Exploring a Women’s Executive Shadow Program That’s Helping People Like You Grow Their Careers

Sponsored by Alteryx

Photo courtesy of Alteryx.

Photo courtesy of Alteryx.

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Alteryx strives to create a workplace where everyone feels welcome, which is why they prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

In support of this goal, Alteryx launched their Women’s Executive Shadow Program (WESP) in 2022. The program was designed as an opportunity for women at Alteryx to spend a day with an executive. Through the experience, the participant would expand her network, get a behind-the-curtain view of how executives operate, build her business acumen, and receive support for their career development.

The shadowed executives would meet women at Alteryx who (depending on their role, level, location, etc.) may never have crossed their paths — creating new interconnections that can benefit them and the business. These connections can also help participants reflect on the facets of their leadership style.

When Alteryx launched WESP, they saw a lot of excitement from their employees. In fact, more than 40 people leaders volunteered to be shadowed and more than 75 women applied to be shadows. During the month of October, 43 participants and executives were paired together.

To learn more about what it was like, we caught up with some of the people who participated in the program. 

One pair from this program was Emily Valla, VP, Corporate Communications, and Laurie Linz, Software Delivery Manager. This is what they had to say about their WESP experience.

Linz: Women here at Alteryx champion for each other. I wasn’t aware of the program until Denise Frey (Engineering Team Lead) brought it to my attention. I applied immediately. I wanted to participate because it is easy to say ‘I want to be an executive someday,’ while still not really knowing what that means. If I can’t ‘see’ it, it becomes more difficult to be it.

Valla: When Laurie and I first paired up, we scheduled time to meet and discuss what we were both hoping to get out of the program. Right away, it was clear there would be value here. Our roles and teams almost never overlap. Learning about each other’s day-to-day lives, dynamics, and responsibilities was a fantastic foundation for the program.

Linz: The program made me feel seen, valued, and supported. Not only did Alteryx have the faith in me to provide me with my first leadership opportunity, but they continue to show commitment to my growth by offering opportunities like this.

Valla: Laurie’s passion and curiosity were fantastic and left me wanting to turn the tables to shadow her, too. Executive or not, there is such value in the opportunity to take a step back, connect with another woman in the company, and articulate how we navigate our day-to-day lives. Every time I reached out to a colleague to see if they were comfortable with Laurie joining our conversation during the shadow day, it was so encouraging to hear the enthusiastic ‘Yes, that’s so cool!’ At Alteryx, there is widespread interest to build up our colleagues and future leaders, and this program is just one example.

Linz Emily has been very generous with her time and has offered to be there for ongoing questions and support. The ultimate goal for me is for me to get there myself and be able to pay it forward to someone else someday.

Another WESP pair was Monica Cisneros, Manager, Product Marketing, and Stacy Lax, Vice President, Internal Audit. During the program, Monica shadowed Stacy. This is how their experience was with the program.

Lax: I decided to participate as I truly love to engage in knowledge-sharing experiences. I see WESP as an opportunity to not only share what I do here at Alteryx, but to learn from someone early in their career in a different part of the business.

Cisneros: Shadowing Stacy gave me insight into a department, Internal Audit, I had very little previous experience with before the shadow program. I learned about what they do, the interconnectivity that they have with the rest of the company, and how critical it is to keep the company compliant with rules and regulations.

Lax: Before the day in which Monica shadowed me, we met to get to know each other and communicate what each of us wanted to get out of the program. We then collaborated on creating a schedule, and I let everyone in my meetings know that she would be attending. They were all thrilled to have her join.

Cisneros: While my role is different, I learned valuable lessons from Stacy and her team. I saw how Stacy was able to navigate conversations with other executives from different departments and gain consensus on next steps on transformational projects. I also saw how she led her team with a collaboration-first style, asking them questions and inviting their ideas onto the table. A surprising lesson that I learned from Stacy was to take connections and experience to strategize on decision making.

Lax: WESP was a great experience, it made me feel invigorated about what I do and the impact the department and team have on the company. Monica and I agreed that we would sync up at least quarterly, and I let her know I would be happy to continue as her informal mentor. The program was great, and I cannot wait to participate again!”

With positive input like that, Alteryx executives and participants gave a resounding "yes" to continue the Women's Executive Shadow Program in 2023. Alteryx is also planning to expand the program to other underrepresented groups.

“I can’t wait to see where this program goes as it continues to build out,” said Valla. “I’ll happily continue to participate in it, and, selfishly, I can’t wait to continue to learn from the fantastic women across the organization. I think the coolest moment will be when one of the shadows becomes someone who is shadowed. With the caliber of women in this organization and the commitment to build us each up, I know that day will be sooner rather than later.”

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