Jane Egerton-Idehen, the Head of Sales Middle East & Africa at Meta (formerly Facebook), has been on a lifelong quest, seeking balance between professional and personal success. She spoke about much of it in Crayon’s Lighthouse Fireside Chat series a few months ago. As part of an interactive quiz, Jane gave away a copy of her book, Be Fearless. And I was the lucky winner!
In the book, Jane talks about her humble beginnings, her drive to break free from convention, and her path into the daunting corporate world. If you’re someone who wants a seat at the table, but are still on the outside looking in, you will find her story quite relatable.
She also eloquently touches upon several pressing societal and business issues. Including cultural baggage and gender biases such as “the motherhood penalty”. She feels that these topics have been pushed under the rug for far too long.
Here are five key takeaways from the book, for business, and for life.
Persistence is key to getting a foot in the door.
After months of unsuccessful attempts at getting an interview for an engineering role, Jane was close to taking up a position as a security guard. But she persisted. Several rejections later, her persistence was rewarded with an internship at a telecommunication company. She managed to convert this opportunity into her first job as an engineer.
It takes time and effort to find someone who will see your potential. This is especially relatable for those of us who’ve been “unemployable graduates” or experienced an oversaturated job market. To that, Jane says, “You mostly get what you ask for in life. So be ready to ask for what you want.”
This one is for companies. When applying for certain roles, decision makers could consider a candidate too young, too old, or the wrong gender. Rather than addressing it as an individual problem, there should be processes in place to minimize, if not completely eradicate such cultural and demographic biases. If left unchecked, these individual biases can escalate and create a negative environment for diversity.
Pay it forward
Whether you are at the peak of your career or getting there, you can still choose to be a positive influence on someone else’s career (and life). Through mentorship, or by giving them a chance or a boost.
Apart from knowing who’s who in the industry, such deeds can help you, as well as others. Jane writes, “Advocating to [build up] employees along all stages of their career can help advance [your] own career.” After all, the best managers are those who demonstrate their commitment to the organization and its people by supporting up-and-coming leaders. And how do you find mentors, mentees, and sponsors? By networking, of course.
Different is not the enemy
Both men and women face difficulties at work, but these difficulties manifest differently. When it came to hiring and promotions, Jane witnessed how marital status took precedence over qualifications and accomplishments.
But there are no enemies. Only people with different interests. She recommends that men and women in positions of power and influence advocate for eligible women to move into senior roles. This would set new organizational standards as a meritocracy.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!
The prevailing traditions, even today, expect learned women to sidestep their careers to manage a household. We encourage our daughters to develop their mental faculties and compete in intellectual pursuits. But we later burden that progress with outdated traditions and prejudices.
Working women still feel the need to constantly juggle key aspects of their lives. In their familial relationships, women are expected to fulfill a set of duties. Irrespective of their personal desires and ambitions. And later feel the guilt from never fully understanding the impact of their decisions. To counter these hurdles, Jane says, “All you can do is intentionally push forward.”