Q&A with Rise's VP of Product Management: Empowering Women in Tech
As the Vice President of Product Management at Rise, Joy Wilson is responsible for the vision and strategy of our Connex technology platform. Yep, she’s a big deal. Add in being a mom, wife, leader, and learner, and you have just a taste of who we all have the privilege to work with at Rise Interactive.
For even more about the inspirational woman behind Connex and her tips on making things happen, check out my interview with her below.
- Maureen Davis
MD: Tell us about yourself!
JW: For the past 7 years, I have had the privilege of building out the Connex media platform at Rise Interactive, where I currently lead Product Management, Delivery, Design, and Operations. Before Rise, I have worked to solve user problems across a wide array of products including HomeFinder.com, Legacy.com, and FirstLook Systems. I live in Chicago with my husband and two amazing daughters, where I am a co-leader of the 2nd Grade Brownie Girl Scout Troop and ardent F1, Michigan State, and Cubs fan.
MD: Wow. I'm making a note for us to do a follow up interview solely on Girl Scout cookies and F1. As a successful woman in tech though, what are you most proud of professionally?
JW: I am the proudest of the Innovation organization that we have built at Rise. Never in my career have I been a part of such a talented, collaborative and compassionate team as I have during the last 7 years. The team members that work in the Innovation department at Rise are always willing to do the extra work that makes our technology platform best-in-class in the industry. They are also just as willing to support each other in hard times, find laughter in our crazy world of technology, and work collaboratively so that everyone feels included and heard. The result of that is a diverse collection of product managers, engineers, designers, and scrum masters that truly deliver incredible results for the company and our clients.
MD: What inspired you to add taking action for working women to your plate?
JW: The statistics around the non-parity of women and men in the workplace are pretty staggering. In the early stages of my career, I think I just kind of accepted it as normal. As I have gained experience and become a mother of two daughters, my viewpoint has changed. I recognize now more than ever it is time to be the change I want to see in the world. At the current course and speed, it will take women 800 years to be equal to men in terms of representation in the boardroom and salary. That timetable is simply not good enough for me. So, now I work to be vocal about inequity where I see it. I use my voice and my skills to advocate for women and to lift them so that by the time my daughters are ready to enter the workforce, the barriers to success for them are not as high as they were for me.
MD: I like to think that "work-life balance" actually is managing a state of unbalance in whatever way works for you. What does it mean to you?
JW: Work-life balance is a challenge and one I am still working on. For me, it means that I am not feeling burnt out and that I have energy and enthusiasm for each aspect of my life. I love working on how Connex can empower our teammates and clients to drive performance, but I also love being a mom, helping with Girl Scouts, hanging out with my husband, and making time for friends. Things that I have learned to help me achieve it are to avoid self-judgment when things are not perfect, and that it is okay to say no to things.
As someone who loves to achieve big goals, those concepts took me a long time to learn. I always believed everything had to be perfect, and that I had to do more and more and more to achieve those goals.
Now, I know that I can accomplish more, and have more fun doing it, by letting go of the self-judgment when things aren’t perfect and setting boundaries that empower me to rest and recharge.
MD: I love that. Really believing that perfect is impossible is so tough to do, but also so important. Knowing all of that has helped you, how do you think people can support women in their organizations overall?
JW: While there are many initiatives that organizations can take up to support women, individuals can also play an active role. People that are looking to support women should begin by looking inward and working to remove the “Likeability Penalty” that exists for women.
Women are far more likely to be called bossy, blunt, or direct and associate negative connotations to those words, whereas when men act in the same way they are thought of as leaders. Working to remove that conscious bias will inspire a new generation of women leaders who are not afraid to transform organizations with their ideas.
Another way to support women in your organization is to consciously and consistently evaluate how you do/do not include them or share workloads with them. The next time you walk (or click) into a meeting, look around the room at who is there. Do you need to include different types of people? Are there diverse voices? Does the woman always take meeting notes or send out the recap email? If so, work to include more people the next time, or offer to take the meeting notes and send the recap.
Finally, be a vocal supporter of women's issues in your organization. Support flexible working schedules, non-linear career paths, and be a vocal proponent for inequality when you see it.
MD: Last but certainly not least, what advice would you give to young women entering this profession?
JW: My biggest piece of advice for young women looking to enter a technology profession is to use their voices. Use your voice to show how you can impact an organization with your ideas and use it to uplift others. Additionally, there is nothing that will serve your career better than a solid network. Having a group of other professionals to learn from, grow with, and lean on is invaluable. In the beginning, also look for a mentor. This can be anyone that will advocate for you, make introductions, and provide constructive feedback that can help you grow. As you move throughout your career, add to and edit your professional network to include people with varied experiences and backgrounds who can act as your professional support network.