What should I ask my CVP?
October 1, 2012 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I am a software developer at [a big software company]. In a few hours here, I've got a one-hour meeting with my retiring-this-month corporate vice president. We are both women in tech. What should I ask her?

Right now my plan is to ask her how she got to where she is, how she did it while raising a son, and what I can do in the short and long term to grow my career.

Possibly relevant - she knows me by name and, according to my boss's boss, "wishes she could stay to see me grow". I'd love to be where she is someday.
posted by kthxbi to Technology (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ask if you can call or email her now and then, to get her advice in future situations. Maybe she'll be retired, but she'll still be a great sounding board!
posted by easily confused at 8:12 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: ooh, let me know how it goes!
- specific questions about networking and mentoring that you can think of. This seems like a really big part of things but (to me at least) is a bit of a black box. e.g:
- does she think it's important to have a female mentor, or is it likely to be more/equally beneficial to have a male mentor? Or both?
- are there groups (inside or outside the company) that she recommends being involved with? (I know you're already in a few and do Grace Hopper, etc)
- how does she feel about where she is? if it's not where she always planned to be, did she decide at some point to get there? when/why?
- what does retirement mean for her? Is she going to remain involved in tech, be a public speaker, etc?
posted by jacalata at 8:17 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What challenges and obstacles do you face? This is your opportunity to ask her if she's faced these issues herself and what she did when she was in your position.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:18 AM on October 1, 2012

You should ask her what you think would be the most fun. Because the only possible utilitarian outcome of this meeting is that she decides to stay in touch. None of the other answers to your questions matter really, you and she will both know that, and it will be as a student asking begged questions after a lecture to look smart.

In other words ask her about her plans for the future and talk about that like an adult.
posted by rr at 10:16 AM on October 1, 2012

Other people's advice sounds good!

If there is any company gossip you have ever been curious about (especially regarding harassment, and people whose personal problems get in the way of their work and yours), and you are good at subtlety, see if you can get the conversation in that neighborhood. Or wait to have that conversation until she's no longer at the company.
posted by brainwane at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2012

Don't ask about gossip. I know you won't, but... don't. A gossip can't be trusted, so it hurts upward mobility.

Do ask for ongoing mentorship.

Do ask about key moments in her career.

Do have a two minute pitch of your goals, and a couple clear questions about how to achieve them.
posted by grudgebgon at 1:55 PM on October 1, 2012

Response by poster: It went really well! Thanks for the advice, all. I definitely used it.

The three biggest things I took away are to make sure you have a sponsor that will stick his or her neck out for you (and you find sponsors by being a good friend), focus on getting better at what you know you need to work at instead of focusing on the next step in the ladder and the promotions will come, and that her key to raising a son while not losing career momentum was equal amounts of spousal load balancing and guilt. She also said you learn to be REALLY efficient while you're at work and good at leaving in time to pick the kids up from daycare / school.

We also talked a while about what she's planning to do next :)
posted by kthxbi at 9:52 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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