Navigating through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I’ve written before on supporting diversity in the workplace and the idea that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Recently, I was asked to share what I’ve learned from my own experiences — as a female engineer for the first 10 years of my career and as a woman in leadership — and how my past informs how I encourage diversity in my role with Keysight.

Here are a few life lessons that continue to shape me and how I show up as a leader.

“The first rule of any game is to know you're in one.”

— Sandy Lerner, Cisco founder

I loved being an engineer. I enjoyed the work and the challenges. I found the problem-solving to be very creative and satisfying.

However, it was clear that there were headwinds for me as a woman that my male counterparts didn’t face. I am certainly not alone in this, and no one was consciously holding me back. But being the only woman in my first group out of university made it harder to build a network and get peer support. Even simple things like not playing golf widened that gap. Many men who were equally qualified and performing equally well were getting paid more and getting promoted ahead of me.

That’s when I realized I was in a game — one with rules but no rulebook — and I would have to figure my way through it.

“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.”

— Milton Berle, comedian

I stayed in that original group for several years, mainly out of loyalty. I worked hard and did a good job. I took on development challenges and learned a lot. However, eventually, I knew that the environment wasn’t working for me, and I needed to “build a door.”

I moved into another engineering group in the same company that had two important advantages. There were already a few women there, and my new manager took an interest in my work and my development. He encouraged me to get my MBA, which led me on the path toward technical marketing and eventually my current role as CMO. There, I found true teammates, where our work and talent would move us forward. And I vowed to bring others along with me as I progressed.

“Authenticity doesn't just mean you're not filtering what you're saying. It's about being able to know and access the best parts of yourself and bring them forward.”

— Amy Cuddy, social psychologist

On one hand, trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be was never going to work. On the other hand, a big part of the game was how I showed up at work — and understanding how that would influence how well I did. I worked on becoming more self-aware about how I was being perceived. I even joined Toastmasters to get better at communicating. My reward for my effort was to find a way to be both authentic and a successful contributor to the team.

To this day, as a group leader, I strive to communicate implicitly and explicitly that this is a place where it’s OK to be yourself. Explicitly, I meet with new hires to share stories and let them know that it’s OK to think outside the box and share their ideas. I let my teams know it’s OK to be silly sometimes. It’s OK to share about your home life and culture if you want. And we all represent the Keysight brand, so we are both professional and diverse. Implicitly, I am my “what you see is what you get” self, and I hope that helps people feel comfortable being themselves.

As a result, I see a virtuous circle for the team and our business. When our people feel safe to be who they are, they step up and bring more diverse ideas for how we represent our brand. Then, as they see how we represent our brand growing more diverse, it encourages the team to go further.

“One lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.”

— Diane Sawyer, American broadcast journalist

Getting back to the game analogy, sometimes I feel like my journey with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is like a video game. If you do it right, at some point, you level up. And when you get to a new level, you’re in a new environment with new operating rules. That’s when you need to pay attention. What was OK to say or do before may no longer be the best way to proceed. We simply need to be open to changes and learn to thrive together.

What I’ve learned from my direct experiences is just a fraction of what I’ve learned from others. When I started as the sponsor of Keysight’s LGBTQA+ employee networking group, I wasn’t sure how much I could ask people about themselves, but they quickly put me at ease — sharing about their home lives, career challenges and how life is different through an LGBTQ lens. They helped me level up and get a new perspective. And don’t get me started about how quickly my teenage daughters will correct me if I do the wrong thing in their eyes! Still, they are the way of the future and have taught me as much as I have taught them.

I am fortunate to have so many aspects of my life that continue to teach me about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have to give credit to Keysight for valuing social responsibility, including DEI, as part of Keysight’s Leadership Model. I believe it makes this a better place to be for everyone, as well as helping us to bring our best game to work.