Why Tracy Allen Advocates for Women Leadership in Tech
— Women's unique strengths diversify tech leadership, trust and relationship-building are vital leadership skills, and corporate success must measure both outcomes and supportive behaviors, according to Tracy Allen, the global head of procurement for Nokia's Digital Office.
The following are the main takeaways from her interview.
Women can bring unique strengths to leadership roles in tech
The tech field has always been a male-dominated industry. However, Tracy Allen, a seasoned professional in tech, suggests that women can bring unique strengths to leadership roles in tech and are essential to diversifying and balancing ideas at the table. "Women bring a lot of different leadership styles to the table," said Allen.
She stressed the importance of mentorship and coaching as they can help women discover their strengths, or "superpowers," and find their place in the tech industry. Allen further emphasized the need for women to know their value and to speak up about their needs and goals. "People don't know what you're looking for if you don't talk about it," she advised.
Building trust and relationships is vital in leadership
In an environment that is largely driven by numbers and outcomes, it can be challenging for leaders to establish a strong relationship and trust with their teams. Tracy Allen shared that one of her strengths was her ability to connect with people and establish trust. "I always start with the connection with people individually on a personal level," said Allen.
She emphasized the importance of honesty and vulnerability in building trust with her team, especially when dealing with technical details that she may not fully understand. She further noted that by demonstrating how her skills can complement those of the engineering team and how she can contribute to the desired outcome, she was able to build a strong rapport with her team.
Incentives and assessments should be tied to behaviors and not just outcomes
In most corporate settings, incentives are tied to company objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). However, Tracy Allen argues that there needs to be a shift in this approach to promote allyship and support within teams. Allen suggested that companies should begin to consider behaviors in their assessments and incentives. "We need to shift away from solely measuring numerical outcomes, and also assess and reward the behaviors of people supporting each other," she said.
Allen explained that behaviors such as being a positive influence, mentoring others, and displaying a strong work ethic should be considered in assessments and incentives. Such a shift, she concluded, would encourage team members to support one another and contribute to a more inclusive and supportive corporate environment.
Hey, Tracy. Thank you so much for joining us today for this Aetna Nex knowledge interview. I'm really looking forward to this conversation and diving a little deeper into women in tech and hearing about your in your experience in this field.
So just to begin, could we get an introduction and a brief background from you?
Sure. First, I wanna just thank you for having me. I'm super grateful to be able to share some of the learnings I've had, and I know that you know, especially in tech. There's not too many women. So again, grateful for having this conversation with you, and hopefully, it it helps others, you know. So my name is Tracy Allen, and I'm I work at Nokia, and I've been in my career has spent, basically, my whole career in procurement.
Right now, I'm running at the digital office procurement organization for Nokia globally, and my previous experience is really mostly on the hardware. So I would say more on the the infrastructure, telecom communication equipment.
But recently, it moved over the last three years and spent time in the software services part of IT and just kinda learning and growing in that space.
Amazing. Thank you so much.
You mentioned in a previous conversation that you also do a bit of work with an organization called Sheboot. I was wondering if we could talk just a little bit about that, and you could tell me what you do with them. Sure. So Sheboot is, like, a wonderful organization that I discovered in Ottawa, and they basically they're their thesis or their their mission, I should say, is really to kind of help women in tech startups, entrepreneurs, women, women owned businesses in technology to really kind of up their game in terms of securing capital venture money.
So, you know, if you look at how many leaders and and leadership, I guess, women in leadership, You know, when you look at the numbers, they're quite, you know, insignificant compared to the men. And so one of the things, you know, that's important to me is really kind of helping women make those leadership, you know, steps that they need to because I do believe in business that you know, having women in leadership is really important. It helps diversify and balance the ideas at the table, and I think that women bring a lot of different leadership styles to the table as well. So like we say, you know, if we can't get the women promoted into leadership, we will actually invest in women that are leaders at the top so that we can, you know, foster that and and really help them grow and and bring their businesses to fruition.
