Advocating for Yourself, Setting Concrete Steps and Building Connections: How to Get Your Dream Role

Sponsored by Teradata

Shamira Joshua

Photo courtesy of Teradata.

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Shamira Joshua knows how to set — and reach — career goals. From the age of twelve, she knew she wanted to be an engineer, and she set concrete steps on how to reach this goal. For instance, when she was 13, Joshua had a specific vision: “In five years, I wanted to be in engineering school,” she shares. And, “at the end of the next five, I wanted to be in Silicon Valley, then I wanted to step out of engineering and work with customers.”

And through hard work, determination and always advocating for herself, Joshua reached these goals. She studied electrical engineering and computer science as an undergraduate and graduate student, worked as a software engineer after graduating and then moved to Teradata, where she is currently their Senior Product Manager of Cloud Platforms.

In her current position as a product manager, she’s achieving her goal of working in the intersection of business, technology and customers. “With a clear vision, I’ve landed where I am now,” shares Joshua. “This framework has helped me plot my path to the next milestone, and then I go all-in to get there.”

For other women hoping to succeed on a career path of their choosing, Joshua has this advice for you — “once you have a rough idea of where you want to go, in one, two and five years, seek out opportunities to meet people and participate in relevant events,” she says. “Advocate for yourself in these settings.”

For example, Joshua shares how she moved from software engineering to her goal of a more customer-facing role. To do so, “I talked to 18 people at Teradata, over the course of four months and in nearly every organization,” explains Joshua. “I made a point to ask each person that I spoke with who they’d recommend I reach out to next, and I built an elevator pitch on what I wanted and why it was right for me. It worked — I met many amazing people along the way, found mentors, met friends and ultimately landed the role of my dreams!”

Keep reading if you’d like more advice on advocating for yourself and achieving your own dream role!

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what were you doing previously?

I lead Teradata’s Azure Data Platform as-a-service offering. It’s a multi-faceted role that I love. I spend my day working with different teams, and, together, we have a common goal — to improve every dimension of our product: scale, availability, resiliency, security and performance. There are many aspects of my job I enjoy, and it allows me to tap into my technical background, passion for customer problems and love for collaboration. 

What advice would you give other women who are looking to advocate for themselves at work?

It’s hard and that’s okay. You will have some days when you wake up and want to tell everyone how awesome you are and other days where you aren’t feeling confident. It helps to take small steps over time and build your muscle. Start with friends, family and co-workers. One trick that worked for me is that when setting up meetings with people I really wanted to meet, I would schedule two to four weeks in advance. Doing this made it easier to get time on their calendar, and I felt more comfortable making the request. 

And, often, right before the meeting, I would get cold feet — but I had already committed. I would walk away from the meeting with valuable insight and new ideas. This approach has allowed me the opportunity to advocate for myself to managers, VPs, executives and prospective mentors. The truth is: it always turns out great!

Another piece of advice is writing accomplishments down — write down all the great things you have done in the last month, quarter and year. Reflect on what your core strengths are, what comes easy to you and what you have learned. Writing helps you build a bank of content to talk about depending on the setting.

Revisit this list, and even share it with your inner circle and a mentor or two. Often, they will add to the list!

How do you go about asking for conversations about raises, bonuses, promotions and career advancement opportunities?

 If you don’t ask, you won’t get what you want. I know conversations around bonuses, raises and promotions are sensitive topics, but you get better with practice. Use the writing trick to build a case on why you deserve what you are asking for — know the talking points and practice. Run your pitch with someone you trust to get their feedback. Sincerity and confidence are important when you make your request, and it’s important you practice what to say. You will feel more confident and that will help you be in the driver’s seat during the real talk. 

Why is it important to advocate for yourself?

You are your #1 champion. No one knows you better. Only you know what you can achieve, what would make you happier and, most of all, what’s important to you as you navigate the next stage of your career. There is no right answer or ideal career track. We are all unique and that makes every journey so special.

Once you can identify what you want from your career, set milestones and execute them to get there. Advocating for yourself is the key to unlocking the right opportunities. It requires effort, and it’s not easy, but the reward is worth it.

How has Teradata set you up for success in advocating for yourself?

Teradata has always provided an open environment to engage and interface with people at all levels — all the way to the executive suite and across organizational boundaries. This open culture has helped me thrive. The Women of Teradata organization has given me many mentors and friends over the years who have pushed me toward seemingly out-of-reach opportunities and helped me prepare to get there. The support system I have had at Teradata has been invaluable and shaped me in many ways.

Want to join Joshua at Teradata? They’re hiring! Click the following link to browse open opportunities.

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