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Women in eDiscovery: Maintaining Visibility in a Changing Workplace

May 20, 2021

At a recent CDS webinar, Women in Legal Ops & Tech: Taking Initiative and Setting Your Own Course, Michele Kell, Director, Enterprise Operations at CDS led a panel discussion among several women leaders who discussed real-world examples of women taking control of their professional trajectory by launching new initiatives, developing mentor/mentee relationships, accessing/establishing training programs, and networking in a digital world.

In the forth of our four-part blog series, we share highlights from their conversation.

Maintaining Visibility in a Changing Workplace

Zelda Owens, CEO of Owens Williams & Associates
I am Zelda Owens, CEO of Owens Williams & Associates. I’ve made many pivots in my career. I’ve spent about 15 years in the legal technology space. I’ve worked with a number of recruiters and clients looking for amazing talent, both temp and perm, and currently, I’m a career coach and legal recruiter, so I hear about insights on both sides of the house.

One big takeaway, I think we can all agree that when it comes to maintaining visibility, joining organizations like Women in e-Discovery is a key step.

It seems like most of us here are very involved in Women in e-Discovery. I was actually on the first national board of the organization, as well as the New York City Chapter Director for five years, and getting involved extracurricularly, but also with organizations that add value to your professional life is just a really, really fun way to add to your visibility and get to know people in the industry, so I encourage all of you to do that. Going to my first bullet, we talked a lot about focusing on finding mentors and champions, but one of the most natural mentors you can have is your own boss. I’m finding that a lot of my clients are challenged right now in managing up.

We are not trained to manage up. It comes naturally to some people, but for others, working with a boss that you don’t mesh with initially can be very challenging. There are three key ways that if you manage up effectively, you will turn your boss into your champion, and you really want someone who knows the work that you’re doing on the ground, and can either be a reference for you or can help you navigate within the organization as well. Charting your own course doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to leave the company. There are a lot of us who work with wonderful companies, large companies, global companies, where there are opportunities internally, so managing up can be very important to your career trajectory.

First, know your boss’ communication style, and work style.

Now that we’re in a virtual world, you’re not going to be able to see your boss in the hallway or sit down at meetings to have that unscheduled time with them. It’s important for you to understand, how they communicate. Do they prefer phone calls, emails, text messages? How would they like to be updated on the work you’re doing? Do they want you to present reports or something more informal? Are they more visual or auditory? Do you have to present a chart or is it better for you to just write in prose what you’re doing? That’s very important because you want to make sure that you’re communicating in an effective and very transparent way with your manager. Also, don’t fly blind, know what your boss’s goals are and what their expectations are, and check in with him or her on a regular basis. Sometimes managers can be so overwhelmed that if you’re an excellent employee, they may say, okay, my direct report, Lisa, she’s good to go, but always check in because out of sight, out of mind. You don’t want to lose that visibility with your manager.

Also remember that they’re people too, and they have stresses both at work, at home, and just having that grace extended to them and treating them as human beings, and not just as your managers can be very healthy.

Second, know your Key Performance Indicators for success.

In this world of quarantine, it is very important to know what is still really important to your organization, whether you’re in sales or in operations. Don’t assume that what was valued before is valued now. Make sure you know what success is, look to see who is the one that’s being promoted, who is being heralded with clients amongst your team, and really identify the characteristics of those employees, because what was a success before is certainly not a success now. Actually, a recent Gallup poll mentioned that agile collaboration is a valued skill set, being flexible and collaborative is something that you have to demonstrate, and not just assume that people know. So make that a priority.

Also, communication is crucial, whether it’s written or spoken. Take advantage of those opportunities where you can give a webinar, write a report, or even edit your manager’s reports to the client. Take those opportunities. That again, will allow you to increase your value. Now, a lot of us spoke about bragging. There’s a great book, and I mention this at all of my Women in eDiscovery meetings. Peggy Klaus has a book called Brag, and it is phenomenal. It’s written primarily for women, and it has real tangible tools that you can use to promote yourself both internally and externally without being so obnoxious. There’s a Gartner survey that just came out that said that currently men are returning to the office more than women are. Women are choosing to stay at home, men are going into the office, but what 64% of the managers surveyed said was that because the men are in the office, they appear to have a higher performance than the women who are staying home. That directly impacts the pay inequity that will result from that.

