Today you’re listening to a replay of a live broadcast of the living well leading podcast, where I discuss how women leaders can leverage insight and self-reflection for personal growth with my guest Stacy Scott, a global IT executive at a multibillion-dollar software company. Stay tuned and discover how she unlocked her success and accelerated her professional growth and how you can to your you’re listening to living while leading with your host Sharon Ehrlich, where I help women IT executives gain more control over their careers and carve out time to care for themselves and family.
Hi, everybody, welcome to the live broadcast of the living while leading podcast. My name is Sharon Ehrlich and I’m an executive coach and I help women IT executives gain more control over their careers to carve out time to care for themselves and family. I’m also a public speaker and a podcast host today, I would like to welcome a special guest we have with us today Stacy Scott and she and I are going to be talking about how you can leverage insight and self-reflection for professional growth. But before we get started, Stacy, please introduce yourself to our listeners.
Thank you for inviting me on your podcast, Sharon. So hi, everyone. I’m Stacy Scott. I’m a strategic alliances leader at a multibillion-dollar global software company. I’ve been with the company over 20 years. leading business development and growing market in my current role for their largest strategic alliance partner held many different roles across the organization and Courier half the big which I’ll talk about as well and the organization have held roles in customer success sales enablement, from individual contributor all the way to people leader.
Thank you, Stacy. Well, we’re going to jump right into it. And I’m going to start by asking you a question. And that is, in what ways has introspection contributed to your personal and professional development as a leader?
Great question, Sharon. I feel like as I’ve gotten more mature in my career introspection is something I value the most early in my career spends a lot of time with mentors, really trying to understand where I’m wanting to go in my career, but I’ve noticed that in where I am in my career, right now really understanding what stage of life by really understanding what I need and what I want has brought me to the right career decisions at the end of the day. It also brings some sense of confidence, which is hugely reporting when you’re making different decisions. You’ll never know what’s going to be right or wrong, but if you have that confidence that you’re making the right decision for the right place that you’re at, it really does bring you a sense of relief as you move from one area in your career to another.
I couldn’t agree with you more. But sometimes it’s very difficult to make that space right to actually take the time to be introspective and to really be intentional about it, isn’t it?
It really does take time and really just takes you sitting with yourself to figure out what you want, and what you need at this time in your life. So, there are times where seeking external perspectives are the right things to do. And then there are other times where you really have to sit with yourself and look at where you are in your career. Look at where you are your role and where you are in your life and then say okay, am I content with where I am? Am I happy with where I am? What types of changes would I like to see how do I want to feel at the end of the day? , those are some of the questions that , which we’ll get into that you can really ask yourself to really look inwards.
I think you made a really important point, Stacy. This is something that comes up a lot with the women that I coach. You said “where I am now at this stage in my life in my career”, because of decisions that we made 10 years ago or even five years ago, may not suit us for where we are in this moment in time in our life. So that context is really important, isn’t it?
It’s very important and I can even give you a personal example when I think of earlier in my career. I mentioned earlier in my introduction, I’m a bit of a career hopper. I started out my career as a teacher in the public school system for several years and I honestly thought that’s where I would be today and that was over 25 years ago.
But I remember early days as an educator started to not love it as much as I thought I would. And it wasn’t the educating part. It was all the things that were around it. So sometimes it’s not the role that you’re having an issue with. It’s the environment. This is where I started thinking okay, am I really happy with where I am and then I started to search.
Earlier in my career, I would seek out those external voices and you’re talking to different people and really understanding how you make that career change. And for me as an educator, I just spent this time getting this bachelor’s degree in education, so I figured that’s where I would be forever. But one of the things I was never afraid to do was really a look and say, okay, I thought I would be happy with this turns out and then that introspection really comes in and I made a total career change. I surprised myself going into the software industry over education, something drastically different, but it really did score from introspection and say, what, this is not where I want to be right now. I don’t know where I want to be, but I’m willing to take the time to figure it out.
I can tell you I have a similar situation, but mine was driven by relocation. I had to reinvent myself, just because I could not continue in my career that I had when I was in the US. And then I ended up in Europe and I had to figure out what it is I wanted to do in this new environment with all of the things that were playing into that. Another language another culture. And like you I also switched jobs quite often.
But let me go into my second question. What are some of the key questions you regularly ask yourself to stay aligned with your personal and professional goals?
