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What I learned at Nottingham’s Salesforce Women in Tech event14 min read

What I learned at Nottingham’s Salesforce Women in Tech event14 min read

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As the speakers were gradually being announced on social media, it was with ever-building excitement that I anticipated June’s Salesforce Women in Tech event. With topics such as imposter syndrome, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), self-belief and re-defining the idea of being professional, for me it was ticking all the boxes!

We had four incredible guest speakers covering a range of thought-provoking topics, with personal and professional experiences that in some cases really brought a tear to my eye! If you missed it, all I can say is… you really missed out! But don’t worry too much, as here’s a little recap of what we learned on the day.

Rebecca Godfrey – Thriving in the Face of the Imposter

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Rebecca from those who attended her previous LinkedIn Local event at the oe:gen offices — where she was a facilitator of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® — so I was super excited to see what she would bring to the table!

Rebecca is a very upbeat, confidant person. She started her talk by taking us back to a happy, joyful time at a festival where she was thinking about how great life was and how far she had come… great family, career, friends — living the dream!

However, all was not well on the inside and in reality, she was struggling with the life she’d made for herself. Rebecca got promoted and her responsibilities grew to 24/7 support with people constantly looking for advice. Taking long haul flights once or twice a month, making high impacting global decisions, upholding the relentless pressures of work — all while trying to juggle being a mum, a wife, a friend.

In fact, Rebecca had only taken one day off in eight months! With work taking over every waking moment of her days, she was starting to lose sight of herself.

It’s no surprise that the work-life-balance was simply not there and ever-depreciating. Feeling more and more out of her depth, she was becoming overwhelmed with self-doubt. Yet, she kept telling herself and others that she had to work!

Although I couldn’t relate to Rebecca’s exact experience, this could very easily have been me in previous job roles, and I think everyone in the audience could relate to some part, if not all of her story. She described feeling overwhelmed and out of her depth, worried someone would think she’s not that good at her job, and then Rebecca said it — she felt like an imposter; she felt like she was pretending to be good at her job and if someone were to lift the veil, they’d see her as the fraud she felt she was. And of course, this only made her work harder and longer to make sure the curtain didn’t slip! 

It wasn’t until her mother-in-law saw what was happening and intervened that Rebecca finally gave up and was diagnosed and signed off with stress and even after 7 weeks off work Rebecca was still not right, so still slightly in denial Rebecca went to see a specialist who told her that her brain is shutting down. Rebecca then had to accept professional help.

Rebecca went on to explain imposter syndrome, what it is and how it can affect people. Using statistics and studies and drawing on from her own personal experiences as an example, this talk gripped the whole audience. For years I have suffered from depression, and looking back I can see times when imposter syndrome has played a huge part in this cycle. And although I’ve developed ways and means of dealing with my condition, I found the honesty and openness of Rebecca’s talk not only welcoming but incredibly inspiring!

If you haven’t heard Rebecca’s talk on imposter syndrome (or any of her other talks!) then I strongly suggest that you do. It was a deeply moving and insightful talk that I believe everyone can relate to and learn from.

Elaine Grace – ‘Recalibrate to Great’ with neuro-linguistic programming

I’ve always found NLP fascinating, and I have a workbook at home that I dip in and out of from time to time, but I’ve never really stuck at it!

Elaine went on to explain NLP and how it is to achieve results by setting goals or looking at where you want to go. She guided us through how our brains file things away to stop us imploding (always a bonus I think!) and how our brains process day to day info and sorts them into categories such as:

  • Generalise
  • Delete — zero interest items
  • Distort — to fit our perception of reality based on our belief system.

She then went on to further discuss our perception; how this is based on our beliefs and where some of these deep-rooted beliefs have been imprinted on us from an early age.

An example of this is whenever our parents told us ‘don’t touch that, it will be hot’. However, we also test and push the boundaries based on reality. Some of us may touch it to see if it is actually hot, and some of us might just acknowledge that as fact without even testing it out.