Visibility is key. The numbers are there. The data is there. We want to make sure that if you are not naturally visible or in close proximity to the people who make a difference in your career, you certainly want to use other strategies in order to make yourself known and make your value very obvious.

Lastly, many of us spoke about LinkedIn. One of the things that LinkedIn is very powerful for is for you to be found, be found by recruiters, by hiring managers, so this is the time to beef up your LinkedIn profiles. My team and I design LinkedIn profiles and optimize them.

One of the key strategies that many of you should remember on LinkedIn is that verbs are for hiring managers, nouns are for search tools.

So, when you’re updating your LinkedIn profile, look at verbs, don’t just say “conducted meetings”, there are other verbs that are much more powerful.

And then lastly, regarding resumes. Resumes also have to be optimized, because they get buried in applicant tracking systems and other websites like Indeed. So again, make sure that you’re looking at job descriptions, that you’re including those key terms in the job descriptions that you’re targeting, and just make sure that you’re able to be found.

Michele Kell, Director, Enterprise Operations, CDS
I think, Zelda, one of the things that you brought up about many more men returning to the office compared to women. What are your thoughts on making sure those women are hitting the same performance indicators that the men are, and performing at the same level as they are – at least letting that be known? I mean, it sounds like we’ve talked a lot about that, but are there any other thoughts on it? It’s almost like a competition in some way as the men are going in and women are not right now.

Zelda Owens, CEO of Owens Williams & Associates
Yes. Unfortunately, it really has to do with the corporate culture and how the managers are being trained to manage their direct reports. It’s just human for people to be more familiar with someone sitting next door, someone that they’re bumping into three times or five times a day, as opposed to someone who they see virtually once a week. So other than just having many touch points with your manager, with your team, make the sacrifice to go into the office if you can, once or twice a week. Touch points are very effective in starting to make sure that you’re visible.

Michele Kell, Director, Enterprise Operations, CDS
What I imagine too, creating   is important. I think again, when you’re talking about running into people next to you at the office, there’s that connection standpoint. And sometimes it’s not even about work, but you’re still connecting with them on some level. I think that’s important too, is we’re doing check-ins remotely, and oftentimes because we’re strapped for time, it is very work focused. So sometimes those check-ins and visibility should be catered to make that personal connection, and not just, here’s what I’m doing at work, also just here’s me, I’m a person here, and connecting in that way too.

Zelda Owens, CEO of Owens Williams & Associates
Yes, so share valuable information. Just don’t talk about yourself all the time, maybe there’s someone in the office who needs help with a client or needs certain types of data, always educate.

People who are educators within an environment are the most valuable people that people go to. So, you want to attract interest from people, not just push information to them.

Check out our previous blogs in this 4-part blog series sharing highlights from the recent CDS webinar or watch the full recorded session here: Women in Legal Ops & Tech: Taking Initiative and Setting Your Own Course. Michele Kell, Director, Enterprise Operations at CDS led a panel discussion among several women leaders who discussed real-world examples of women taking control of their professional trajectory by launching new initiatives, developing mentor/mentee relationships, accessing/establishing training programs, and networking in a digital world.

About CDS’ Women in Legal Operations & Technology Webinar Series
In 2020, we began a conversation with a group of women in legal operations and technology, exploring how the pandemic had impacted office culture, career trajectories and gender dynamics. We continue to cultivate the dialogue to see how these changes ultimately take shape, venturing deeper into specific topics while maintaining a candid, conversational tone. We encourage women in the profession to join us to share your experiences and grow your network.

About the Author

<a href="https://cdslegal.com/team/" target="_blank">CDS Staff</a>

CDS Staff

Our leadership team and advisory consultants, project managers, and technical experts assist clients through all phases of the eDiscovery process.