Bethany Mayer’s 15 tips for navigating the ‘glass maze’ (video)

23 Jun 2015

Bethany Mayer, president and CEO of Ixia, presented a keynote and appeared on a panel at Inspirefest 2015. Photo: Robbie Reynolds/Conor McCabe Photography

At Inspirefest 2015, Ixia president and CEO Bethany Mayer retired the old ‘glass ceiling’ metaphor for something more suitable: the glass maze. On top of that, she had 15 tips for navigating this complex structure.

During her keynote presentation at Inspirefest 2015, Bethany Mayer first took us on a journey through her 32-year career in technology, which has included stints at illustrious names such as Apple, Cisco and HP. She was also involved with three start-ups, two of which were successfully bought-out and one which “tanked”.

Mayer is honest about her failures, and she advises others to accept them and learn from them. That said, her career as a whole has been wildly successful, culminating in her latest role as head of a half-billion dollar publicly-traded company staking its claim as a market leader in network testing and security.

This is all-too rare a thing in the tech industry. In preparation for her keynote, Mayer attempted to research how many female CEOs of publicly-traded tech companies there were, and she couldn’t find more than 10.

Career advice from the top

The dearth of women in leadership roles has often been attributed to a metaphorical ‘glass ceiling’, but Mayer has a new concept for us to consider: the glass maze.

“It is a maze that you have to go through on your journey in life to lead you to where you want to go. And, in a way, it’s glass because there are people watching you,” she explained.

Thankfully, a woman of Mayer’s calibre is not only willing to share her success story, but also her advice on how to make your own.

Here are her 15 tips, which she elaborates on in her keynote presentation, which you can watch aboove.

1. Careers are very long. You think you have to get somewhere quickly and do everything all at once, but there is a season for everything.

2. Sometimes you need to go sideways to go forward.

3. You have to decide where you’re going in your career.

4. Don’t let others define you, they don’t know what you’re capable of.

5. Sponsors are different from mentors.

6. Following others may not get you where you want to go – and sometimes they can leave you behind there.

7. Nobody owes you anything. Everything you get you’ll have to earn.

8. You have to perform, and perform very well.

9. Your reputation is, ultimately, all you have.

10. Learn to read a room.

11. Listen more than you speak.

12. How you leave a company is as important as how you get there, so do it gracefully.

13. Learn from failure and apply it.

14. Stay connected to friends.

15. Be authentic.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.