14 May 2017
Margot is a Digital Product Strategy and UX/CX professional with over 15 years’ experience. She helps organise a “Ladies That UX” group in Fort Worth, and outside of her professional life, she enjoys reading, gardening, and spending time with her husband and daughter! She gives some great advice about how to demand your spot at the table, the value of networking, and managing family life whilst pursuing a career.
Tell us about your career progression into your current role.
I’ve been very fortunate. I can’t think about my career progression without thinking about the great leaders that helped to facilitate my growth and transition into something new. I got into websites while completing my undergrad in English and went on to technology courses - at that time it was Photoshop and history of the web. I realised I loved not just the technology, but working with the people who loved the technology.
My first professional role was working as a designer - that was back before design had a seat at the table. I was weaving my design around the code that had already been written. It was a valuable lesson understanding the overall business cost to build something. After that, it’s been a gradual progression. Sometimes it was great leaders, great teams or projects I’ve been passionate about. If I had to break it down, there were probably three important moments in my career:
- I was part of a colossal start-up failure. That taught me a lot about rapid change and what it does to business, and how important it can be to change direction. Also, what it does to people, relationships and organisations.
- Spending two years reporting to a C-level leader. It helped to dispel any nervousness/insecurity of working with people at that level. It taught me about communicating with C-level: keeping it brief and being prepared!
- Getting my MBA. Not just because of the credentials, but taking the time out for myself to devote learning where I was weak, and where I would need to lean on others for my career. A lot of people think they are too late in their career for their MBA, but that’s not the point. It’s a great opportunity to learn about yourself at any stage.
I don’t limit myself, I am always curious to learn about the next adjacent thing - continuing to add tools to my toolbox.
Do you believe the 'glass ceiling' still exists for women in the workplace? Have you been affected by this?
This is a tough one. I think the term 'glass ceiling' is appropriate, because obviously, you can’t see it, but it's hard to define what you can’t see. When I was in college they said the pay gap was because women didn’t want to do the hardcore jobs or get the degree to get more pay. But that’s obviously not true - just as many women are getting the same credentials as men. Clearly there is something going on - it’s not in our heads.
At the end of the day, you can’t be a victim. You must demand to be paid for what you’re worth and do everything you can to get a seat at the table. One time I was in a very 'high power' C-level meeting. There were probably 20 people from all over the company - Presidents, C-Levels and VP’s. There were maybe 2 or 3 women at the table. A VP walks in - and she’s a powerhouse of a woman! There were literally no more seats at the table - every seat was taken. So, she goes over and grabs a little plastic chair from the corner and brings it to the table, then proceeds to muscle her way in between two big guys. The chair was tiny and the table was practically coming up to her chest!
I always think of that story - it reminds me that you have to demand a seat at the table (literally!). And she did it so gracefully and unapologetically.
As for the impact on myself - the main impact is that it’s just one more thing you must juggle. It’s another consideration you have, when you must navigate the playing field. I like to think it hasn't changed the trajectory of my career.
How do you manage your family life while pursuing your career?
There’s two parts to that - it’s how you deal with it logistically and emotionally.
Logistically - I’m married to a saint! That might not be the most feminist answer, but it’s true. We have organised our lives with my career as priority. Once you have clearly defined priorities, the rest is execution (with a lot of caffeine!).
Emotionally, its harder. After I had my daughter, I was focused on horror stories of kids who don’t have parents at home. However, I was also surrounded by people who had awesome kids and awesome careers. The mommy guilt can be overwhelming, but you must be confident that what you’re doing is the right thing for you and your family.
Tell me about your involvement in 'Ladies That UX'. How has having a network of like-minded people helped you in your career?
Our Fort Worth chapter is new, so the impact is still evolving. But so far (six months), I’m amazed at the power and energy of getting all of these intelligent women together. They are sharing ideas, asking questions and sharing experiences. I’m also amazed at the amount of power it creates, getting everyone together in this space where everyone just gets it. Already, some of the younger women have put together a subgroup of junior ladies. They practice interviewing with each other and we work with them to find them mentors. Networking is so critical to your career.
What can anyone in your industry do to stay current in this tough job market?
I don’t necessarily think the job market is tough in my industry - there are a lot of UX jobs out there. A lot of companies have gotten themselves in situations where they need senior UX people, so I actually think it’s a tough entry-level market.
As far as staying current - there’s so much coming at you in every direction and you don’t know what’s relevant. For me, the trick is knowing what information to harvest. What I value most is talking to people in my network. I mean really talking, not just about the weather! Don’t use your critical interactions for small talk. Whether it’s a one-on-one with my boss or call to a colleague - I always ask myself, “what is something I want to learn from this person?” It could be, “How is your agency doing?” or, “How did you setup the new test lab?”. If you’re looking for a job, “Who’s recruiting heavily in our market?”. Educate yourself continuously. I start every one-on-one with my boss by saying, “so, what should I know?”
If you had to attribute your career success to one factor, what would it be?
A large part of my success is that I don’t ever feel successful! I always see myself through a lens of “I can do more; what will it take for me to get there?”. That leads me to assess what I can do to improve. I’ve learned that there will always be areas that I won’t be as strong in. I can lead my team to develop in areas that I may be weaker in. But all of that comes back to continual self-assessment. After a big meeting or project proposal, I ask, “what could I have done to better prepare?”, and “what should I ask others for help with?”. And I fix those things going forward!
What advice do you have for women just starting out in their careers?
Do the scary stuff first! We have a friend whose dad gave him this advice; he lived by it and was grateful for it.
Travel to the places you won’t go when you have kids, and can’t go when you’re old. If you think about that metaphorically and literally - work for the start-ups and non-profits that won’t be an option when you have a mortgage!
Work on your relationships and don’t burn bridges. The higher you go, the smaller the world becomes. Take every opportunity to learn and ask “why?” about everything until you find what you’re passionate about.