Nancy Brown believes in empowering people in the workplace.
That’s why she has a hands-off approach to leadership that emphasizes individual ownership and problem solving. It’s why she is an active member of women’s networks, alumni groups and other networking organizations that encourage individuals to connect and advocate for their next career moves. And it’s why her best advice for professionals who want to catapult their careers is to seize their power and challenge themselves to learn something entirely new.
Thankfully, her current employer, Gartner, provides the type of environment that allows Brown to not only challenge herself but to encourage others to join the ride. In fact, she’s recommended several women for jobs at the firm since joining in 2019 and intends to keep doing so.
Recently, this champion for brave women in the workplace shared what exactly she looks for in individuals she’s considering for a role. She also shared more about the encouraging leadership approach that’s proven successful in her career, the decisions that have helped make her the professional she is today and her best advice for women who want to take their careers to the next level.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I joined Gartner in September of 2019. I’m currently VP, Sales Learning & Development. Prior to that, I’ve held a number of roles mostly in corporate strategy at USP, McKinsey & Company and Bank of America.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
When I was a management consultant, I had the opportunity to move abroad and I spent nearly three years working in Turkey and then in the UK. It was a risk and definitely did not leave me on the predictable path of career progression, but it has paid off in terms of building my resilience and confidence, and in developing new skills like working in truly multicultural teams.
Are you involved in any programs, networking groups, mentoring opportunities? How did you get involved?
I like to get involved in the women’s affinity groups at whichever company I am a part of. I am also active in the alumni groups for my undergraduate and MBA programs. I think it’s important to maintain ties, but to do it in a way that feels natural because that means you will stick with it.
What advice do you have to others in your industry who want to take their career path to the next level?
Take risks like changing roles or responsibilities in an effort to expand your skills – learning something completely new will give you confidence to do it again and again, and then you will be unstoppable.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about Gartner that you think they should?
Gartner has a really innovative and people-first culture. It’s great for career development!
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is typically one where I try to empower my team members to take ownership of their work and run with it. When an issue arises, I love my team members to tell me what they think the solution to the problem should be and seek feedback on it, rather than me creating an environment of “the boss knows better” and trying to solve everything myself. In reality, they almost always know better! I try to position myself as a coach who is in their corner, always has their back and sets them up to shine.
How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?
I have always made it a priority to join and get involved in the formal “women’s network” at every company and university I’ve been part of. I also love to give advice to younger women who are interested in either Gartner or another experience I’ve had (e.g., getting an MBA), and frequently make time for networking conversations with women who are part of my extended personal network or who find me through the various alumni associations I’m part of. I’ve recommended a couple great women I know for jobs at Gartner in the 13 months since I’ve joined, and intend to keep doing so!
To answer the second question, well, it’s the same as any other priority I have: If I put it on my calendar, it definitely gets done.
What are the top three qualities you look for when you're interviewing a candidate?
When interviewing a candidate, I look for a few things. First, I look for someone who answers the question that I asked, because it shows that they are capable of listening. Second, I look for evidence of ownership, meaning someone that shows they will be invested in their work, bring lots of new ideas and be able to operate independently. Lastly, I look for a cultural fit. I, of course, value bright and successful team members, but far prefer when they exhibit humility, and most importantly, a great sense of humor!
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