Great question. I think that stage in life again, you really almost have to define that for yourself. Are you trying to grow in a particular area? That’s one of the questions I asked myself because am I trying to grow out of where I am? Am I trying to grow within where I am. Have I outgrown this particular role, this particular company, this particular environment?
Where I really tried to get to the nitty gritty where I’m satisfied with what I’m what I am doing and where I’m at and where I’m dissatisfied. Everyone talks about work life balance. It’s that is something that truly hits home. I think when you have children, you have your career, there’s a lot there. So you really ought to take the time to look at life holistically.
Those questions are not just career focused questions. You want to make sure that you’re asking questions around where you are in life in general and the decisions that you make aligned with where you want to be in life now, and where you want to be five years from now, 10 years from now. And then one of the other things I always ask myself is “am I getting trapped in the in the should do’s?”
I shouldn’t be doing this or I should be doing that. I try to think if I’m dissatisfied with something because of my hearing voices that are telling me that I should be doing something else but I kind of like what I’m doing. The should-do’s can sometimes have you make decisions that may not be right for you right now because many times they can they come from external sources and from other people.
Are you comparing yourself to other people? I try to ask myself to make sure that the voice I’m hearing is my own voice and that the decisions that I’m making are looking at my life not just in the silos, but as a holistic view of my life.
Preach girl because there’s a lot of really important stuff that you said in there. One thing I’d like to add to that is this whole notion of whether or not you’re running towards something or running away from something, because I think that this has a really tremendous impact on the way that you’re making your decisions.
Running away from something is somehow tinged with fear and desperation. And in sometimes there are a lot of strong emotions around running away from something and making decisions in that sort of way. And sometimes we don’t necessarily make the best decisions for ourselves.
I always like to ask that question when clients come to me saying, “I really have to get out of this”. And I really want to understand what is the underlying cause for it? Is it about where you see yourself? Are you trying to escape from something? I think this context is really very, very important.
And there’s something else you said, Stacy, about having a holistic approach to this decision-making process. Many of us we not only have children, but we have elderly parents that we’re also responsible for as well. And so those decisions are very complex and incredibly nuanced as well, right? Because for each individual, that situation is so incredibly different, isn’t it?
It is very different. And this is why that holistic view of your life is important. For me, I do have an elderly parent, but I also had kids getting ready to go to college, so you want to think about I almost think of it as like a second life. When my children were younger, that was one stage. So the decisions that you made, they’re a little bit different. So now, children going to college, the decisions that you make open up over the world for you in a different way.
The question now is, what do I want to do with that? Where do I want to take this next journey. So the stage of life is super important. We also brought up a really about whether you’re running away from something? That’s another question that I asked. And I think earlier in my career, I looked at running away from something differently. You wanted to stick it out when something wasn’t going well. You want to try to figure out how to make it work.
But in this stage in my career, running away isn’t always a bad thing. Is this environment not right environment work for? Is it really working for me? And that’s where that introspection again comes in. You need to ask yourself those questions, because sometimes things that appear as bad things, if you’re doing them consciously, then it’s not a bad thing.
I think what’s tied to that is being strategic, right? Because it’s one thing finding yourself in an unpleasant or unproductive situation, that’s not nurturing and you’re not growing in it, and recognizing that and strategizing how you’re going to remove yourself from it. As opposed to just saying, “I’m fed up and I’m walking out the door.” Those are two very different things.
They are very, very different things. A lot of this is about conscious thought. You hear a lot of people say these days of are protecting your peace. It’s super important, and your peace of mind how you actually feel in that situation. That’s also part of that holistic view.
What have been some of the surprising insights that you’ve gained about yourself through introspection, and how have they impacted your career?
I go back to the shouldn’t do’s again. One of the surprising insights that I gained is the fact that shouldn’t do’s are very limiting. You’re limiting yourself. Sometimes you’ve got an external force. You really have to look at whether you’re standing in your own way. I think that some of the surprising insights are more around mentorship.
Part of the way I think now about my career was also growing from a lot of the mentors that I had. I always tried to seek mentors that were totally different than I am. And that also helps with those surprising insights. Because really understanding how someone else thinks about that same situation. It gives you that aha moment where you where you start to think oh, okay, I put this restriction on myself. I was the one standing in my way because of that particular belief. It’s not universal. It isn’t held by everyone. Those are some of the surprising insights that really propelled me into a different direction than what I would have just thought of on my own.