If you look at, you know, capital venture money, only two percent of the money goes to women owned businesses. So They do need a lot of support, and so for me, that's been a really amazing kind of experience this year where I've thrown myself into that as an Angeline and supporting other women to really kind of help them meet, you know, you know, get their dreams met, you know, along the way. So I'm super grateful that I have the opportunity to do that. So it's been really a great experience for me.
I love that. I really see it as putting your money where your mouth is and kind of giving back, especially after you've had almost eighteen almost twenty years of experience at Nokia, you know, kind of moving your way up into different leadership positions.
I'm wondering for all the women who'd be watching this video, what are some of the lessons learned or things that perhaps they could try to emulate, you know, in their own journey as they try to work work their way up the the corporate ladder, let's say, Yeah.
Yeah. There was a lots of lessons learned just to give a little bit more context so people understand, but I started really you know, out of university into Newbridge, which was a small startup. Well, it was medium, I guess, in Ottawa doing ATM switching equipment. And, you know, started we had a factory then, and so I started as a contract analyst, very, you know, entry level position and procurement.
And then kinda made my way through different procurement roles within Newbridge, which then we were bought by Alcatel, merged with Lucent, and then got by got by Nokia. So it's quite actually lots of acquisitions, so kind of like a new face every time. But In in in my experience, I've kinda stayed in procurement, but, obviously, took on different roles which allowed me to grow and learn.
So I think that, you know, now, you know, I learned how to lead well, I experienced leadership in different roles.
And kinda worked my way through that. And I think that there is a lot of lessons learned when you do that process. Right? And I think as a woman, a lot of times we suffer with impostor syndrome.
I think men also do, by the way, I do lots of talks for university students, and actually, it's not just a woman thing, you know. The I think in tech, we it's a it's a very intellectual kind of, you know, environment. You know, there's a lot of engineers, so they're very, very smart. And sometimes when you're not necessarily maybe an engineering student, like I was not I was a business, graduated with business degree.
I always felt a little bit inferior. Right? Trying to question myself, how do I show up? And how can I help them?
And I think that's, like, one of the most important questions to ask ourselves right, is the idea is not to have everybody the same. The idea is actually to complement each other to be able to reach those outcomes we're looking for. Right? And so one of the things that, you know, I struggled with as a woman was, you know, maybe I not as smart as them or I, you know, I don't understand every detail that they're talking about when they're talking about, you know, design and so forth.
But what I figured out along the way is that and how I did that is actually by having mentors, right, and coaching from execs that, you know, that I could build strong relationships with. Right? Where they could actually hold a mirror to me and say, Tracy, that's not what you're here that would you see all these other things that you can bring to the table that the engineering team may not be have those strengths and see that. Right?
And they have a role which is design and and bringing product to market, but you bring something different, which is more on the business side. And you know, your ability to build relationships, and the ability to, you know, build trust with people and be able to work with suppliers, and be tough in negotiations, and bring that communication really out, which is where I think is something that, you know, is hard to do on your own because we don't see ourselves a lot of time. So having someone that can really kinda sit in front of you and say, these are all the wonderful things that you are good at, and this is why it's important that you show up in this way for us because you're complimenting.
Like, going back to the complimenting of the designers is that I just brought something different and we don't have to be the same. Right? So, you know, when I think about that, I think mentorship is really, really important.
I think having a coach in somebody that you trust that can really kind of help you see your superpowers as a woman.
You know, and I talk a little bit about that, but I really believe that women bring something different to the table. Right? We are intuitive human beings. We are made to be mothers.
Therefore, we are very nurturing and caring We have a lot of empathy. We have a lot of compassion. And I'm not saying that men, our friends, you know, our colleagues don't have that, but it might be a little more challenging for them in terms of, you know, the way that just human, the way that we're made. So I try to look at it, guys.
Those are our superpowers. As women. So how do we integrate those and bring those to the workplace? Because I think they have a place in the workplace, and I think more than ever, business needs to change.
