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WLIT Coffee Talk: Inspiring Growth: The Power of Professional Networks

Kelly Sutter

March 15, 2023

No matter where you are in your career, a robust, strong, professional network can open up a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities for growth. But getting started can feel daunting, or like there just isn’t enough time to network in addition to your already packed schedule. So, as we reflect on International Women’s Day, what can women in tech—whether they’re just starting to network or looking to branch out—do to tap into the power of networking and make meaningful connections?

On International Women’s Day, I had the pleasure of hosting our Women Leaders in Technology (WLIT) Coffee Talk discussion with Rocket Software’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Program Manager Alice Rodman and Bobbi Dangerfield, senior technology and operations executive, advisor, investor and certified mentor from reacHIRE. “What an inspiring conversation!” “This meeting was eye opening!”, I love seeing all the comments from our community throughout these discussions!

Bobbi and Alice shared their experiences overcoming hurdles in building connections, capitalizing on opportunities for mentorship, and how strong networking can broaden perspectives and kickstart a career. Challenging yourself beyond your comfort zone encourages growth—sometimes you just need to ‘do it afraid’ until you find your confidence. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from the conversation.

Break the Ice

Making connections and building a network isn’t always a straightforward process. Meeting new people, and interacting with them, can be an uncomfortable experience. Ice breakers are important to ease that, but it’s not always easy to figure out how to go about doing it. So, how can you come into a situation ready to meet and make a connection? Bobbi recommends having a few different conversation starters on hand to help ease your way into a meeting with someone new. Beyond that, one tip Bobbi shared is to always seek out the common ground you share with someone. Take the time to research and find out what experiences, interests or work you share with that person.

Find Ways to Stand Out

Networking tends to happen organically at an event—be it an in-person conference or a virtual event. Arrive early and leave late in order to really seize opportunities to connect with other attendees. Making an impression in these settings can go a long way for building connections. In addition, find other ways to increase your visibility. One way to make an immediate impact, according to Alice, is a simple one—don’t underestimate the value of a thank you note. Did you hear a powerful message? Did someone make an impact on you? Send them an email or even a handwritten note, and let them know.

Make Networking a Priority

One of the biggest challenges that came up around networking was how to make time for it in the first place. Regardless of the role, we’re all busy and it’s easy to lose focus on your professional network. A piece of advice Bobbi likes to share is to sit down at the beginning and end of each week to really look at your calendar and identify how time is being spent. In an ideal world, strive to divide your time, and your calendar, to focus your time across three areas: 1) with your immediate team, 2) with colleagues, and 3) with customers, clients, and people outside your company. Ultimately though, networking is something that takes time. Gathering and making connections is an ongoing process, but it’s one that you have to make time for. Building that time into your calendar throughout the day to get up and do some outreach can go a long way. This approach will change perspective, solve challenges and bring new opportunities.

Tap Into the Power of Connection

Aside from fostering career growth, putting time and effort into building your network is a great way to gain valuable perspective. Making connections with a diverse set of people, particularly those with different backgrounds and viewpoints can enable you to adapt, grow and broaden your own personal and professional worldview. Alice describes how it’s a moral imperative for growth. You never know when doors might open when you make that connection, take the risk. It’s like Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take!”

Build confidence, gain perspective, expose yourself to a passion you didn’t know you had…there are so many benefits to investing in your professional network and there’s no better time to get started making those connections. Watch our full conversation to hear everything Bobbi and Alice had to share about making the most of your professional connections.

Register now for the next WLIT Coffee Talk on June 27, 2023, at 11:00 am ET as I talk with two executives who take practical steps every day to strike harmony between career and family.

Visit Rocket Software’s Women Leaders in Technology web page to see more Coffee Talks, blogs, and join our WLIT Community.