I have a personal one to add to that. I didn’t recognize that I was miserable in a situation. My husband said to me “Do you realize how your mood changes when you open your laptop and when your day starts?”. He got insight because during the pandemic he saw me at home. Most of the time, he wasn’t around. It just really gave me such food for thought because I was viewing my situation through someone else’s eyes, who knew absolutely nothing about what was going on a day-to-day basis. It just gave me pause and gave me an opportunity to think about what am I projecting when I’m starting my workday? And then what does that say about me in the context of what it is that I’m doing?
Sometimes this kind of information comes to you from places and from people you don’t even expect it to come from. I think that this is incredibly important in that we have to really keep our eyes and our ears open for that.
The other thing I would add to that, Stacy, is the whole notion of seeking out information as well. And sometimes we don’t want to do it because we just don’t want to hear from people but this is quite important.
Do you have any examples you can share with us on how you were a bit hesitant but that you actually went to whomever to ask them for some feedback just to help you get a little bit more insight into your situation?
I have a really great example about three or four years ago, I knew I wanted a role change, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do next. So started thinking about okay, I know it’s not exactly what I’m doing now, but there are a lot of transferable skills that I felt like I had that would be suitable in another role, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around.
There ended up being a mentorship program that we were starting at the company and it allowed us to have a mentor that was at the C- level. And the person that I was paired with – I thought oh my gosh, totally different. So black female, me, the mentor was white male. This person has been at the C-level within many different organizations. I thought he is probably way above the level of advice that I am looking for, because I’m thinking immediate term. What can I really do next? And I remember being hesitant in our first meeting.
By the end I was so glad that I had that conversation because one of the things she said to me is that he was a CEO at the time was that he interviewed for growth. He told the person interviewing him that his goal was to be the CEO. And then I thought to myself, Wow, you’re interviewing for one role, but you’re so bold in that interview to say “here’s what here’s what I want to do within the next three to five years.”
And he continued to tell me “I always thought if I don’t get this particular role or other roles within the organization within 18 months, I’m looking at what I want to do next, and at the time, it sounded so weird to me. I think as, sometimes we feel like we have to know every facet, we have to know that role inside outside and do everyone’s job around 10 times better.
That can sometimes be very limiting because if this person is telling me in 18 months, he is looking at what is next. To me that was something I thought about more like three years down the line two, three years down, because I’m still trying to absorb all of the facets of a role. And that was really enlightening to me because I thought your role in a job is really to just understand that role and the pieces that touch it.
But he thought of it in a different way. You’re understanding the pieces that touch you but you’re not trying to be so invested in just that role and that you don’t see what else is out there. And you’re not properly planning for yourself and you’re not communicating. He just put it out there. And he just said what he wanted. That to me was one of the nuggets I took from my conversation with him that still sticks with me. Say what you want, even if it’s not exactly what you’re going after. It’s a matter of figuring out what you want but also putting it out there and not thinking you have to know every single thing before you move on – that can be limiting in itself.
I saw a statistic about this. I don’t remember exactly what the number was. But effectively it was something like when women apply for jobs, they look to see if they match with 90% of the criteria for the role. And when a man looks at the job description if he gets 40 to 50% he thinks he’s qualified for it.
This is something I talk about a lot. Our desire for perfection sometimes can really paralyze us because we have our heads down so much just trying to get it all done and get it all right. Opportunities are just simply passing by us because we’re just trying to be so perfect and so correct.
We have some comments in the chat. Yeah, Heather, I’m completely with you on this. Sometimes, as women we think we have to know everything about the role do everything 10 times better. I think part of the battle there is recognizing it and understanding when we’re doing that to ourselves and putting the brakes on. And I think this is another value of having a real trusted circle of friends and colleagues who can also check you on this because sometimes we’re so close to it that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. But if you have a trusted colleague or if that could even be a mentor, even a sponsor to just sort of open up your eyes and say – you gotta get your head out of the weeds and you need to put it out in the universe. What it is that you want? Because nobody’s going to figure it out. And no one’s going to say, oh, she’s working so hard. Here’s the next job for her.
Very true, Sharon. We have another comment, very related but a different outcome. The comment is “When I gave a projection year of where I want to be for promotion, I was punished”. You should still put it up there. Because if you’re punished for saying what you want to do next, at least, you’ve been told something, you’re in the wrong place.
You’re working for the wrong person and you’re in the wrong place. Because what happens is if you don’t put it out there, and you don’t pick your head up, then when those opportunities pass you by what happens is people say well, I didn’t I didn’t know you wanted that particular opportunity. You never said anything. So sometimes it’s one of those situations where you’re going have to use your best judgment. You’re going have to use that introspection again, to take the chance. But in all of that, you’re going to learn.
