NYC Women in Tech Discuss Finding Empowerment on Male-Dominated Teams

October 15, 2020
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teampay

When Harvard Business Review asked women at a large global bank whether they felt they could make a contribution in a meeting, only 35 percent said yes. 

Being ignored or talked over in meetings has been the norm for women at male-dominated companies for years. 

By the time she landed at sports betting platform Tipico, Senior Frontend Engineer Priscilla Huff was well-versed at making her voice heard.

Speaking up is not the only challenge for women in the minority on their teams. Yaseline Muñoz and Ayeshaseerin Shahulhameed both said they had trouble advocating for themselves at previous workplaces that lacked another female presence. 

Muñoz, now a sales development representative at spending management SaaS provider Teampay, has overcome insecurities about her talent with the help of mentors and self-reflection. 

Meanwhile, Shahulhameed, a senior director of application development at HR tool provider Lifion by ADP, felt unprepared to take on new opportunities until she observed how male colleagues took on responsibilities. She learned on-the-fly and now feels confident to raise her hand for new projects.

All three women shared their stories of how they worked to assert themselves earlier in their careers and make positive impacts on their current teams that support more women. 

 

Advice for women working on male-dominated teams

  • “Find a female mentor or career coach. Yes, you can accomplish anything on your own, but having extra support makes a big difference.” - Yaseline Muñoz, Teampay
  • “Always speak your mind and try your best. You’ve earned your spot in the field just like all of your male counterparts, so don’t feel ’less than’ anyone else.” - Priscilla Huff, Tipico
  • “You may have heard plenty of advice about how to change your behavior to blend in. I am going to suggest the opposite. Be you. Instead of thinking of yourself as the odd one out, think of yourself as a unique brand on the team.” - Ayeshaseerin Shahulhameed, Lifion by ADP

 

Priscilla Huff
Senior Frontend Engineer

Senior Frontend Engineer Priscilla Huff said she had to work through being overlooked on a previous, male-dominated developer team. Her experiences at sports-betting operator Tipico are different, as 32 percent of the company’s 2019 hires were women. 

 

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced being the only woman on a team? 

When I first began my career as a junior developer, my biggest struggle was standing up for myself. People would speak over me, interrupt me or dismiss my ideas. I had to repeat myself to be heard. I kept bringing up the same idea until someone listened and had to prove myself until they realized that my work and ideas benefited the team. Establishing a reputation as being outspoken helped me overcome these issues and led to people looking to me for advice. 

When someone is critiquing me, it’s really a chance to learn and expand my knowledge.”

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned from being the only woman on a team?

I tend to let emotions get the best of me. I’ve struggled with criticism and not taking negative feedback personally. I’ve tried to correct this behavior by realizing that when someone is critiquing me, it’s really a chance to learn and expand my knowledge, not a reason to get upset or feel personally attacked. 

 

Yaseline Muñoz
sales development representative

Yaseline Muñoz said she’s confident in her role as a sales development representative at business expense management platform Teampay because of what she learned at a previous company: that she should trust and remain authentic to herself through doubt she may face.

 

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced being the only woman on a team? 

Before joining Teampay, one of the greatest challenges I faced was believing I had to change who I was. At one of my first sales jobs, my manager told me to be “more pushy” and to refuse to take “no” for an answer. I tried his approach, and ultimately failed because it was not who I genuinely am. I now take no’s from prospects, and also try to understand why they aren’t interested. I found that when people see you are genuinely interested in them, they become interested in you. Being your authentic self will always bring you the best results.

My gender or background does not determine my success.”

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned from being the only woman on a team?

Early in my career, I learned to overcome doubt. I doubted my own capabilities because others told me I was only chosen for a job because I was a woman and a minority. Through the support of my mentors I realized that if I was selected for the job, it was because I could get it done, and well. My gender or background do not determine my success. The opinions of others do not determine my success. The doubts or insecurities others project on me do not determine my success. Ultimately, I am the only person responsible for the success I achieve. I let go of the things I cannot control and take full responsibility for the things I can.

 

Related readingHow to Be an Effective Self-Advocate, According to Women in Tech

 

Ayeshaseerin Shahulhameed
senior director of application development

Ayeshaseerin Shahulhameed said she struggled to network with other women earlier in her career. But now, at Lifion by ADP, the senior director of application development has an easier time building relationships because she has a wider female peer group to network with, as 50 percent of the HR software company’s workforce is female.

 

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced being the only woman on a team? 

My biggest challenge is networking. I know it sounds small, but it is very important. As you grow in your career, who you know adds as much weight as who you are. The best place to form relationships is in social settings, but that has been a challenge for me since many topics discussed there aren’t necessarily things I have a command of.

But after a few unsuccessful networking sessions, I found a way to navigate them. Usually, there is a short period where the group waits for someone to start a conversation. Lately, I’ve tried to be the first to start so I can choose a topic I know.

Don’t wait for 100 percent readiness to sign up for opportunities.”

 

What’s the most important lesson you learned from being the only woman on a team?

Don’t wait for 100 percent readiness to sign up for opportunities. In my early days, I used to pass on opportunities because I wasn’t completely sure that I had the time, resources or a plan for them. After observing my male colleagues, I understood that no one had a complete plan before taking on an initiative. Since I made that realization, I always sign up for new initiatives with a commitment to learning quickly.

 

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