The way that we are driving business, the way that we're having conversations, the way that we care for our people, the way that we value and power and inclusive, you know, bring belonging into the organizations is so important now. You know, when I look at the next generation of kids coming out of school, they want that.
Right? We've suffered through this kind of like, industrial age leadership. And I think now the next generation is looking for that caring where I think women have that ability to really step into those roles. So having the confidence and building your confidence as you go through your career.
So having somebody help you show you where your superpowers are, where your strengths are, where maybe also you may need to do some work Right? That's that's the other part. Right? And helping you find ways to build on that is really, for me, has been instrumental in terms of my development.
I would say that you also, you know, need to hold space for yourself. Right? And you need to do your own also development as per se, like your own kind of mindset work, having a coach, somebody to not just on the work front, but, you know, as a person to really get to know yourself and really be able to determine your mission, your passion, you know, your purpose.
I think that is also very And if you can do that at a young age, I think it just puts you, like, in a situation where you're ahead of everybody else because trust me. There's a lot of people that don't know themselves. They're just been given a job and they're working through it, and, actually, they just kinda go through life, then life happens to them. And I truly believe that, you know, we're here for a purpose, and being able to discover that, and apply that in your day to day, I think, is just, like, that's a win win.
Right? And that's when you show up the best that you can for Right? And for others and for your family is when you actually are in alignment with what you're what you are and who you are. So I would say that that's an important piece if you can do that, figuring that out early in your career.
I think that also you know, taking those feedbacks that people give you in terms of, like, positive or negative and just sitting with those and appreciating and being grateful and then building on that because I believe that confidence is built by external feedback. Right? That comes in and we we say that, you know, we don't wanna be externally fed and built up. But to start, I truly believe for me was an important piece of that because I could not see myself.
Right? So being able to hear the feedback, Getting feedback from others is really important to help build your confidence so that you can step into those next rules and challenge yourself to move on. And then I'd say the last piece is just being able to, like, I kinda talked about it, but hold space for yourself.
Sit at the table. Right? I mean, I remember one leader always told me, like, you have a spot at the table. Why are you sitting at the back?
And it was me that was bringing that to myself, you know. And the other piece is just speaking your mind. Right? Holding space and being honest congruent aligned with what you feel and being able to communicate that clearly.
People don't know what you're looking for if you don't talk about it. Right? So I would say those are those are kind of like the three or four things that have been instrumental for me in terms of my growth. In terms of my development. And I think as women, those are well, for me, anyway, was very, very, very critical in terms of helping me get where I am today.
Wow. Thank you. I love that, especially as a young woman in the field as well. It inspiring to hear and also hear very tangible steps that I can also take that I think will resonate with a lot of people you know, stepping into your power, knowing your strengths, having that seat at the table, knowing that it it is your seat I also think that with diversity, there is such power in diversity and thought. And knowing that you bring something different, especially in a place like Tech is really powerful.
So that's a really, really great answer. Thank you.
I wanna also talk about maybe the less, yeah, the the less softer skills you know, because I know that you have worked a lot with men over the ten years where you're also leading teams of engineers and you didn't come from an engineering background yourself. So how did you sort of win them over, you know, what were the skills that you brought? Or would it yeah. What did you bring that made them really trust you as a leader to bring you to where you are now?
Yeah. That's a great question. So I think, again, I think it's I've always been a big believer, you know. And if you add value and you bring value, people will value you. Right? We'll see alignment and see the the connection and what you can bring. Right?
I also believe in an engineering company, if you're not helping deploy product, then what are you doing? Right? Because that's at the end of the day. That's what we're doing in tech. Right?
And I had a a leader tell me that. And it's like, you know, if you're not helping the engineers get stuff out the door, then I'm not sure what we're doing here. Right? And so I've always kind of used that as a guiding light for me in terms of how do I support the engineers to get the best outcome for the company?