And I have a personal example as well. This was a time when I was working for big IT company and there was an European (EMEA) level leadership job and I wanted it. When I threw my name in the hat, I was told, Oh, we didn’t think you wanted to do that because we have a young child at home. So people were making assumptions about how I was going to manage my life just because I had a little one at home. And actually, I had a whole support system, so I was able to do it.
If I hadn’t said anything, no one would have ever known. People project, their ideas of what it means to be a woman taking care of children or taking care of parents or having young children at home. And it’s our responsibility to set the record straight on what it is that we want to go after and what we want to do.
Tell me about balancing your own insights with external opinions. Not everything you hear is in alignment with what you want to do. So how do you balance that?
It’s about being careful in who I take advice from? Because at the end of the day, you want to seek advice from many different disciplines. I love to seek advice from people that don’t look anything like me, people that are not the same gender, not the same race. Not the same career path. Not the same level in their career. I’ve been seeking not necessarily advice but seeking insight, because sometimes it’s very different.
You don’t seek advice from everyone, or insight you can get from conversations with many different types of people. But this is where understanding what you’re looking for. That will help you figure out what to keep and what to discard. Because not all advice is good advice. And at the end of the day, when people speak to you from their fears, you should always try to recognize that when they’re giving you all the bad examples. Other examples are around. Well, I tried that, and it didn’t work for me. Oh, you can say you’re speaking to their fears.
When you have those people that are saying, Hey, have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? Then those are those are the moments that your mind and then you can now research that and see if that does resonate with you so that’s one of the things I love to see insight for many different people. But I don’t take advice from everyone and just making sure that they’re not projecting their fears onto you.
And I always think back to when I was a teacher and I thought about getting out of it. Everybody that I spoke to said that teaching is a very stable job. You’ll always have a job if you’re a teacher. Teachers are so needed. But I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next. I understand. But again, they’re speaking to me from their fears of what would happen if I left.
I was already determined. I just didn’t know where I was going go or what I was going do. So I was able to take some pieces and leave some pieces. It was actually a fellow teacher, who suggested maybe you could take a class and see if you like it. That really is what opened the door for me. Then I took another class and then another class and then I just kept going with it. And always noting how I felt each time I learned something more. So that’s how I knew I was in the right direction.
Just making sure that people are not talking to you from their fears. Because that can limit your growth. If you’re not really understanding what you’re looking for seeking counsel from a variety of different people. My white male mentor taught me a lot within a few conversations because I realized, wow, we think so different.
Our backgrounds are different. Our reception in the world is different. And the way we think about things ended up being very different and really what we have the similarity of we’re both very career driven by how he went about it and how I was going about it. This is this is how I use external perspective, this really helped shape where I feel like I want to go and I may not be sure and you take advice that you feel resonates. Leave the rest
What advice would you give to your younger self regarding seeking external perspectives and using introspection for your career advancement?
It really is about seeking perspectives from people that are different for me. I feel like we can talk with people and it feels like an echo chamber. They’re singing the same theme song you’re singing. You’re you are resonating with each other stories and there’s a place for that. That’s what helps validate your experience. But sometimes you need more than that.
You need to not just be in your echo chamber need to not just be validate your experience. It really is about figuring out how other people and seeing if there’s something there that you can work with. In my in my younger days, you seek counsel from families seek counsel from friends, but there’s a world of people out there that are willing to give advice.
So sometimes it really is joining that extra group or being part of an organization and doing those things that help broaden your perspectives that help you grow. Because if you just stay within your circle, then it really is a limiting experience for you. I think doing that more is what’s helped me quite a bit. I love being part of different organizations where you can be from all over and then figuring out those things that you just don’t know.
The time went very quickly and we’re really at the top of the of the session here. So first of all, Stacy, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate the words of wisdom that you’ve shared with me and with my listeners. For those of you who are here with us live and for those of you who might be listening to the replay, feel free to connect with both Stacy and I on LinkedIn.
You can listen to my podcast which you can find that on Apple on Spotify or directly on my website. I have a free guide on my website for anybody who’s interested which is Four Steps to Gain Control Over Your Career which you can download at https://livingwhileleading.com/.
Thank you everybody for listening and look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks again, Stacy.
Thank you, Sharon.