Women in Leadership

A Conversation with Emerging Women Leaders at Evernote

By Heather McKibbonMarch 31, 2017

As a founding Silicon Valley EverwiseWomen partner, Evernote has been leading the charge to support women in positions of influence. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we caught up with six of Evernote’s seven current Everwise participants to hear about their career journeys, their lives at Evernote, lessons learned and how the Everwise program and mentoring in general has help them develop both professionally and personally. Introducing:

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What attracted you to join Evernote?

I’m attracted to companies with a clear mission, companies that make people’s lives better. Evernote’s mission to help people be more productive and successful in their careers, their schools, and their lives is very inspiring. I also prefer working in smaller organizations, in companies that are at an inflection point, and in a role where I can have a meaningful impact. After talking with people who use Evernote and meeting the team here, I knew Evernote was the right place for me.
– Monica Chua, Marketing Director, Brand & Campaigns

It was a product that I personally used and loved for many years. Evernote helped me manage myself and graduate school while I took night classes, and my team when I first transitioned into being a people manager. I always look for opportunities where I’ll be able to build and work alongside people that will help me grow – I found both of these things at Evernote.
– Rachel Cochran, Senior Human Resources Business Partner

Describe one thing you didn’t expect, but were pleasantly surprised by about the culture at Evernote.

I’ve been blown away by coworkers’ passion, and their dedication to our product. We believe in Evernote and strive to build the best productivity app we can for our users. It makes coming to work every day meaningful and very satisfying.
– Kara Hodecker, Product Design Manager

I love the company’s focus on learning. For example, the Evernote Academy program allows employees to take courses in anything from barista training and planning the perfect trip to Napa, to workshops on project management. Some of the courses are even hosted by Evernote employees on subjects they’re passionate about.
– Chantal Leonard, Director of Product

Evernote cares about employees as people, not just for their work product. The company really invests in developing its employees. Partnering with Everwise is a great example of helping women in the company to achieve their career goals.
– Yi Ma, Senior Analytics Manager

Aside from your participation in the Everwise program, what do you do to invest in your professional development?

I have several peer groups I meet with regularly and for different reasons. I have a group of friends I worked with at the start of my career. They give me a great perspective on how much I’ve developed and what it felt like when I first worked in the Valley. I meet with friends who are in similar roles at other companies, and we share ideas on what’s happening in the industry or provide advice on current challenges in our jobs. I have a group of moms that meets regularly to let off steam and talk about balancing work and family. I deeply value these casual coffees and dinners, and they have greatly influenced my career, confidence, and happiness.
– Monica Chua, Marketing Director, Brand & Campaigns

I spend quite a bit of time reading blogs and industry publications in order to stay up to date with best practices in my field. I’ve found that some of my most meaningful learnings have come from the regular conversations and meet ups I have with friends, when we discuss what we’re working on and help each other tackle big challenges.
– Rachel Cochran, Senior Human Resources Business Partner

Why do you think Evernote is investing in diversity?

That’s easy. Evernote users are incredibly diverse, spanning across the globe, so we owe it to them to have a diverse team building our product. It’s so important to represent different perspectives, mindsets, and cultures in everything we do, from marketing, support, user education, the product itself, even social media.
– Kara Hodecker, Product Design Manager

Evernote is investing in building diverse, inclusive teams because they lead to the best outcomes for our business and ultimately our users. We’re looking at diversity in all forms to challenge our thinking and habits to make sure that we are innovating and growing as individuals.
– Rachel Cochran, Senior Human Resources Business Partner

Can you share one strategy you’ve learned through the Everwise program that has changed the way you approach your day-to-day responsibilities?

I’ve really appreciated some of the additional strategies I’ve developed and formalized around coaching.
– Chantal Leonard, Director of Product

It may seem like a simple thing, but I’ve been striving to focus on feedback more than ever. I’ve learned that feedback is the greatest gift to give and receive, but it can sometimes be difficult to do both. I often struggle with needing to give hard or constructive feedback, when I’m afraid of how someone might feel. But with most situations at work, I’ve found that feedback and candor is almost always the solution.
– Kara Hodecker, Product Design Manager

During the first Everwise meeting we did a session on asking good questions, which helped me refresh my questioning skills in order to be a stronger coach. It was a great tune-up to practice asking powerful questions and focusing on helping bring out the answers from colleagues vs. directing them to the answer.
– Rachel Cochran, Senior Human Resources Business Partner

I’ve learned skills to help me ask for what I want for my next role instead of waiting and hoping it will happen automatically.
– Yi Ma, Senior Analytics Manager

Tell us about your mentor – what have you learned from them?

My mentor, Timoni, is a principal designer at Unity3d. She’s gone through some similar experiences to me, as she’s moved from being an IC designer to managing a large team, so she’s able to offer me a lot of advice in that area. She’s a great listener and asks thoughtful questions as we navigate different scenarios I’m working through.
– Kara Hodecker, Product Design Manager

Just by having a mentor, I’ve learned that a lot of time I already know what I want, but am just not brave enough to take the leap of faith or am not confident I’m doing the right thing.  Since my mentor is so accomplished and has been there and done that, she’s been a great sounding board and has given me the perspective I need to believe in myself and take control of my career.
– Nancy Phan, Principal Product Manager, Growth

Our discussions focus on two areas, Personal Brand and Managing Global Teams—and we’ve had a great start! His advice and feedback come with real-life examples, simple frameworks, and an understanding of cultural norms. Kicking off a new mentorship, especially with someone you do not know, can be a daunting experience. Everwise provided us with “ground rules” to help make our meetings more productive and the outcomes more actionable. This is Stuart’s second time as a mentor through Everwise and his confidence in the process and actionable input is invaluable.
– Monica Chua, Marketing Director, Brand & Campaigns

How would you describe your career aspirations?

I want to be an analytics leader helping companies and people make better decisions based on data.
– Yi Ma, Senior Analytics Manager

Talking to all of the women in our program, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not have all of the answers and that our aspirations change all the time as our lives change.  Many of us are in the same bucket of trying to define what’s right for us, but the important thing is that we’re actively trying to define our own north stars and not being complacent.
– Nancy Phan, Principal Product Manager, Growth

If you had advice for an aspiring women leader, what would it be?

Be proactive in finding and developing your champions, your mentors, and your networks. You don’t have to feel like you are in this on your own. Give back as much as you take from them—this not only makes for a better relationship, it’s also is an excellent way to develop your leadership skills.
– Monica Chua, Marketing Director, Brand & Campaigns

Surround yourself by women who are great, inspiring, and who can motivate you so you don’t find yourself stuck in a career rut and being complacent. Stay away from people you don’t respect or who bring you down. At the same time though, it’s important to always be self aware and reflect on what your aspirations, needs, and wants are. It’s easy to get caught up in mirroring other people’s careers and forgetting what truly brings you joy and happiness. Not everyone is the same. Learn from other women and paint a picture for yourself of what the possibilities are so you can make informed decisions about your career path.
– Nancy Phan, Principal Product Manager, Growth

Heather McKibbon

Heather McKibbon

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