And, again, going back to relationships, I think that's one of my strengths is, like, I love people. So I always start with you know, the connection with people individually on a personal level, not just even on a work level. And I would say that that holds true through you know, from the beginning because that was something that was, you know, I would say more ingrained in me is just I love connecting with people. So that was easy for me. So building that connection and trust between two individuals was something that I always kinda did without even it was unconscious. Right? I just did it.
So then when you build that connection, then you actually have, you know, you have something to fall back on. Right? So you you have a personal connection to them. I think also, I am practice this quite a lot, but I I one thing that was very useful for me is being vulnerable, and I'm being very honest about what I could understand or could understand.
Right? So sometimes being with the engineering team, you know, I wouldn't necessarily understand. But being honest with them to say, I don't really understand that. Can you tell me again?
Like, how would I can you like, more English language terms so that I can really kinda capture this so I can get to the supplier and get what we need. And I think people connect with that. Right? Because then there's, like, I'm open, and I'm not threatening, and I just wanna help, right, at the end of the day.
So I think those two pieces are really important. I think also going back to the complimenting, there's things that they didn't like doing. And I knew what they were, and I knew that those were things that actually I could add value because it was easier for me. So tough negotiations.
You know, they also loved playing good cop, bad cop. So setting up scenarios for to be able to work together, and I always was very inclusive of the engineering team. Like, we're one team. We go together and negotiate to get a best outcome for the company, and I think that that is really important because they felt included, and then I also knew what was happening because I don't have all the answers so together as a team, we were able to get the best outcome for the company.
And I think that those few things kind of built this trust that, you know, then they actually saw the value that I bring or my team brings with them, and that we're one organization. We all want the same thing, and we're gonna help each other out to get there. So that, I would say, it's it wasn't about let's just say, it wasn't about you need to work with procurement because I'm procurement. It was how can I help in being a very customer centric organization and serving them?
Yeah. That's super useful, I think, you know, having that sort of north star of what is the best outcome for the company? Because, ultimately, then you are working as one team and you're able to bring the different skills that each person has. And I really like the that you bring up vulnerability also. I think kit ties in to your previous answer that being able to allow someone to compliment you is great, but also to allow yourself to receive the perhaps negative feedback that'll actually set you up to do better later on.
It's definitely a two way thing, and I think it's such a core part of relationship building as well.
So, yeah, thank you so much for for sharing that.
I think we all know that Ally Ship is very important. Right, especially in today's world.
It's we we can't do much without the support around us. So I'm wondering in your experience, especially with your work at Sheboot, is there anything that perhaps companies larger more corporate companies could learn from an organization like Sheboot or something else, you know, to kind of further their relationship mission or program that they do want.
Yeah. That's a a tougher question. Right? I mean, I've given it a lot of thought.
And I think you know, it starts with leadership at the end of the day. Right? And and some of the lessons and what I've experienced from being part of She boot was that it was about the leadership, but it also was about the mission of why we were there. Right?
My purpose, my mission, my wish was to help these women. Right? These women also have this big mission to, like, be successful as entrepreneurs, but they were also very vulnerable being in a program where they're getting us to right, from other women. So it's like all the things we kinda talked about is, like, so important to bring to the tables.
To to get that relationship is that, you know, there was and it was led by women who were, you know, empathetic, compassionate, open and fearless, and we were all there to try to, you know, get to the same outcome, which is success for these women. Right?
So I think that when you look at corporations, how do we take that and translate that and drive that in our organizations? It's really you know, my thoughts on it was, you know, how do we get we're very much individually measured in our companies. Right? I think that's a corporate thing.
We have our personal objectives. We have our group objectives. We have the corporate objectives. But, you know, unfortunately, incentives are generally paid on the company objectives, which are very operational.
Their, you know, quarter or annual driven numbers, very numbers driven.
And I think that we have an opportunity if we want to talk create alleyship. Right? And we want to support each other. We have to look at other things than numbers. I think we have to look at behaviors.
How are you showing up for me every day or how am I showing up for you as a teammate every day? And am I mentoring people? Am I a positive influence when I get into a project or am I one of those, you know, deterrents that are, you know, you know, making a mess and and and derailing people and uninspiring, you know, demotivating my teammates.
