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Swatee Surve shares strategies for career success during PSBJ Mentoring Monday

Our CEO, Swatee Surve had privilege and honor to be selected as a mentor for Puget Sound Business Journal's Mentoring Monday. All the Business Journals nationwide host the event on the same day. She was invited to share her insights in the following essay for the journal's Women Who Lead feature.


"How do I establish credibility as a young female in a male-dominated company?"

"How do I manage all the responsibilities I have?"

"What will be the biggest decision that will contribute to my success?"

These were some of the questions attendees asked me at the Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event in February. Here are the key insights I shared:

Know your own limits. On top of Covid-19, there is a parallel mental health pandemic, whose impacts are just starting to surface. The first manifestation is burnout. It is a real thing. It is not in your head and you’re not the only one. We all need to pause and start to develop the self-awareness of our own emotional and physical limits and develop coping skills we can implement during moments of great difficulty.

My company makes a clinically validated mental health video game that helps people learn effective stress management techniques and coping skills. I have observed that users who develop the ability to recognize when they are reaching their capacity, and can promptly address the stressors, see better results than those who cannot see their limits. Being self-aware of your own stress level will help you make the necessary real-time adjustments to prevent blowups that can hurt you or others. This is even more paramount if you are managing a team.

You’re the boss — so be the boss. Within your scope of responsibilities, you are the boss. So be the boss by first being as competent and as knowledgeable as you can be. Know all aspects of your job cold. So when you are challenged, you are prepared. Secondly, act like a boss — unflappable and confident. This can be very challenging as it requires you to observe conversation dynamics while being engaged in discussions and being aware of your own reactions.

Thirdly, model the behavior that demonstrates leadership at your workplace. Spend time understanding what those values, temperament and mindset are.

Ask questions. When you do find someone treating you as a subordinate, or they are being dismissive, condescending or exceptionally challenging, an observational question anchored in genuine curiosity can be a great way to rebalance the conversation. Example questions include:

  • ”You seem to be reacting negatively to what I just said. What are your concerns?”
  • “Sounds like you don’t have confidence in my recommendations. What are the gaps you are seeing?”
  • “Can you help me understand where this reaction is coming from?”

Provided your intent is genuine, acknowledging the behavior by asking a straightforward, thoughtful question will open dialog and change the tenor of the conversation.

Get back to what's important. Finally, redirecting the conversation to your objectives is another way to rebalance the conversation. If you find yourself talking about something that isn’t relevant to your responsibilities, try statements like:

  • ”My objective in this conversation is (what's important)."
  • "I wonder if we can talk about these other issues at another time?”

Reacting as the competent, knowledgeable person you are, instead of reacting to how you are being treated, will pay dividends. This can be especially challenging if you are early in your career or are part of an underrepresented group at your company. But staying grounded so you don't get rattled by bad behavior will help build your credibility with your peers so you can influence them. This is critical to your success, particularly to be considered for senior roles.