Elaine then went on to dig a bit deeper into this and further explained the difference between being in ‘cause’ or ‘effect’. The individual belief systems that we have ultimately shape our reality. So a limited belief on what we can achieve will limit our goals and future decisions.

I can’t do that because…  I’ve not done it before.

I can’t do that because… I’ve been told it’s hard.

Elaine then went on to discuss goals! Who has any? Who feels goal-less? Who has put their goals on hold? With a show of hands from the audience, this got my brain ticking… what are my goals? What’s stopping me achieve them?

Using her experience with horses, Elaine went on to advise that if you want to move a horse forward, you sometimes have to approach it and push it from the side to get things moving. This is similar to how we can re engage our brains by using NLP! We can actually change the way that we deal with situations buy recreating a new path based on new beliefs.

Elaine continued to then give great advice on how you can make positive changes using NLP to achieve the goals you set yourself.

There were so many top tips and ideas running through my head that I was struggling to write them all down, and then the final question really blew my mind as it really hit home:

When it comes to having a goal what is the relationship you have with yourself?  Are you your own best friend or are you your own worst enemy?

There have been so many times I’ve talked myself out of things when, if I was giving myself the same support I do to a friend, I would possibly have handled it differently. It’s time to really start thinking about my own beliefs and setting and achieving some goals!

Kirsty Hulse — ‘The neuroscience of self-belief’

Kirsty brought tonnes of energy to the room with her talk ‘The science of self-belief’, where she spoke about why we fumble our words, forget what to say, or freeze. She comes from a very male-orientated environment and is now offering presentation training for women in order to try and level the playing field. Coming from the agricultural industry and having been to some very male-dominated events in the past, I can relate to that!

Kirsty did a survey on Twitter and out of 800 followers, 94% of people believe that confidence can hold them back. She realised that it wasn’t presentation training but confidence training that was needed. And this made her start looking into more and more research in order to apply it to her work to help others.

Kirsty then started looking at the Limbic System, which is the emotional centre of the brain that causes us to freeze, flight, or fright. The brain is constantly looking out for threats and fires up far more intensely than for other more relaxed situations.

When we feel nervous and the Limbic System fires, what happens?

  • Our ‘mind goes blank’
  • We stutter
  • Our words don’t come out
  • We start sweating
  • We can’t formulate ideas
  • We struggle to communicate exactly what we mean
  • We remember key points afterwards
  • … and much, much more.

This is the same if we make a mistake — we go into panic-mode by default. But Kirsty went on to reassure us that there are things we can do about it (phew!).

Re-enforcing some points raised by Elaine in the previous talk, we can hardwire new beliefs and recreate new habits enabling the growth mindset and turning I can’t do that into ‘I can’t do that yet…’

View the change you make as a test, so you can try it out and get comfortable with failure without putting pressure on yourself.

Kirsty went on to tell us about a personal experience where she had the opportunity to talk at a huge event of over 6000 people, but she wasn’t ready. She should have said no, but it was this huge dream of hers. So without planning it out and without enough time to prepare, she did it anyway. Fraught with tension, she blasted through the talk in record time, not even taking two-seconds for breath and… epically failed the talk.

Obviously, she was dreading the reviews, but they came back 50/50. Some were glowing and others were really bad, and it was at that moment she realized that she can’t win them all, which was a huge turning point for her.

One of the common things we all focus on is getting everyone on board with what you’re saying and making sure everyone likes you. But you don’t have to get everyone on board and not everyone will like you –  you just need to do your best!

Looking at a video on her first talk compared to one later and seeing the differences were astonishing. The first was defensive, self-critical, anticipating negative thoughts. The second one was confident, assured, knowing a quarter of the room will think she’s great and focusing on them.

Kirsty then went on to explain that nerves can be helpful as this increases attention. Also, what works for some, doesn’t work for others. For example, practising her talk in the morning made her lose her edge which meant that her talk wasn’t as good in the afternoon. However, this might help others. Own your nerves, it means that you care!