We shouldn't be rewarding that type of behavior, and I don't think we pay enough attention to incentive tied to behavior.
It's incentive tied to outcome of the company, you know, KPIs.
And I think if we really wanna make a shift in alleyship where we want people to really support each other, then we have to go you know, and look at behaviors, and we have to measure people on that, and we have to, like, expect them and set the bar as a leadership team, set the bar of excellence what that looks like so that people emulate it because it's natural and because it's like, feels good and because it's inclusive and it makes me feel belong. If we're just going to, like, we you can have the behaviors incentive.
But if you have no leadership, it doesn't work either. It's kind of, like, for me, it's a triangle. Right? We need the leadership.
We need the incentives and the behaviors to all be encompass so that we can actually make that shift into Ally's shift. Because I think that there's no today, it's very difficult for teammates to see how they're incentivized to do better or how to show up for others. Right? We all know it.
We all you know we should be like that. But when you get into your situation, at the end of the day, there is still a lot of competition within companies.
Right? We do individuals. And I think it's just natural because that's the way we're kinda set up. Everybody's individually measured, and they all have their own pay, their incentives.
And so There's a lot of ambiguity and people compare. There's a comparison that happens, and that's where, again, when you come back and talk about the whole mindset piece. Right? Is that self awareness understanding yourself, you know, knowing your value and being able to show up the best version you can every day, all that kinda plays together. Right?
So for me, I think it's, like, just some simply put would be we need to make that shift from just, you know, not just measuring the outcomes of the numbers but looking at behaviors of people and rewarding them, right, for supporting each other. And today, I don't see that we actually do that. I haven't yet seen it anyway, that we actually reward people for supporting their teammates or showing up in the best version that they can of themselves. Right? So I think that's where we have some work to do.
That is a great answer. I really like that it's rooted in the corporate framework. You know, and that's a way for large corporates to integrate something like this into their into their assessments and into making their workforce more empathetic and, yeah, bringing their best selves and and kind of linking that to their assessments and their KPIs. I think I've also not seen it happening.
So, you know, let's see. Maybe this will inspire inspire someone. I like to just finish with, you know, any last words from your side in terms of advice or suggestions, or I know we've covered a lot already, but anything else you'd like to finish with?
Well, I think I'll just leave it just to kinda you know, summarize, I guess, for people who, you know, there was lots of discussion points that we talked about, but just for women that are looking for development and growth and, you know, want to be in tech because they're passionate about what they do.
My advice is don't give up. Right? If I can give you three things to do, one is, you know, continue to build those trusting relationships with your mentors with, you know, coaches. I think, you know, one of the most game changer for me was getting a mindset coach and really having somebody to help me reframe my belief systems. Right? And we didn't talk too much about that, but was a huge game changer for me in terms of, you know, we all kind of grow up with beliefs because of our childhood and they all not always the best ones to serve us in terms of our growth. So doing that work is really, really important.
With that will come this whole self awareness, that mission, purpose driven, all those other things that we talked about to find that alignment and and how you wanna show up.
And then I would say, you know, just be yourself. Hold space for yourself and be work on building that confidence to be able to speak up. People don't know what we want.
And if you don't you know, if you if you don't speak up and you don't share, it's very difficult for others to know what you're looking for.
So being courageous to be able to share. What do I need? Where where do I wanna go when you don't agree with something, you know, to be able to share openly, obviously, respectively, but, you know, being able to open and share that. And then I think the last thing is go find her superpowers.
Women are set up right now to really be part of this change in business, which I think is happening slowly but surely and is required for that next generation. And women have all these superpowers that we can leverage. So go find those, and don't be shy to use those. Right? That's how we're going to change the way business is done today.
I love that. Thank you so much, Tracy. That was super inspiring and also, yeah, very tangible at the same time, so it's gonna mean a lot. So thank you very much for for your time and for this interview.
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