You’re Not The Only One: Global VP's Advice On Rising to The Top in Tech

Daisy Hernandez was a 1998 chemical engineering graduate from the University of California-Berkley and wasn’t exactly sure what her next steps would be.Now global vice president of product management for SAP Jam, SAP’s cloud collaboration platform, Hernandez has spent her career using her talents to meet challenges and move forward in a career she designed.In her first job at Pacific Bell as loop electronics engineer—one of  a very few females and the first female in that post in the state of California—Hernandez says, “As a 22-year-old, all of my peers were older than my parents.”A year later, a chance meeting with the CTO of Home Networks landed Hernandez a job offer as a technical product manager. “They gave me the project no one wanted,” she says.[bctt tweet="Daisy Hernandez, global VP for SAP JAM, says don’t let your inner voice stop you. #womenleaders #womenengineers” username=“takeleadwomen”]Again, one of very few women at the company, she says she asked her manager if she could get a masters in telecommunications while working, and he did not approve it.“I tend to try not to assume it is about gender, if I did, I would have to go through  my career very bitter,” Hernandez says. “You have to be aware of those things, but don’t let it be a chip on your shoulder. So I channeled my energies and figured another way out.”The gender gap in tech is not breaking news.In the new book, Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, author Emily Chang writes in a Fortune excerpt:Because engineering teams are often made up of only a handful of people, there’s often just one woman, if that, on every team. These women are alone in large groups of men all day long, alone at company off sites and at social gatherings after hours. During our evening together, many of the women in my group reported being bombarded with sexual advances, no matter how hard they tried to convey that they were not available or not interested.”The disparities of representation of women in tech go back decades, writes Rachel Gutman in The Atlantic.[bctt tweet=“The disparities of representation of #womenintech go back decades” username=“takeleadwomen”]“In 2016, along with seven other women in tech, Tracy Chou cofounded Project Include to speed up the stalled process of diversifying the industry. The nonprofit works with early- and mid-stage start-ups to assess where they are lacking in inclusion, develop plans to fix it, and hold those in power accountable for the results,” Gutman writes.“The primary targets for Project Include are CEOs and upper management, and for good reason. The way things are now, Chou says, ‘Most … leaders at these tech companies are men. If they can see themselves succeeding and they can see other people like themselves, they don’t really find it to be a problem that women aren’t there.’”For most of her career, Hernandez saw herself in the minority as a woman in tech. She worked for Home Networks, Syndeo, BEA Systems, Oracle and  Plumtree Portal, before going to work for SAP, where she manages the cloud collaboration platform, which brings together people, process, data and content to drive business results.Hernandez is responsible for leading the product strategy and the team to solve business challenges with meaningful interactions between employees, customers and partners.“I came in having to create my role and responsibilities,” Hernandez says of her role at SAP, that is headquartered in Germany with 90,000 employees globally. Hernandez is in California but her team includes members from Shanghai to Silicon Valley.The tech industry is indeed male dominated globally, Hernandez says, and “There have been moments when I did let it get to me as when they first thing someone asks me at a meeting is where is the bathroom or where is the coffee maker.” She adds, “But now I enter a conference room and immediately introduce myself instead of waiting to be introduced. I will say what I do, not my title and I do it with a certain level of presence and confidence.”“If so many qualified women are claiming that different issues are important, perhaps we should recognize that gender discrepancies in the tech industry, as is the case with many social issues, is a problem with <em>many</em> facets and layers, and <em>all</em> of them are important,” writes Monica Chin in <a href="">Mashable.  </a>Hernandez adds, “I knew I made it when at a meeting with another large company with different executives and I was the only female in the room and the host said, ‘It is great to have all you senior executives here.’”Leading a global team is challenging, Hernandez says, but she offers these tips for teams of any size and in any arena.<strong>Have an open door policy.</strong> “We leverage as much tech as possible to humanize the experience. You cannot manage one size fits all for different expectations and different cultures."[bctt tweet="When leading a team of any size, it's important to have an open door policy. SAP #womenleaders #leadershipadvice” username=“takeleadwomen”]Focus on the similarities. “When I have a team call, we use web cam. When people are talking, they do not feel anyone has the upper hand. You can see everyone’s expressions.”Give as much information as relevant. “Give as much context as needed. Then make sure they can make decisions on their own.”Make sure the team has what they need to run independently. “Too many dependencies means inefficiencies.“Mistakes help you develop and grow. “If you are not clear or consistent, you are confusing everyone. You are the manager, tell the team what you need.”Don’t let your own inner voice stop you from being successful. “Most women are really critical of themselves especially in an environment that will be critical of you. Put blinders on to the negative thoughts. “Provide encouragement to your female colleagues. “We need to have more women in leadership. Make sure you encourage other women and exchange ideas.”While the pipeline of women in tech moving to the top is still sparse, clogged—or blocked—Hernandez says as a global VP at the pinnacle of an international company that she is far ahead of where she pictured herself as an engineering graduate.Along the way, she says, “While I was part of the 10 percent female population, I was not the only one. You’re not the only one so that means it’s possible.”

Like what you see?

Sign up

for more and receive the Take The Lead newsletter every week