Shifting the way we look at ambitious women

Take the opportunity when it’s in front of you.

HerStory is a series of conversations with some of the best women in tech in all areas of business and at all levels. They share their stories on their career path, lessons learned and points of success and failure. Hope they inspire, resonate and help you on your own journey.

Today we’re speaking with Camas Winsor, recently appointed COO at Rangle.io. Camas was a Developer working in a corner of an office. Not to be confused with a corner office, she points out. Seeing a need to step up to an unofficial leadership role, Camas found her career taking a new direction; one that has proved to be incredibly challenging and rewarding.

What can you tell us about the path you took to become the Chief Operating Office at Rangle.io?

It definitely hasn’t been straight, but I chose to follow through with my ambition and to build that road when it wasn’t there. I worked hard to get where I am and I said yes to opportunities when they came up. I saw a way to make an impact and to gain exposure. I earned this title and I want women around me to see that potential in themselves. Solve the problems, drive the initiatives, make things happen. Do the work, stand up for what you’re worth and be confident that you deserve the recognition and the reward.

That’s what I did at Rangle: I put my hand up to take on the tasks that needed doing, but that nobody actually “owned.” I never said “That’s not my job,” and that’s the advice I would give to others. If you see something that needs to be done, volunteer to take it on, and maybe you’ll find out it’s something you want to make a full-time career. One big caveat here though: when you’ve proven yourself at something new, make sure you follow up by asking for what you’re worth. Too many times I’ve seen people either keep doing extra work for the same pay, or ask for the raise before doing the work. You need to prove yourself before you get the reward.

How did expectations of you shift as you moved up?

When I became COO, it became immediately clear that the skills and behaviours that got me here weren't enough to keep me in this position. I can sometimes be very single-minded about going after what I want, and I’ve experienced blowback on that. I’ve observed that women often feel they have to walk this fine line when it comes to being ambitious - too much and you’ll be criticized, too little and your career will stagnate. I haven’t always struck the right note but I’m working on it.

Are there any mentors who impacted your journey early in your career? What about now?

There are, though they might not know it. I had the opportunity early in my career to work for some really impactful women, including a Managing Director and a COO. I watched and learned - how to conduct myself, how to make myself heard and seen, how to be part of the conversation and the decision-making. Right now, my approach to mentorship is twofold: to meet women in similar roles for bouncing ideas off and gathering opinions, as well as mentoring the women around me in their careers.

How does one person manage all of this - relationships, parenting, being a successful leader?

You don’t, not as one person. It’s tough if you try to do it all; if you try to live up to the myth that you can - that you have to - do everything by yourself. Maybe, but not if you want to have a couple of hours of guilt-free sleep. You have to figure out where your energy goes and be ruthless about it. I’ve chosen to push ahead in my career; I didn’t let the prospect of late nights or travel stop me from going for it. It’s all about balance and choices.

What do you think needs to change to encourage more women to keep climbing the ladder?

We have this big management fall-off for women at the mid-range. All of this points to demands being too high. It’s generally a gender issue because the expectation is often that women end up the primary caregivers at home; it’s 2018 and far past the time we need to shift the way we look at ambitious women. We need to respect them for how far they’ve come; support them on their way up and do everything we can to get - and keep - them there. For women on the path, who are succeeding and want to grow, I’d go back to my first comment: go for it, take the chance, find the opportunity and work hard. You will get where you want to go - and there’s nothing wrong with pushing for it.

Thanks Camas for sharing your story!

Rangle.io is also hiring! Check out what makes Rangle.io a great place to grow your tech career.