The Advice I Wish I Gave My Younger Self as a Female in Tech and Leadership

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Sherry Shen

Photo courtesy of Paylocity.

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May 21, 2024 at 9:53AM UTC

“Be your own champion in your career growth, and make it a high priority.”

That’s the advice Sherry Shen, Director of Mobile Engineering at Paylocity, has for women who are moving into or want to move into leadership.

“We are all tackling a thousand things constantly and can be easily distracted; we need to take time to focus on our career growth,” she says. “This has two aspects, in my experience:

  1. The first is to always try to become better at what you do and learn new skills. Be competent. Be needed. Be that go-to person. And I did well in this aspect. 

  2. The second aspect is to become your own champion in career growth. I wish I had done this earlier in my career.”

As a woman and a self-proclaimed introvert, Shen says she always focused on her work and excelled at what she did. Though she did receive several promotions over the years, it took her quite some time to reach a certain level of personal success. 

“If I were going to start over, I would make career growth a priority, independent of my job responsibilities,” she notes. “I would ask what I should improve in order to achieve my next career goals. I would work on overcoming imposter syndrome and become better at self-promotion. I would not be hesitant to apply for opportunities aligned with my career objective. And I would prioritize so I could invest time and energy in my growth and pursuit of career opportunities.”

Sherry Shen. Photo courtesy of Paylocity.

Now as a director, Shen hopes to play a positive role in the careers of her direct reports; sharing what she learned along her journey of growth.

How I use my own experiences to support my employees

For Shen, supporting her employees means empowering them to become better problem solvers and stronger collaborators in order to gain recognition for their contributions and land well-deserved promotions.

“More importantly, I would like my direct reports to become more competitive on the job market, both within and outside our organization,” she adds. After all, career development, she acknowledges, is highly personal — and sometimes that means looking outside the organization. For Shen, seeking opportunities and expanding her skillset was quite effective. 

“Early in my career, I volunteered to be the architect and dev lead for building a brand new, self-service system,” she explains. “What I learned from being an architect and dev lead prepared me to be a confident engineering leader. It also opened the door for my promotion to become an engineering manager. Later on, I, again, volunteered to lead mobile development when I had zero mobile experience. I invested a lot of my personal time into learning native mobile technologies and became a highly effective mobile manager. Although my job title and compensation did not reflect the additional mobile responsibilities for over a year, the experience I gained, once again, opened doors to many more opportunities.”

The key, Shen says, is making sure that whatever opportunities present themselves, they’re aligned with your personal main career development objective. As a director, she helps her subordinates not only do better at their jobs, but also build their careers with opportunities that give them room to grow. And she’s not alone in wanting to empower her team, either. Paylocity is dedicated to their talented employees, too.

“No one part is greater than the whole, no matter the role,” Paylocity tells Fairygodboss. “‘We’ is what makes us different. We’re intentional about silo-busting and flattening out hierarchies. We hear, affirm, inspire, and challenge one another.”

If joining Shen and the rest of the Paylocity team sounds up your alley, check out some of their current job openings below! If you’re up for the challenge of joining Chen and her esteemed colleagues at Paylocity, check out the current openings below.

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