Get a running start with these 10 career tips

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Written by:
Michelle Feder

October is an ideal time for us to recognize the contributions of women at Microsoft. With Grace Hopper going on this week, we’re celebrating women in technology and business. We recently featured Sarah Filman, a Senior PM Lead for Microsoft OneDrive, who is attending this sold-out conference.

In this post, we’re highlighting Louise Lamb, a U.K.-based Support Practice Manager. Louise joined Microsoft in 2004 as a Technical Account Manager, an individual contributor. Now she’s a manager in the Premier Support organization for our enterprise services business, and she’s passionate about helping people on her team fulfill their goals.

Outside of work, Louise is an avid runner. She ran the London Marathon in 2013 in honor of a friend who is a breast cancer survivor. For the occasion, she wore a pink tutu and fairy wings — and raised 3,500 pounds for the cause.

Louise is training for a half-marathon, so you can think of her as a coach who wants to help you reach your  next big goal. Here, she offers 10 tips for women and men alike who aspire to leadership roles:

  1. Stretch. “During university, one summer I worked at a toy factory on an assembly line. It was a massive wakeup call. I learned I needed to do something that challenged me.”
  2. Choose your route. How does someone go from manual labor in a factory to acquiring a management role at Microsoft? Raised in a small town in South Wales, Louise decided to move “to the big smoke near London,” to pursue new career opportunities. She applied for a job with Sun Microsystems, where she fell in love with tech and the culture of a large American corporation.
  3. Cross-train. At Sun, Louise was a telephone salesperson. She asked her boss, “’Any chance I can go see a customer?’”  She learned: If you don’t ask, you don’t get opportunities.
  4. Test your drive. Early in her career, Louise sensed she may be perceived as less credible than her male counterparts. “I did feel I had to work extra hard, and be extra assertive, in running a meeting or delivering a tough message to a customer.”
  5. Persist. At Microsoft, “It took me five attempts over four years to get my management job.” Louise knew at first she wasn’t going to get it. “The best thing I learned and took away from the experience was input for a strong career development plan. This gave me a great foundation to move forward and understand where I needed to focus to get to the next step in my career.”
  6. Form friendships around a common goal. How did Louise break through to a management role? “Having a strong network enabled me to let people know my career aspirations.” When a management role became available, Louise was given a six-month secondment to try the role in an acting capacity, as a manager within the consulting services. “For me it was a great opportunity to gain first-hand experience and to prove my capability, having never done a people management role before, it was a great opportunity for the business to see that I can really do this.”
  7. Stay motivated, even when it hurts. Doubling up in the two roles at once allowed Louise to prove herself to her team’s leadership. She recalls, “I did my existing role as a technical account manager, and I managed 29 consultants. It was a real stretch and challenge.” She tested her limits. “I’m a bit like a terrier dog: If someone sets me to do something, I do it to the best of my ability.” Looking back on the juggle, Louise laughs and says, “I can’t believe I did it, but it really reinforced my goal to become a people manager.”
  8. Be positive. No matter what stage of your career, she says, when you get constructive feedback, have courage and hear it. “Sometimes it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the constructive feedback that helps us all develop.  That will be useful to you on an ongoing basis.”  She’s gotten positive reinforcement for her optimism. “People see me as having a sunny disposition. I think that has worked to help motivate people around me and when needed, get customers on my side.”
  9. Recharge. “For me, work should be a bit of an adventure,” Louise says. “I take it seriously, but having fun here is important to me.” Downtime is essential: “Ten minutes for a cup of tea to communicate and connect with my team and peers is where I get a great deal of satisfaction from my role.”
  10. Lace up your shoes and go. Today, Louise believes that women in business are regarded as equal. At MGX, for example, “I was struck by the number of female leaders who were presenting in the main tent, like Amy Hood, our CFO. And I thought, ‘She’s got really nice shoes!’” It was a revelation: “Wow, you can be glamorous, feminine, successful and senior, at the same time. It’s a real step forward for women and technology.”

Summing up these insights, Louise says: “At Microsoft, I can be myself.” She’s glad the days are over when women had to get ahead with a pushy demeanor and stereotypical big shoulder pads. Here, she says, “I can be feminine, I can wear jewelry and a dress. And I can be viewed by my peers and the leadership team as me, judged purely by my performance.”

Ready to put your training into action? Come as you are, do what you love, and go the distance. Visit Microsoft Careers, our global web site.

 

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