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How to invest in your network in the tech industry

Asian woman wearing a white shirt networking with a diverse group of people

ARTICLE SUMMARY

In many industries, the reality is that opportunities come from who you know, now what you know.

Emma Maslen is a big advocate of the importance of building a strong network of relevant advisors, mentors, peers and industry connections and that these relationships are core for career success, whether you are an established professional in the field or just starting out.

Emma Maslen

Here, Emma unpacks her unique approach to building a valuable network of connections and why continuously investing time and effort into your network (not necessarily financially) is essential for success in the tech industry.

Emma is a sales leader, consultant, coach and angel investor. She is also CEO and founder of inspir‘em and in 2018, Emma became an angel investor through Angel Academe. She now also works with start-ups, scale-ups and large enterprises, coaching their teams to higher growth. Emma’s new book, The Personal Board of You Inc, is all about the importance of networking and explains how readers can recruit the best personal advisors to accelerate their goals, thus creating the optimal ‘Personal Board.’

IT’S AMAZING HOW MANY TENURED PROFESSIONALS FORGET TO THINK STRATEGICALLY ABOUT THE PEOPLE THEY ENGAGE WITH IN THEIR CAREERS.

A sleepwalking approach into career advice can be ineffective for two reasons:

  1. By not thinking strategically about your connections, you only use your organic connections – those you have unintentionally collected, including friends, family and colleagues. Typically, there is limited diversity in these people you have always relied on and due to them knowing you well – only referring to your immediate network can often mean missing out on innovative advice.
  2. Secondly, we all hope life is a meritocracy, with rewards based on what we know rather than who we know. However, if you are not strategically extending your network, and you remain unknown to the people making key decisions about big opportunities, how will those people recognise your merits for the role you might have your eyes on? Also, if you don’t tell people what you are looking for, how can they think of you when an opportunity arises?

Whether you are just starting your first job, are undergoing a career transition, are an established senior executive or an entrepreneur embarking on a new journey, networking and building your own ‘Personal Board’ will help you progress in life. A Personal Board, much like a corporate board, is a group of people that are consulted regularly to provide advice on key decisions to be made in a person’s life.

Imagine for a moment you have anyone at your disposal to help with your career – thinking of a corporate board – the best and brightest minds in business to help you progress your hopes, your dreams and your career.

The Personal Board concept is a virtual one, an imaginary one. It helps me to visualise my set of advisors in a formal but welcoming setting, but in practice, I approach each person individually. They are a series of people you can engage separately whenever I need help in deciding where I should go next and what actions I need to take.

In short: The concept is about having a regular group of people who can share, coach and help you with your goals, typically on a one-to-one basis. An important note though is that they are people you purposefully seek because they add new advice, connections, perspectives and experience to your knowledge pool.

Now, this may sound all blue-sky – to people who are thinking – ‘how do you get new exciting advisors if you don’t know those people?’.

Well, most people are very happy to help others. If you are approaching them conscientiously and interested in their success and how their wisdom could help you then most people will help by offering a small piece of time. It could just be the ‘leg-up’ you need.

For those in the technology industries, networking and making beneficial connections is essential.

These days, there are so many networks welcoming new members – both paid and free of charge. Two of my favourites are Tech London Advocates and WiTT – Women in Telecomms and Technology. Both offer regular affordable, or often free events, for all roles in the tech industry – but importantly for the more technical audiences who are less likely to enjoy the idea of networking.

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