed his project a couple of months ago and was happy with the change.
He told me that one of the project managers was looking for a Test Manager for a new project which was about to start.
Wow! That was a role I wasn’t expecting to be in my career for another two years.
I found myself sitting in the meeting room with an infamous project manager in the company at that time (she’s still a badass there) where she was explaining her vision of my future work: come up with a test strategy, analysis, staffing my own team, leading the testing of two teams, and be a spokesperson for the client in any testing discussions.
My heart was pounding, I was sweating like a pig, in my head I was panicking. I didn’t have any idea about half the things she was talking about.
However, I said yes.
Another period of books and googling was awaiting me. This time I had two months before the project started.
I wrote a pretty good strategy for a newbie, I staffed a very good team that soon became self-sufficient and I advocated for our project team in front of the client.
The client was a tough one. The Test Manager on the client-side couldn’t accept that there was a young girl in the same position as him. He didn’t acknowledge me at the meetings for at least three months. I remember a lot of funny situations. Thankfully, our team was perfectly aligned about responsibilities and when he tried to get around me, he couldn’t. Soon, he learned to deal with me.
After two years I decided to leave the company and I came across a job ad for Head of Testing. Challenged and motivated because leadership became my favorite topic I sent in my CV.
The role was completely different. No project, no testing. It was a pure management role with a team of 50 people. I had a lot of interview rounds with the owners of the company and with sales and they were struck that I was not afraid to scale my experience from 5 teammates to 50.
I was afraid, a lot. This wasn’t about leading a defect meeting. It was about pitching to clients, sales, budget handling, hiring and firing, strategy and vision, KPIs, and decision making which could influence the revenue of the company.
I believed in my “yes” rule and I also recognized the only risk here: If I screw up the worst thing they can do is to fire me. Being in IT I knew I could get a new job in a week. I realized the risk is not that high.
So I said yes again.
It was a hell of a ride. I had no time for adjusting. In two weeks I was running in “production”. The start was so clumsy that I had to deal with the consequences the whole year I was working there. Especially with the team, I had to fire seven people in the first months. I had to come up with a strategy for how to get the competence into green numbers, I had to come up with a solution on how to handle 50 people because doing so by myself was insane. I won my first pitch, I came up with 4 new products to sell…
I burnt out four times during that year. My doctor was convincing me to leave when my stress level didn’t ease after a week of vacation.
However, this “yes” was all worth it. I learned a lot.
I left after the year due to my health and also due to some decisions of the owners I wasn’t in agreement with. I found a good, calm position at SinnerSchrader as a Director where I partially work on a project and I have a small team. The company lets me indulge in various topics as leadership, diversity, or mentoring when I want to. There hasn’t even been a day of stress and it’s been a year. :)
What to say to summarise? We can be scared, we can doubt ourselves, we can lack the self-confidence of successful top managers, but saying yes despite that is powerful and it gets you far. The opportunities will open before you and you’ll find out that there is nothing to be afraid of, there is a strong will inside you, and that in the worst case you will always manage to find the light in the tunnel and get out.