Kirsty left us with and what we need in order to be great speakers:

  1. Emotional regulation – Cortisol is the stress hormone
  2. Breath – controlling your breathing to keep yourself calm (power-posing can help with this)
  3. Social support – test your talks on friends and get their feedback first
  4. Laughter – don’t take life too seriously and learn from your mistakes, don’t beat yourself up over them.
  5. Be prepared – what do I want to work on? What do I want to do? What do I want to achieve? If we believe the situation is going to be stressful, we then react to it in that way.

Really powerful and impactful stuff from Kirsty, and with the offer of free confidence training in local areas! Who can say no to that?

Emma Watts — Leading as yourself

Emma started by talking to us about being professional. What does this mean? To a lot of people, this means being emotionless, acting serious, keeping private life private

This, I can totally relate to! I remember my mum taking me clothes shopping some years ago as I’d just been promoted to a senior management role and I needed to look ‘more professional’.

The fact I’d just been promoted based on my skillset but dressed in bright blue tights and boots that jangled (like a cowboy in a western film, but my work colleague’s at the time would say Christmas elf… either way I’ll take it!) all seemed to be totally irrelevant, it was all about the smart shoes and the knee-length fitted suit, apparently!

Emma went on to explain that by redefining professionalism, you must consider that between professional and private life there is a human element. And yet, some attitudes towards subordinates are not classed as unprofessional, when it should be!

Emma told us that you should be able to show up as yourself without fear of psychological abuse, and this is the highest success factor in working teams.

Emma then started looking at alternative ways of dealing with situations such as:

  • Leading by example – be accepting of others and they will be accepting of you.
  • Listening to others and really hearing what they have to say.
  • Junior roles don’t make a junior person.
  • Reframing the situation to find the opportunity – why do you not get on with your boss? What can you do differently to resolve the issue?
  • Centering (mindfully) – be grounded, feel your space, and feel yourself breathing into the centre of it. This is a calming effect and brings you to a place where you can react appropriately.
  • Social connection – talking about positives, going for a walking meeting, going for a coffee, laughing, eating lunch with people. These are all techniques to bring you back to being calmer and more productive.
  • Being yourself builds more trust, which means openness equals higher-performing teams.

Speaking openly and from experience, Emma gave us deeper advice for when we’re dealing with stressful situations. Some people can move into more traditional roles in order to gain control. However, by doing this, they lose sight of the team focus and might not get the results required both in the short and long term.

There is also a worry that people can become ‘too soft’ and won’t give too much feedback. However, by having an open and accepting forum, we’re able to be more likely to give feedback and more accepting about receiving feedback without judgment.

Emma concluded that to be high performing, we need a great and accepting working environment where we can be ourselves.

So all in all, what did I come away with?

My brain is going to have its work cut out in order to ensure it doesn’t implode with all this info.

I received so many good ideas and honestly wouldn’t know where to start. I absolutely loved the speakers, and although it was a total roller-coaster of emotions deep-diving into such thought-provoking stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really felt my heart and mind open to the idea that the world is really starting to change by the impact of people around me.

I have felt like the imposter, I have been the person filled with self-doubt, I have been the person trying to win over 100% of an impossible audience, and I have done it all wearing an ill-fitting suit and bad shoes all in an attempt to be ’the professional me’.

I’ve now got to a point that I do what I love, which makes me awesome at my job. And best of all, I’m working within a company that not only values my skills but promotes a totally ‘professional’ environment that also empowers me to be myself and perform to the absolute best of my ability. This is what every business out there should be looking to achieve!

Yet another massively inspiring day to add to the Salesforce Women in Tech collection. I seriously think I need to come armed with a bigger notepad and at least two weeks off to completely transform my way of thinking!

Thank you to all the guest speakers, you have truly been life-changing!

Next time…

If you did just miss the last event, don’t worry! oe:gen is always keen to share the knowledge, so keep an eye out for future events. The next Nottingham Salesforce Women in Tech event is on 9th October, so pencil it in your diary and keep an eye out for speaker announcements.

If you feel you could benefit from some free knowledge, or if you feel you have something to share, then make sure you join our next event or contact our lead organiser, Emily, right here. Sharing is caring and knowledge is power! And did I mention there are always DoughNotts?!

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